On Friday ESPN Insider Dave Cameron wrote a piece exploring whether a hot start guarantees a great season. The answer: not really. Cameron looked at team at the extreme end of the scale, those who posted a .700 winning percentage through at least 15 games. Since 1974, 45 teams have done so and they played a collective .549 after their hot starts -- certainly a fine winning percentage, but not one that guarantees a playoff berth.
With the Angels 7-15 entering Monday's games and the Phillies 10-12 -- both heavy favorites to make the playoffs -- I looked at this from a little different angle: What kind of starts do playoff teams get off to? Basically, I want to see if any team in recent history got off to a start as bad as the Angels have in April.
I checked the last five years, giving a sample of 40 teams. Ten of the 40 playoff teams had losing records in April, or 25 percent. Eight of the 40 teams had a negative run differential. Before Monday's games, the Angels were minus-15 and the Phillies minus-4.
None of those 10 teams, however, had a record as bad as the Angels' 7-15, a .318 winning percentage. The worst record belonged to the 2007 "Roctober" Rockies, who went 10-16 (.385) in April but finished 90-73. That Rockies team also had the worst run differential on the list at -24 runs.
If there's some solace to Angels fans or Phillies fans, maybe it's that last year's Tigers started 12-15 and had been outscored by 21 runs. Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila got off to hot starts, but Brandon Inge hit .198, Austin Jackson .178 and Magglio Ordonez .169. The pitching was also slow out of the gate with a 4.66 ERA. Justin Verlander didn't start heating up until May (he was 2-3, 3.50 in April, meaning he lost just twice the rest of the season), Brad Penny had a 6.11 ERA and Phil Coke went 1-3 in four starts.
The Phillies would seem to have the easier path to the playoffs, of course. Not only is their record better but there is a higher likelihood it will take fewer wins to make the NL playoffs. As for the Angels, if they are to win 90 games, they'll have to go 83-57 the rest of the way -- a .593 winning percentage. Certainly, any team with a rotation featuring Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana can get on a roll. Angels may also remember the 2009 squad that went 9-12 in April but finished with 97 wins.
So, time to panic? Probably not. Time to be concerned? Well, check out the poll results.