The Jays are 20 games into a season filled with promise, but they’re 8-12. Perhaps you, like me, need a little perspective about the Jays’ slow start to the season. This isn’t a new topic here on AL Eastbound, as the Jays have played poorly enough for long enough for us to write about their predicament previously. On the other hand, perhaps you don’t. You’re content to believe that they’ll come around eventually. If this describes you, then you can continue to read at your leisure or navigate to another page on AL Eastbound for some other scintillating topic of discussion. Otherwise I’d like to share something I discovered.
I don’t get a lot of time to do extra writing—the Recaps pretty much tax me—but I thought I’d nose around in some recent MLB playoff history. The ever-expanding playoff format can make it tough to keep track of who made the playoffs year-to-year unless you have THAT kind of memory. Anyways, I was interested in how well or poorly recent World Series champs did through the regular season. Keeping track of the WS champs isn’t that tough. As I perused the pages of MLB history, I was surprised to discover what I did.
Not only have some recent champs struggled through the season, it’s almost axiomatic that a World Series champ struggled through the regular season. Oftentimes, they struggled through lengthy portions of the regular season.
I only went back to 2008, but I began with 2009 because the New York Yankees won it all and they had a great regular season record. I then expanded the scope to include 2008 and 2010-2012. Here are some very brief glimpses in table form from the past five seasons.
|Champ-to-be||Date||Result||Opponent||Record||The rest of the way…||Final Record|
|Phillies||May 19||L, 4-0||WAS||24-22||68-48 (.586)||92-70|
|Yankees||May 12||L, 5-1||TOR||15-17||88-42 (.677)||103-59|
|Giants||May 26||L, 7-3||WAS||23-22||69-48 (.590)||92-70|
|Cardinals||August 24||L, 9-4||LAD||67-63||23-9 (.719)||90-72|
|Giants||May 16||L, 4-1||STL||18-19||76-49 (.608)||94-68|
This table was adapted from information gleaned at www.baseball-reference.com
Look at the dates, then look at the team record on that date. The obvious exception is the St. Louis Cardinals who scuffled along until the third week of August before they got hot and snuck into the playoffs when Atlanta collapsed. Even before August 24, the Cards were unimpressive: they were 41-38 on June 26 and were one game over the break-even point from June 26-August 24. After that they were hot as you-know-where, and we’re not talking about Mexico or New Mexico, either.
The point of all this is obviously the ‘Date’ column. The records before and after provide an answer to the question “is it too early to panic?”. Yes. Yes it is. Each eventual champ over the last five seasons has been right around the .500 mark as late as the end of June (STL). Dare I say it? It’s almost “normal” for the eventual champ to be around .500 in mid-May. Maybe one day I’ll expand this table farther into the past but I’m guessing that the 1984 Detroit Tigers are the exception, not the rule: they were 35-5 after 40 games and led the entire way.
What conclusions can we draw from this? Honestly, not much meaningful except to say ‘Hey, relax. It’s still early’ when somebody blows a gasket about the (low) quality of the Blue Jays’ play and their poor record to this point. Go ahead and share this stuff with them. You can even add a team like the 2012 Oakland A’s. They weren’t WS champs but fit this model very, very well. I’ve already done the leg-work: you’ll have to check it out for yourself.