Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teams That Start 12-1

The Atlanta Braves are off to a fantastic 12-1 start. Since I've commented more than once on teams that have slow starts, it makes sense to see how well teams that have hot starts maintain that through a full season. This chart shows all teams since 1901 that began the season 12-1:

Prior to the playoff era, a 12-1 start guaranteed absolutely nothing, but as tiers of playoffs were added, it began to make a difference. Two very important notes:
1. 1981 was a strike year, and the first use of the divisional playoff format, 14 years prior to its adoption after the 1995 season. The Athletics started out by defeating the Royals in the divisional round before losing to the Yankees.
2. 1994 was another strike year in which no playoffs were held. That was the year that the Montreal Expos had the best record in the majors at the time the games were cancelled. Given the standings, the Braves would have been the wild card team that year.

There's not enough instances of teams beginning 12-1 to draw strong inferences, which alone suggests the rarity of its occurrence. If they can stay healthy and keep their pitching intact (two very big IFs in today's games), they should have no problem making the playoffs. This chart shows what teams WOULD have made the playoffs in the 5-team format that began last year:

Not including 1995 (which was a shortened season), an American League team would need 89 wins to be the 5th team in the playoffs, and the National League team 88--essentially the same. For the Braves to reach 88 wins, they would need to go 76-73 for the rest of the season, or just over .500. 

If a bad start can doom a team (and I'm pretty sure it can), a strong start, especially in an era of expanded playoffs, can certainly propel a team into the playoffs. The odds at Baseball Prospectus for the Braves are 71.3% as of Wednesday, not all that different from any of the other front-runners. The Tigers, 8-5 at this point, have a 87% chance, but I don't  pretend to know the algorithms that they use on that site, but it does become very interesting as we enter August and September.

I'm willing to go out on the limb--fans in Atlanta, begin to make your playoff plans now. 

No comments :

Post a Comment