Why April Doesn’t Count
Jonathan Knight | On 17, Apr 2015
Everybody just calm down.
We’ve seen the Indians do this before and will almost certainly see them do it again. Like those obnoxious Geico commercials with Salt-N-Pepa and free range chicken tell us, it’s what they do.
For the third straight year, it appears the Tribe is going to suck in April.
We could wig out and try to figure out why: early injuries, bad spring training performances, everyone’s distracted by “The Corner” in right field, etc. Or we could blame Terry Francona or the bullpen or Jim Rosenhaus.
Or we could shrug, accept it, and look forward to May, when the real season will begin.
Hold on, you might be thinking, are you saying we should just write off 20-something games? Willingly flush one-sixth of the season down the toilet?
Yes and yes.
It’s painful and not ideal – especially since you could (if you wanted to) blame dyspeptic Aprils for costing the Indians division titles each of the past two seasons. That and the hyper-irritating Detroit Tigers, who basically have become Disney to the Indians’ Star Wars.
It’s much healthier to just write off these 30 days rather than to make snap judgments and ruin the rest of the summer based on this cavalcade of nighttime nonsense we’ll see in these first few weeks.
If nothing else, remember this: the team we see in April is not the team we’ll see the rest of the year.
For better or worse, these are the Bizarro Indians. They play the first four weeks of the season wearing backwards Indians jerseys and caps and showing us exactly what won’t be happening from May through September.
This trend doesn’t stretch back to Napoleon Lajoie, but it does cover the last four seasons. Consider how the Indians have fared in the last quartet of Aprils compared to the rest of the year:
April: 18-8 (.692)
After: 62-74 (.456)
April: 11-9 (.550)
After: 57-85 (.401)
April: 11-13 (.458)
After: 81-57 (.587)
April: 11-17 (.393)
After: 74-60 (.552)
You’ll note that the converse of what we’ve seen the last two seasons happened in the two before that – the Tribe got off to a fine start and then technicolor-yawned all over the rest of the season.
So, in a way, perhaps we should be grateful that the Indians are well on their way to whoopsing another April out the passenger window. Because if recent history is any indication, that’s the key to a successful Tribe season.
There’s nothing sports fans in this town love doing more than panicking and pointing fingers, and many are tempted to do just that. But rather than trotting out the ole’ 162-game chestnut and explaining the dichotomy between marathons and sprints, let’s focus on the new reality of Major League Baseball.
Simply put, you only need to excel for a third of your season to make the playoffs.
With the second wild card now, like Ted Cruz, an unasked-for part of our lives, let’s go ahead and embrace its positive aspects. To be fair, essentially there’s just one, but it’s a honey: that you only need about 87 victories to get into the postseason.
Let’s divide the season into thirds of 54 games each. If you go .500 in one (27 victories) and just barely over .500 in another (say, 29 victories), you only need a 31-23 stretch in your best third to hit that 87-victory total.
Sure, it sounds cheap (because, frankly, it is), but this is exactly what both of last year’s World Series teams did.
The Royals held a 48-50 record in their first 98 games, while the Giants went 45-53 in their last 98 games.
Add 10 more games to those stretches and you’ve got exactly two-thirds of underwhelming baseball in what turned out to be a pair of pennant-winning seasons.
And April is almost exactly one half of one of those thirds.
So screw it. If Major League Baseball insists on turning its postseason into the dalliance of mediocrity that is the NBA playoffs, let’s ride that pony. Don’t foolishly intensify meaningless early season games as if your only path to October is by edging out Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.
Let April be an extended spring training and allow the pretenders to punch themselves out. Hover for 10 rounds, land a haymaker in the 11th, and walk out of the ring.
Because by October, nobody remembers April.