Goldman: Teams that have overcome a poor start

From SABR member Steven Goldman at The National Pastime Museum on March 16, 2018:

Basic math will tell you that a great start might not guarantee a team a World Series victory, but more often than not it should get a team to the postseason. After all, there are only so many games in the season, whether we are talking the current 162-game or old 154-game schedule. If a team posts enough wins in, say, its first 30 games, that’s almost 20 percent of the season accounted for and only so much time left to undo things with a sustained period of losing. Thus, of the 10 teams in history to post 24 or more wins in their first 30 games, only one has failed to play in October.

The converse is also true; if you pack enough losing into the early schedule, the time to fix it just doesn’t exist. In both winning and losing cases, that assumes the record isn’t deserved on the basis of talent and can be fixed, that luck or transient injuries distorted the team’s record sufficiently that a rebound in one direction or the other was even possible. Mostly, though, the records are earned. This is particularly true of the losing clubs. When a team opens the season by going 4–26, as the 1988 Baltimore Orioles did, it has made a definitive statement that even the sudden, miraculous addition of a Babe Ruth–level talent would do nothing to alter.

The exceptions occur at a slightly lower level of incompetence.

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Originally published: March 16, 2018. Last Updated: March 16, 2018.