Dating back to 2003, the Chicago Cubs’ end results in Spring Training haven’t correlated to regular season success or failure.
If there is one thing to take from MLB Spring Training, it’s that the end standings really don’t mean anything. The long, drawn out process that is Spring Training starts in mid-February every year. During this time, managers get a chance to see what the organization’s top prospects have skill-wise. Because “normal” players are in the lineup less, each team’s record may not indicate how skillful the team is overall.
This fact has been a reality for the Chicago Cubs in the organization’s recent memory. Since 2003, the team has made the postseason five times. Of those five seasons, the team has finished with a spring record of .500 or worse three times.
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Not only did the 2003 Cubs make the postseason, but they also were five outs away from the World Series. That spring, the team finished with an admirable record of 17-11. For comparison’s sake, the 2010 Cubs’ spring record was 18-12; that regular season, the team went 75-87, fifth in the NL Central.
In 2007, the Cubs’ finished a respectful 17-13 in Spring Training; in 2008, their record was 15-15. As history goes, both of these teams won the NL Central and advanced to the postseason. In fact, the 2008 Cubs won 97 games, second best in the entire MLB.
Recent success starts in spring?
More recently, the Cubs advanced to the NLCS in 2015 despite going 15-17 in Spring Training. In 2016, they finished Spring Training with an 11-19 record. Despite finishing 14th place out of 15 Cactus League teams, they won the World Series. Essentially, losing in the spring means nothing in terms of what is to come in the regular season.
In the 14 seasons including 2003, the Cubs have missed the playoffs nine times; in five of those seasons, their spring record was .500 or better. Essentially, there is no correlation between a winning record in the spring and a winning regular season.
While people generally dislike losing, Spring Training is a different animal. Players and teams don’t play each game not caring about winning or losing. However, these preseason games are exhibitions that do not count in the final standings. If a team loses more often than not, there is no true repercussion.
Ultimately, individual player preparation and skill refinement are what matters most in Spring Training. If the Cubs go undefeated in spring while Kris Bryant goes hitless, Bryant’s struggles will draw more attention, realistically. For that reason, the Cubs’ current spring record of 8-10 should be glanced at briefly and brushed aside.