Beginning with their Grapefruit League opener Saturday afternoon against the Astros, Roy Halladay wants the Phillies to focus on winning this spring, believing it could spark a much-needed strong start.
In 2012, the Phillies finished with their worst spring training record in three years at 14-16, and it was a sign of things to come as the club also put forth their first losing April since 2007 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Much more concerning than the team's record, of course, were the injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to begin the season — but both players, neither participating in Grapefruit League play, likely could have helped improve the Phils' 14-16 spring mark, and, undoubtedly, their dreadful 37-50 first half.
"I know we're going to have regular players go out for two or three innings and starters (pitchers) going three innings, but I want to win games," Halladay told CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury on Thursday. "I want to win games down here and I think that will translate into the season."
One of the game's fiercest competitors, Halladay's we-gotta-win attitude should surprise no one, but it does raise the question: Are spring training and regular season records correlated?
In the three years Halladay has been with the Phillies, at least, they have been. Take a look:
Grapefruit League, 11-12 April, 81-81 overall
2011: 21-14, 18-8, 102-60
2010: 15-12, 12-10, 97-65
In 2011, the Phillies finished with their best April record since they began 17-5 in 1993, and it jumpstarted them to the Majors' best mark and a franchise-best 102 wins. In 2010, a good spring led to a good first month, and again the club finished with the best record in baseball.
Go back further than that, and no, the Phillies' Grapefruit League and regular season success don't correspond. (The Phils finished the spring 12-18 and 13-19 in 2008 and 2009, respectively.) But Halladay had one additional point to make about why, in 2013, it's so important:
"I think the only tendency in the past is we've had such good players and such good teams that we can kind of turn it on later in the season and make up any ground we've lost," he said. "But I think the older you get, the tougher the division gets — it's more imperative to start holding that competitiveness and finding ways to win games."
See if you notice a difference this spring.