With the Toronto Blue Jays riding a 11-game unbeaten streak following Friday’s 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, there is plenty of optimism heading into the regular season.
The Blue Jays 12 spring wins are most in the Majors and their winning percentage (.857) is second only to the Detroit Tigers (.909).
And while expectations shouldn’t be based on what happens during the Grapefruit League season, it’s hard to ignore what the Jays have done to date.
So how will Toronto’s accomplishments in February and March carry over into April and the dog days of summer? There’s no definite answer of course, but a look at previous spring training results could shed light on what the Jays have in store for 2012.
If the Jays hope to contend for a wild-card spot this season, they will likely need to hit the 90-95 win mark – or a minimum .586 winning percentage – to compete with the Big 3 of the AL East along with the Angels and Rangers in the AL West.
Although it’s unlikely the Blue Jays will continue their current pace through the final 17 games of Grapefruit League action, they should still finish with one of the best spring records thanks to their hot start. Going back to 2007, of the 40 teams that have qualified for the post-season, 16 of them finished with one of the four-best spring records in their respective Leagues that year.
Of course, there is the Kansas City Royals’ spring success last year and the Oakland A’s omnipresence at the top of the Cactus League standings, but for the most part, the teams who win in the regular season usually play well before it begins.
When the Tampa Bay Rays shocked the baseball world by winning the AL East (97-65) in 2008 after finishing at the bottom the year prior, they had the second best spring training record among AL teams (18-8, .692).
The following year the Rays had a so-so spring (15-16) and followed it up with an equally mediocre season. But in 2010 when they shot back to the top of the division, they were baseball’s best team in spring training (20-8, .714).
Circumstances between the two Rays teams were different, but it’s interesting that in the two seasons they made the post-season were the two years they cleaned up in the spring.
The opposite can be true too, however.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were among the basement dwellers during spring training last season with a 12-25 record, but ended up winning their division. Similarly in 2010, the Texas Rangers had the worst spring record in the majors before heating up in the summer and capturing their division.
As for the Jays, last spring they finished spring training in the middle of the pack with a 16-14 (.533) record and played at a similar clip throughout the year, finishing at 81-81.
In all fairness, the Jays’ best seasons in recent history (2010, 2008) came after sub-par pre-seasons (12-13, 13-16). Numbers can be deceiving and comparing teams across leagues and seasons doesn’t always paint an accurate picture.
So what does it all mean? It’s too early to tell, but it will be interesting to see which way they trend when the games mean something and the competition heats up.