Can Spring Training records predict the outcome of a season?
But I’m desperate for data points. I was one of the poll junkies who looked at seventeen different election prediction websites last fall. If I obsessed over the numbers, like Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” I was certain to find a predictive pattern.
I feel the same way during Spring Training. Yes, there are programs like PECOTA at Baseball Prospectus. According to their system, the White Sox are pegged to win 79 games, while the Tigers will take the division with 90. The numbers were last updated on February 16th. They are usually updated from time to time to account for trends during Spring Training.
The Sox, especially under Ozzie Guillen, were a bad Spring Training team. The bad exhibition record had a hangover effect into the first month of the season. The Sox often found themselves behind the 8-ball on May 1st, simply because they were unable to hit the “on” switch on Opening Day.
Is that how it happened, or is that how I think it happened?
Here’s the Sox spring record followed by their record in April:
2004: 15-13 13-8
2005: 14-18 17-7
2006: 10-19 17-7
2007: 10-22 12-11
2008: 11-19 14-12
2009: 16-20 11-10
2010: 12-16 9-14
2011: 11-20 10-18
2012: 14-18 11-11
In other words, spring records aren’t predictive of how a team will do when the games start to count. The April 2012 record could have easily been 13-9 if not for the 1-0 shutout loss to Boston on April 28th, and Robin Ventura’s Bunt-a-Palooza in Oakland on April 25th.
The Detroit Tigers, holders of a 20-8 record last spring, also started the 2012 season 11-11. The Toronto Blue Jays went 24-7 last spring, and then posted a record of 12-11 in April.
Spring training games don’t tell the whole story, of course. The regulars are gone by the fourth inning. How many losses were due to a pitcher who will be in Birmingham on Opening Day? How many wins were due to the 9th inning heroics by a guy who was trying to make the 25th spot on the roster?
There are three weeks left in the Exhibition baseball season. The Sox are posted to have their first winning spring record since 2004. If the Sox wind up on the plus side of the ledger after their final practice game…will the momentum carry over into April?
Filed under: Predictions