Today marks the one-week anniversary of the 2011 MLB season. Yes, a whole week. Of course that essentially meaningless sample of data hasn’t kept pockets of the baseball community from wildly overreacting.
“Oh my jeezorz, are the Orioles & Royals kontindurz?!?”
“Ummm, why do the Red Sox suckzorz so much? I want mah money back!”
“Should I drop Jon Lester for Kevin Correia in mah fantuhsee leeg?”
Let’s all just take a step back and enjoy these first couple of weeks of play and realize you can’t attach too much meaning to the events on the field, especially those that heavily go against expectations. Sure, some of the surprises will stick, but it’s virtually impossible to know which will at this juncture. You have to trust talent whether when looking at your favorite team as a whole or at individual players on your fantasy roster.
I’ll cover more on the fantasy angle later, but today I wanted to go through an exercise to show just little we can glean not only from the first week of play, but from the first four. There’s obviously going to be tons of variance from the first week of standings to the end of the season, but I think many would believe that May 1st is enough data to start making judgments about ballclubs, even if they run contrary what we would have expected coming into the season.
However, even a month’s worth of data isn’t always a great indicator that fans of a good team who is underperforming should begin flipping out or that fans of a poorer team who is overachieving should crack open the piggy bank for that playoff ticket deposit. Over the last four years, look at how little the May 1st standings have actually told us about how the season would play out.
Again, a surprise or two may stick, but I can tell you that even if the Orioles are somehow playing .600 ball by May 1st, I’m still projecting them to finish near the bottom of that division with third place as a stretch goal. They don’t have the talent to stick with the Red Sox and Yankees for sure and it’d be an upset for them to beat the Jays and Rays.
The same goes for the Royals. Their team as currently constructed is one of the worst in the AL from strictly a talent measure and while they have a throng of blue chip prospects who are on the cusp, the chances of all of them coming up and performing at an above average clip are scant. So even if they closed the month 20-10 or something, I would still have the White Sox, Tigers and Twins finishing ahead of them assuming those three teams hadn’t suffered a severe injury or three during April.
Cream rises to the top. We’ve seen it before (as you’re about to see) and we’ll see it again.
On May 1st, 2007…
The New York Yankees were 10-14; finished 94-68 and wildcard winner by season’s end.
The Philadelphia Phillies were 12-14; finished 89-73 winning the division by a game over the New York Mets (who were 15-10).
The Chicago Cubs were 11-14; finished 85-77 winning the division by 2 games over the Milwaukee Brewers (who were 17-9).
The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-13 and went on to finish 68-94, 2nd-worst in baseball.
The Colorado Rockies were 11-16, five games out; finished 90-73 winning game 163 against San Diego to win the wildcard and eventually play in the World Series.
On May 1st, 2008…
The Toronto Blue Jays were 12-17; still only finished fourth in the division, but with an 86-76 record (74-59 after April).
The Oakland A’s were 18-12 and tied for the division lead with the Los Angeles Angels; finished 75-86 while the Angels went 100-62.
The St. Louis Cardinals were 18-11 and atop their division; finished 86-76 good for fourth place.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were 20-8 and held the best record in baseball by a decent margin; finished just 82-80, two games out of first in the division.
On May 1st, 2009…
The Toronto Blue Jays were 16-9, good for the best record in the AL, thanks in large part to a favorable schedule; finished 75-87 as the schedule evened out resulting in a fourth place finish.
The New York Yankees were 13-10; finished a league-best 103-59.
The Kansas City Royals were 12-11, hardly world beating, but above expectations for them; finished 65-97 which tied for 2nd-worst in the AL.
The Seattle Mariners were 14-9 leading the AL West by 3.5 games; finished 85-77 which is plenty respectable, but put them 12 out and in third place. The team that defeated them? …
The Los Angeles Angels were 9-13 sitting 4.5 behind those Mariners; finished 97-65 good for 2nd-best in baseball.
The Florida Marlins were 14-9 leading the NL East by 2 games; finished 87-75 six games out of first.
The Philadelphia Phillies were 11-10 trailing those Marlins; finished 93-69 good for 2nd-best in the NL.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were 11-11, like the Royals an achievement for them given expectations; finished 62-99 fulfilling the low preseason expectations set for them.
The Colorado Rockies were 8-13, 2nd-worst in the NL and 6.5 in the West; finished 92-70 winning the wildcard by a five game margin over those Marlins.
On May 1st, 2010…
The Chicago White Sox were 10-14 in total disarray as talks of firing the manager swirled overhead; finished 88-74 which was still six games out, but they contended for most of the summer until the Twins pulled away.
The Texas Rangers were 12-12, a half game out of first; finished 90-72 winning the division by nine games, the biggest margin in baseball.
The New York Mets were 14-10 atop the NL East; finished 79-83, 18 games out of first place.
The Washington Nationals were 13-11, just a game back of the Mets; finished 69-93, 28 games out of first place.
The Cincinnati Reds were 12-12, four games back in the NL Central; finished 91-71 winning the division by five games over the Cardinals.
The St. Louis Cardinals were 16-8; finished 86-76 losing out to the Reds.
On May 1st, 2011…
To be determined, but I bet we have at least a few cases to add for next year’s column.