A Chicago Cubs Blog
EST. 2007


Join The Bandwagon


Bullpen Brian's Tweets

Spring Training Records As Misleading As Your NCAA Bracket

By bullpenbrian at 03.26.2013 4 comments.

Leo Durocher

Not a year passes that I don’t become more convinced spring training stats are nothing more than fiddle-faddle to keep us busy until opening day. What little information we do get from spring training numbers come from small sample sizes, and hardly provides enough evidence to predict what October baseball will look like, or which players will excel during the regular season.

For heaven’s sake, Felix Pie is batting .417/.585/1.002 with Pittsburgh this spring. Anyone predicting a Silver Slugger Award? Didn’t think so.

Nonetheless, this year’s nonsensical spring stats discussion centers around the Kansas City Royals, who have a sparkling (22-6) record in the Cactus League. “Looks like that whopper of a trade with Tampa Bay has already paid off”…”The Royals appear poised to break through in 2013.”

But haven’t we learned these spring feel-good stories never last, that it’s inevitable the always bumbling Royals will falter again when the games matter most? 

As a reminder, I’ve gone back through final spring training standings since 2007 detailing how misleading a team’s spring record can be. And if you’re someone who hasn’t already taken notice, make sure to jump off the Royals bandwagon before the wheels fall off. 

  • 2013 The Royals, who finished with 90 regular season losses last year, lead the way this spring at (22-6). Meanwhile, the Reds, who won the second most games in baseball in 2012 (97), and are again the favorite in the National League Central, stand (9-18) in the Cactus League. Any doubts these fortunes won’t flip?
  • 2012 Toronto set the bar in Grapefruit League play going (24-7). They finished the regular season with 89 losses and a fourth place standing in the AL East. Atlanta finished the spring (10-18), then won 94 regular season games and the NL wild card. Texas (12-17) in the spring, won 93 games and the AL wild card. Oh, and the Nats,(12-17) in the spring, later won the most games in baseball (98).
  • 2011 The Twins ran away with the Grapefruit League title (20-12). Then lost 99 games in the regular season, posting the second worst record in the majors (Houston 106). Those pesky Royals finished the spring with the best record in the Cactus League (20-10). Then lost 91 regular season games.
  • 2010 Texas (10-19) in spring training, won 90 games, the AL wild card and reached the World Series. Cleveland posted the best mark in the Cactus League (19-9), before losing 93 regular season games.
  • 2009 Atlanta had the second-best record in the Grapefruit League (21-12), but missed the playoffs and finished third in the NL East. Milwaukee went (22-10) in Cactus League play before finishing two-games below .500 in the regular season. The Dodgers struggled to a (15-22) spring record before winning 95 games and the NL West.
  • 2008 Boston was a complete mess (8-13) during the spring. But won 95 regular season games, the AL wild card and reached the ALCS. Oakland posted the best record in the Cactus League (18-8), then lost 86 games during the regular season. The Cubs finished the spring (15-15) and still found a way to win the most regular season games in the National League (97).
  • 2007 Detroit took top honors in the Grapefruit League (21-10) but couldn’t reach the playoffs. Houston had the second-best Grapefruit League record going (18-11). They lost 89 regular season games. The Rangers ended Cactus League play (16-11) before finishing last in the AL West with 87 losses.

Cubs Cactus League (CL) vs. Regular Season (RS) Records

  • 2012: CL (17-16) RS (61-101)
  • 2011: CL (14-19) RS (71-91)
  • 2010: CL (18-12) RS (75-87)
  • 2009: CL (18-18) RS (83-78)
  • 2008: CL (15-15) RS (97-64)
  • 2007: CL (17-13) RS (85-77)


  1. Excellent story, Brian. The spring training stuff is so irrelevant that you can’t even detect any trends. I wonder what a study of individual stats would yield. I may have to get on that.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      I wanted to look at players’ numbers too…but it quickly becomes overwhelming. Definitely a project piece! Look forward to reading your findings as well :)

  2. J-Huff says:

    Yeah, can’t take much from spring training stats or records.

    The Royals have a lot of solid players in their farm system. In these spring training games, you have a slew of minor leaguers playing. Royals will have the advantage in most of those situations.

    The pitchers are focusing more on getting their pitches ready for meaningful games. That’s largely why Javier Baez was having so much success: he was getting a healthy dose of hittable fastballs. He’s getting more offspeed stuff in real games.

    With that said…it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow when Carlos Marmol pitches a spring dud like he did on Mar. 26. We’ve seen that inconsistency before and that just reinforces it.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Everything changes when the bell rings on opening day. Either you have the talent to play and win, or you don’t.

      Not intentionally picking on the Royals, and they have improved their roster, but they’re not a team ready to play .785 baseball!

      I agree, spring training is about preparation and health, which is why I discourage establishing any meaning to spring numbers, such as your good example with Baez.

      Cubs are going to have to pick their spots trading Marmol…the window where he’s consistently throwing strikes could be a very small gap.

      I’ll be really interested to see if a change of scenery, and a competitive team, help Marmol get squared away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Our Sponsors