Wednesday, April 26, 2017


A couple of days ago I wrote about the importance of getting out to a strong start, and the correlation of that start to making the playoffs. Essentially, 21 of the 25 AL playoff teams since the advent of the 2nd Wild Card that started out at least 10-10 went on to make the playoffs.

But 14-6 is a little bit different of a start, and a little more rare. Note, this has data from 2000-2016, so there are 17 seasons worth of data. Is it comprehensive? No. Is it an arbitrary endpoint? Of course it is. Also note that the 2nd Wild Card was added in 2012. 

34 teams started a season from 2000-2016 at 14-6 or better. The best record after 20 games among these teams belonged to the 2003 Yankees, who started the season 17-3. Nineteen teams started 14-6, nine teams started 15-5, five started 16-4, and the aforementioned Yankees started the season 17-3. 

Together these 34 teams averaged a 91.7-70.4 record. This includes everyone from the 2001 Mariners, who went 116-46 all the way to the 2011 Rockies, who managed to turn a 14-6 start into a 73-89 season. 

But a 14-6 start is not a guaranteed record for October baseball. 13 of the 34 teams (38.2%) that started 14-6 did not make the playoffs. That said, 30 of the 34 teams at least ended up with a winning record for the season. Two of those exceptions have come in each of the last two seasons: the 2016 White Sox (78-84) and the 2015 Tigers (74-87). There were four teams that started at least 14-6, went on to win at least 85 games, and still missed the playoffs. Two teams - the 2003 Mariners (93-69) and the 2006 White Sox (90-72) - won 90 games and missed the playoffs...but had they played more recently, they both would have won the 2nd Wild Card. A third team, the 2001 Twins, went 85-77 but would have won the 2nd Wild Card spot, too. 

Eighteen of the 34 teams (52.9%) of these teams won their division. Another three won a Wild Card spot. So Math tells us that 61.8% of the teams that started out at least 14-6 made the playoffs. Adding those three teams that would have won the 2nd Wild Card pushes the playoff percentage of 14-6 teams to 70.6%.What this does not predict, because the playoffs are a complete and total crapshoot, is World Series success.

Only four of the 34 teams went on to win the World Series: the 2004 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox (/spits), the 2015 Royals, and the 2016 Cubs. The 2012 Rangers lost in the Wild Card game and ten more teams did not win their Division Series. Three teams were knocked out in their respective Championship Series. Two teams lost in the World Series: the 2015 Mets (to the Royals) and the 2003 Yankees lost the World Series to the Marlins.

What does it mean for the Astros? As I concluded the other day, there's still 142 games to play and 19 of those games are against those witches up I-45, so who's to say? But their hot start does have correlation to postseason success, even if it's not guaranteed. 

Here's the link to the spreadsheet I used for the data.

(This post has been updated to remove the 2015 Astros from the list. They were 13-7 through 20, not 14-6.)