Friday, April 18, 2008
April ciphers, P.S.Posted by Brandon Isleib
Just some extra stuff I researched on what early results mean:
The league leaders on May 1 of every year since divisional play began (except for strike-shortened years, since the dates are messed up) have the eventual playoff team atop their division/wild card 47 percent of the time. In other words, if this year is average, based off May 1 four of the division/wild card leaders are going to go to the playoffs; the other four will be replaced by hotter teams down the road. That 47 percent goes up to 57 percent off June 1's standings, 63 percent off July 1's, 72 percent off August 1's, and 85 percent off September 1's. 1996-2000 was the only stretch of consecutive years where May 1's standings were more than half right by the end of the season; they haven't been greater than half right since 2003. However, the standings have almost never been completely wrong; only in 1973 and 1989 were they worthless. In the wild card era, the only leagues that have been completely wrong were the 2001 and 2007 NL. Last year, the playoff teams from May 1 would have been the Braves, Brewers, Dodgers, and Mets; that kinda didn't happen.
If you're feeling down about your team after April is through, consider the following first-place-in-May teams to console yourself with the small sample size:
1975: Brewers and Tigers tied at 10-7 to lead the East; they would be the two worst teams in the majors after that.
1978: Athletics at 16-5 to lead the West; even though they led through June 1, they finished at 69-93, in front of only the Mariners.
1980: Blue Jays surprise by leading the East at 9-8; they did not surprise by finishing last at 67-95.
1988: Indians at 16-7 to lead the East; by season's end they would be one of only two teams more than 3.5 out.
1992: Giants, Padres, and Reds are tied for the lead in the West on May and June 1, but the Braves win the division.
1993: Tigers and Angels lead the AL on May and June 1; Angels are the worst team in the AL after that point, and the Tigers are sub-.500.
1997-1998: Brewers lead the AL Central one year and the NL Central the next. In '98, the only teams worse after May 1 were the Marlins and Devil Rays.
2002-2003: Expos lead the wild card; about the only thing that came out of either year was the Indians getting Grady Sizemore. Youppi!
2003: Royals start off 17-8 to lead the Central; they actually stay in contention for awhile, but...how weird was that?
2005: Orioles are 17-7 to lead the East; they collapse amidst regression to their talent level, Lee Mazzilli's firing, and an unhealthy dose of B-12.
Obviously, these are extreme examples, but they serve as a nice reminder that what your favorite team is doing right now has more hubbub but less relevance than at any other time in the year.
April is just an exchange of pawns in the chess game of baseball. When it comes to overdoing its important...don't accept the gambit.
Brandon Isleib is a lawyer and writes about stuff sometimes. He can be reached via the electronic mails.