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Baseballs Twilight Zone: If Spring Training Mattered

Twilight Zone Season 1 Episode 35 The Mighty Casey

No matter the sport, the importance of preseason win/loss outcomes is debated year after year. While spring games are undoubtedly managed differently, the same question remains. Is it reasonable to draw any conclusions from the wins and losses in these matchups?

The answer is no, at least not in the short-term. A number of interesting studies such as this one by Michael R. Summers look more deeply into the topic. Unsurprisingly, a team’s year over year regular season performance matters far more than their spring record. There is something to be said for this spring correlation over time, but any single season provides little predictive evidence.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to look at the standing in this pseudo baseball universe where starters pitch three innings and minor league players log more time then starters. Today we’ll take a look at the 2017 playoff picture if it was determined based on spring training performance. What are the match-ups? Who has clearest path to the World Series? Who will win the fall classic?

*Standings locked in Saturday night 3/12*

American LeagueNational League
NY Yankees13381%Pittsburgh11473%
Oakland9469%2.5St. Louis10471%0.5
LA Angels9564%3Arizona8753%3
Baltimore8657%4LA Dodgers8753%3
Chi White Sox8657%4NY Mets8850%3.5
Kansas City7750%5Washington6746%4
Boston7847%5.5San Diego6843%4.5
Tampa Bay6746%5.5Chi Cubs5742%4.5
Houston5742%6San Francisco61038%5.5

The American League Playoff Picture

American League Divisional Series

  • New York Yankees vs. (Wild Card Winner)
  • Oakland Athletics vs. Minnesota Twins
  • Wild Card Matchup: Seattle Mariners vs. LA Angels


How’d we get here?

In one of the most stunning regular season sagas in baseball history, all preseason predictions have been shattered. The New York Yankees sit firmly atop the AL East with the best record in baseball (also somehow playing more games than anyone else).

The Oakland Athletics and the Minnesota Twins have defied every prediction by winning their divisions instead of landing in last.

Finally, it’s the year of Mike Trout and the Angels as they take on the veteran Seattle Mariners in a winner take all bid for glory.

American League Championship Series

  • Seattle Mariners vs. Minnesota Twins


What Happened Next?

Baseballs Twilight Zone: If Spring Training Mattered

King Felix throws a perfect game to secure the wild card over the hapless Angels. Angels management realize the futility of their efforts and trade Trout in the offseason for an entire farm system. The Twins ignite an unforeseen hitting spree carried by Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to secure victory over the A’s.

The Yankees have dominated all year with their young rookie class, which appears to be the second coming of the 90s dynasty. They are promptly dispatched by Seattle, which experts can only chalk up to “a lack of playoff experience.”

Finally, the stage is set for the Mariners to take on the Twins. James Paxton realizes his full potential, and along with Hernandez and Iwakuma, finds a way to silence one of the hottest hitting teams in baseball. The Seattle Mariners become American League Champions.


The National League Playoff Picture

National League Divisional Series

  • Pittsburgh Pirates vs. (Wild Card Winner)
  • Colorado Rockies vs. New York Mets
  • Wild Card Matchup: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers

How’d we get here?

In a pitiful display, the NL East somehow scrounges up the Mets as division champs with the seventh best record in the NL.

The Pirates and Cardinals have a late season war for first place in the central. This turn of events clearly stuns the heavily favored Cubs, who are imploding under the weight of last seasons success.

Out West, the dark horse Rockies establish themselves over what appeared to be tough divisional competition prior to the season. Similar to the AL, we are witnessing an incredibly unusual turn of events. That’s baseball for you.

National League Championship Series

  • Colorado Rockies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates


What Happened Next?

Baseballs Twilight Zone: If Spring Training MatteredThe long-established Cardinals make short work of a Brewers team that stunned the MLB with their uncharacteristic finish. The Rockies prolific offense puts the lumber to a Mets team whose rotation is clearly plagued by the injury bug.

All of this to create a classic showdown between the divisional rivals who battled for the top seed heading into the playoffs. The Pirates and Cardinals engage in a brutal five game series that sees multiple extra-inning games and depleted bullpens.

In the end, players and fans are exhausted by a tight, 20-inning game, with the Pirates winning 3-2. This is the result of a suicide squeeze play by Andrew McCutchen to score the go ahead run. With no closers remaining, McCutchen also takes the mound to close the 20th inning with a 1-2-3 inning on 9 strikes. How’s that for a comeback season?

Unfortunately for the Pirates, this success is short lived. After the brutal engagement with the Cardinals, the depleted forces of Pittsburgh simply cannot hang with a well-rested Rockies team. The Colorado Rockies become the National League Champions.


The World Series Matchup

Seattle Mariners vs. Colorado Rockies

A matchup simply no one predicted at the beginning of the 2017 season, but not an entirely unrealistic one. On one side there is an absolutely stacked Rockies offense with a young pitching staff beginning to establish themselves. On the other is a strong three-man rotation with a lineup sporting solid veterans like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.

The smart move is to go with the veteran team with superior pitching. In baseballs twilight zone, clearly the Rockies take it all. Jon Gray establishes himself as team ace by carrying multiple, deep-inning games that allow Greg Holland to close out. The Rockies offense is unstoppable with Nolan Arenado leading the way and slashing .399/.499/.599 for the series. Arenado is named the undisputed MVP and king of Colorado as he leads the Rockies to their first World Series victory in franchise history. The Colorado Rockies are the 2017 World Series Champions.

What did I just read?

So in fairness, this is an absurd way of giving an update on the current spring training records. That said, if there was ever a sport where a ridiculous scenario could play out, it would be baseball. Spring training records really don’t matter. It’s an opportunity for players to get into shape, work on technique and for managers to get lineups dialed in. We all can’t wait for the regular season to begin. In the meantime, we can sit back and wonder what the 2017 season has in store for us.


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