Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring training: Does it really matter?

by: Will Hicks
Staff Writer

It’s a question that comes up every year among fans that are crazy enough to actually be excited (and concerned) about the arrival of Spring Training. Does success (or failure) provide any hints as to how the regular season will play out? General managers, managers and the “experts” we so often listen to suggest that there is hardly any correlation, if any at all.

Jimmi and I were debating the subject and without looking at any statistics thought that teams who were usually bad at the major league level (i.e. Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, etc) might perform better in Spring Training as a result of having young talent and high draft picks as opposed to teams like the Yankees who have powerful major league teams, but lack depth in the minor leagues. We all know that Spring Training gives plenty of opportunities to young and new talents and that the proven veterans just use it to get in “shape.” So, I decided to look up some stats and put some charts together.

Just as a warning. This piece got out of hand pretty quickly so take it all as you wish.

At first I took a look at things that we thought would be important. Games won and lost, overall winning percentage, longest winning streak and longest losing streaks.

The first chart shows the last 10 World Series Champions and the spring statistics that they boasted the year each of them went on to be the best team in baseball.

A quick glance at this shows a couple of interesting points. 70% of the teams had a winning record. And once again, 70% of the teams’ longest winning streak either matches or exceeds their longest losing streak. And only a single team had a longer losing streak than 5 games. All this information looked somewhat promising, but we also have to look at teams that didn’t do well in regular season.

Here is the same chart, with the polar opposites. The teams that finished LAST in MLB each of the last 10 years. We will take a look and compare them afterwards.

Once again, a quick look at this chart shows a couple interesting statistics. This time 80% of the teams had a losing record (this pretty much destroyed our original hypothesis) while only two teams had a .500 record. Looking at the longest winning and losing streaks also show an interesting pattern. Every team, except Arizona in 2004, had a longer losing streak than winning streak. This shows a stark contrast to the same categories used for World Series Champions.

Due to its length this piece has been broken up into two parts. Don't panic, part two is scheduled to publish on the blog tomorrow. Be sure to check back and see the results of Will's findings!

You can find Will on Twitter (@willpower36). Don't be bashful, give 'em a follow!

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