March 09, 2019
The Phillies are tied for first place right now... in the Grapefruit League.
It's the preseason, and the games count for nothing more than tune ups for the players on the roster as March 28th's Opening Day game against the Braves approaches. However, there is actually more correlation between winning the South Florida baseball league and winning during the actual season than you'd think.
Here's a look at the top finishers over the last handful of years and how they fared in the ensuing regular season:
|Year||Grapefruit Winner||Regular Season|
|2018||Red Sox (Astros runner up)||World Champs (ALCS)|
|2015||Mets (Blue Jays runner up)||World Series (ALCS)|
|2014||Rays||4th place in AL East|
|2013||Orioles||3rd place in AL East|
|2012||Blue Jays||3rd place in AL East|
|2011||Twins (Phillies runner up)||Last place (NLDS)|
For the last four springs in a row, and in eight of the last 11, the team that either won or finished second in the Grapefruit League standings by the end of March found themselves in the playoffs come October. It's also worth noting that the Orioles in 2013 and Jays in 2012 posted winning regular season records. Last year's World Champion Red Sox won both leagues in totality.
The Phillies were near the bottom of the standings in the spring of 2018 and, as everyone knows, they saw a decent season completely collapse down the stretch.
Games in the spring are not managed like regular season games are. Players typically get limited action and are then pulled for other players looking to get reps, though the starters play longer as the regular season inches closer.
The trend of teams performing well in the spring, and later well in the regular season also lightly correlates to the other spring training league, the Cactus League in Arizona, as the Giants finished in the top four of the standings in each of their World Series years in 2012 and 2014. Last year the Brewers won the Cactus League and made it to the NLDS, and in 2015 the Royals finished in second by a half game and went on to win the World Series.
Still, it is very interesting to see how much better the Grapefruit League teams have been than the Cactus League as a whole over the last decade.
So what does this all mean? Really nothing, though it's an interesting thing to consider as the Phils continue to rake in meaningless victories this spring. Perhaps the culture of winning in a locker room begins early.
Regardless, it's another good sign for the already thoroughly hyped Phillies.
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