You heard me. Spring training matters.
I'm not necessarily talking about positional and rotational battles. I'm not referring to guys getting into baseball shape and shaking off the rust.
I'm mainly referring to the fact that our Giants with their kickass performance thus far have put themselves into a statistical category that you probably would like to be a part of.
A smart dude I know named Sam sent an email out with the following text based on his research:
"...Spring training DOES actually correlate to regular season. I checked it out. Over the past three seasons, of the teams with the five best records in spring training, HALF of them made the playoffs. Whereas the of the bottom five teams, only 10% made the playoffs. Over the past seven years, the trend is similar with 40% of the top five teams making the playoffs."
That got me thinking even more about how awesome the Gyros are going to be this season and how cool we all are for being Giants fans. Then, after like 15 or 20 minutes thinking about that, I remembered what I was doing and broke out my research hat and put it on for a little while (it's not very stylish or comfortable, so, you know, I don't wear it very often...).
I chose to look at it slightly differently than Sam. I looked at American League vs. National league, and not Cactus vs. Grapefruit, or all of MLB altogether. This may have lessened the impact on the stats themselves and made my argument appear slightly weaker, but since there are only four playoff spots in each league, why should I include the 5th best American League spring training team if during the season the 5th best team gets left out of the playoffs? Anyway, here's what I've got in a nutshell (based on 4 AL/4 NL teams from each year 1996-2009):
-- 36% of the top 8 teams each spring training make the playoffs
-- Compare that to the fact that 29% of AL teams make the playoffs (4 spots, 14 teams), and 25% of NL teams make the show each year (and don't let anyone tell you that the AL is harder to succeed in, that's just BS).
-- Some things really stuck out to me. For instance, in my 14 year study period, the Brewers only had a top 4 NL record twice ('04, '08). Sure enough, their smokin' spring in '08 foretold their eventual playoff run.
This occurred with Cleveland as well in 2007. They hadn't made the playoffs since 2001, but they strode into Florida that March, kicked ass in spring, then ended up pushing the Yankees to the brink of the ALCS.
Same thing for Tampa Bay.
Tampa had never had a top 4 spring record until 2008.
They went to the World Series that year.
-- 9 out of the 14 seasons I looked at produced at least one member of the eventual World Series matchup. So yes, whip out your calculators. There is a 65% chance that at least one team from the top 8 will make the World Series.
-- On that note, in 2008, both teams in the World Series had top 4 divisional spring training records (TB/PHI).
-- Since 2004, the Angels have had a top 4 American League spring training record 5 times out of 6 years. They made the playoffs 4 times during that stretch.
-- In 1997, the Florida Marlins set what must be a spring training record, posting an insane .839 spring training winning percentage. Yeah, they ended up winning it all that year.
What does it all mean?
Well, look, it doesn't mean nothing. That's the point. You can point to these teams like the Yankees or Angels, and say, well they're already good teams. They're supposed to be good and they're already playoff contenders. Fair enough. But about teams like Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Tampa? They went into spring those playoff years with zero guarantees and having missed the playoffs for many years prior. Their rare positive spring training performances preceded playoff appearances.
As we know, there are no guarantees with any of this. The Giants may not make the playoffs (although impossible in my eyes... yes, homerism is a great drug to be under the influence of).
I just find this impressive Scottsdale performance a little too relevant, and a little too positively ominous.
Let's just say that we've got a great friggin chance to do some serious damage this season, and having the best spring training record definitely means something.
Let's hope it means something really cool.