April Baseball: Catch the Fever!
April 6, 2006
Last year, I was quite defensive about the false notion that games in April aren't as important as ones in September. Each game is worth just one win or loss regardless of the date on the calendar, and every game you gain on your opponent early is one less you have to worry about later. The topic came up frequently as Cleveland went on a streak of all streaks to get thisclose to Chicago for the AL Central title, despite Chicago's dominance throughout the first half.
My argument was the White Sox only played .500 ball for much of the last couple months, yet they still won the division and still had home field advantage largely in part because they won in April and May. Regardless of the fact that Chicago ended up winning the World Series, I was right, the naysayers were wrong, and the world was a good place.
Nevertheless, I don't like to rest on my laurels, so I thought I would ease the fears of those teams expected to do well who didn't fare so well in their first series. While it's important to win early, surely three games is not nearly enough to shoot down World Series aspirations. Well... let's look at the numbers and you, like me, may be surprised.
Of the 8 playoff teams last year, only 1 team was under .500 after 3 games (Boston)! Only 1 team was under .500 after 6 games (Boston). Only 1 team was under .500 after 8 games (Boston). Only 1 team was under .500 after 10 games (New York). Here's the kicker: Boston and New York were both eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
A similar trend continues looking at 2004: only 1 team was under .500 after 10 games (St. Louis). The Cardinals, however, made it to the World Series.
What does this tell us? Well, if your team is 1-2 right now, you might as well focus on maintaining a nice yard this summer, because there will be little reason for you to stay indoors watching baseball. Of course, this is all a little tongue in cheek: 3 games is hardly a viable sample size, and 2 years is nary enough history to prove anything. In fact, the 2003 World Series Champion Florida Marlins started out 1-2 (and 2-6 after 8 games), the Anaheim Angels of 2002 started 1-2, and even the 1998 New York Yankees started 0-3, only to finish with 114 wins and a World Series title.
While I may have scared many fans at mid-story, take your team's 1-2 start with a grain of salt. It's important to win early, but the true lesson to learn is that it's important to win period. April, June, or September, failing to win games will not help your playoff goals... but it might keep your fans' lawns greener.