The Cubs lost 4-3 to the Indians last night, dropping their Cactus League record to a DREADFUL 11-16-5, among the bottom for NL clubs, and second worst in the Cactus League.
The Cubs will need to be very careful in the final four exhibition games, because if they fall under a .400 winning percentage for the spring, they are not only disqualified from the 2017 regular season, but they will be stripped of their World Championship from last year.
My hyperbole betrays me, because I’ve done this dance before and my feet are tired. You’re probably tired of it, too. But just so that we can button things up.
The Cubs haven’t won a lot of games this spring, and, more than that, they’ve had a number of ugly performances from guys you’d otherwise like to see performing well. But the reality is that the correlation between spring performance – whether by a team, or even by individual players – is virtually non-existent. The best study I’ve seen that yielded any kind of correlation at all – at FiveThirtyEight – concluded that it takes a monstrous spring (or a disastrous one) to move the needle even a small amount on a player’s projected performance in the upcoming regular season. (The study looked only at hitters, by the way.)
Cubs regulars who’ve had monstrous (greater than 1.000 OPS) springs? Willson Contreras (especially after last night), Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant. Want to bump up your expected/projected wRC+ figures for those guys by a point or two? OK.
Cubs regulars who’ve had disastrous (lower than .600 OPS) springs? Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero. Want to bump down your expected/projected wRC+ figures for those guys by a point or two? OK. Fine. The FiveThirtyEight study would say that’s fair. But even it concedes the movement is so small as to barely register.
So, then, if you’re asking me whether the Cubs’ overall performance, or that of any regulars (who are not necessarily focused on getting good results) concerns me, it does not. At all. Guys battling for roster spots? I care a tiny bit. Young guys trying to show something? I care a tiny bit. Veterans and regulars who know their positions is safe and simply want to use the spring to maximize their minds and bodies for the regular season ahead? I care absolute zero.
Now is when it’s safe to tell you that the top two teams in the NL in Spring Training are the Cardinals (19-8) and Pirates (19-9). Maybe that means they’ll be surprisingly dominant in the NL Central this year! I tend to think it means nothing, and that they were always going to be at least marginally competitive. Instead, what has happened in the spring on their rosters (Alex Reyes getting hurt, for example, or Jung-Ho Kang being stuck in Korea) has far more impact on the regular season than their spring results.
Four more not-terribly-real games to go before Opening Night.