How Important is April to MLB Teams?

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I’ve held a long-standing belief that the Texas Rangers are terrible in April.  Without looking at the records you probably couldn’t have convinced me otherwise.  What I find makes this even more interesting is this, since 2010 there have been 6 American League teams in 8 different World Series.  The Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Astros.

The Major League Baseball season goes on FOREVER! Personally, I love it.  But that’s me.  Football is barely half a year, but that’s another story.  Point here is the question of how important is the 1st month of the baseball season to the long-term success of a team?  I looked at the 3 teams that are favorites of the writers here at FANTOM.  The Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.  My sample size for this analysis is 19 full seasons and 20 Aprils from 1999 through the current 2018 season.

Now, how important is April?

For the Indians:  There’s so much history, so much team name controversy.  We’re not here to talk about the team name.  The Indians, I feel, have become baseball’s “team of futility” having not won a World Series since 1948.   The now longest drought for any MLB team without a championship.  Cleveland has come close a couple time in recent history only to lose it in some historic Game 7’s.

Since 1999, they have 9 seasons where they had a winning record by the end of April, the most of our 3 teams.  In the past 19 full seasons, the Indians have finished with a winning record 10 times.  Interesting that the Indians have 5 April’s that ended with losing records, but they still ended the season with the winning record.  In contrast they have 4 April’s that had winning records but seasons that ended with losing records.

Winning April or having a winning record at the end of a season doesn’t necessarily equal playoff success for the Indians.  Since 1999 the Indians were found in the playoffs 6 times: 1999, 2001, 2007, 2013, 2016, and 2017.  Of those years, 2013 and 2016 Indians had losing records at the end of April.  The 2016 World Series was the Indians’ only trip to the fall classic and they had the title ripped away from a “destiny” driven Chicago Cubs team.  Almost reminiscent of the 1997 Series when the Tribe faced the Florida Marlins.

MIAMI, : Cleveland Indians catcher Sandy Alomar (R) walks off the feild as the Florida Marlins celebrate their 3-2 win in game seven of the World Series 26 October at Pro Player Stadium. The Marlins won the game in 11 innings to win their first World Series championship. AFP PHOTO/ Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

The Houston Astros have had some ups and downs as well.  The 1960’s, 1970’s and most of the 1990’s were downs.  However, prior to 2017, there were a couple of times when the Astros were the talk of the town.  In the 80’s they had their “rainbow” uniforms and fireballers Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott.  In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there were teams that featured the feared hitters known only as the “Killer B’s.”  Ok, not only known as, there was Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Derek Bell, and later Lance Berkman.  Houston, at one point, also housed hard throwing lefties Randy Johnson and closer Billy Wagner.  During the 2005 World Series, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens called Houston home.

Between 1999 and 2017, Houston has also been to the playoffs 6 times:  1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2016, and 2017. The Astros hold 6 winning Aprils.  Still, the Astros are “Houston Strong” and ended up with 11 winning seasons.  The most of the 3 teams we are looking at.  Even with the most winning seasons, there were some pretty bleak times for the franchise from Houston.  2012 through 2014 featured 3 consecutive 100 loss seasons.  Fortunately, for the Astros, all is forgotten when in 2017 the Astros held up the World Series trophy for the first time in franchise history.

The Texas Rangers are usually an after-thought to most people. Texas is a state no one can ignore, but the ball club that bears it’s state’s name usually is.  Over the last 20 seasons the Rangers have had, at some point, Adrian Beltre, Yu Darvish, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mark Teixeira, and Michael Young on the roster.

The Rangers of late 1990’s were ripe with success having won 3 divisional championships in 1996, 1998, and 1999.  After that is when the trouble starts.  I like to call this time “The Alex Rodriguez Years,” 2001 through 2003.  Of A-Rod’s 3 seasons with the Rangers, there were no more than 73 wins during that time.  BLAH.  I guess there is light at the end of the tunnel though.

Since 1999, the Rangers have 7 April’s where they ended with a winning record and just 9 winning seasons.  The Rangers have been to the playoffs 6 times: 1999, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2016.  2010 and 2011 are, currently, considered the most successful in Rangers history with back to back AL Championships and World Series Loses.  I’m not bitter…that’s what I keep telling myself every time I am confronted by Cardinals fans about the 2011 Series.

Starting hot out the gate is important.  It’s not necessary, but it definitely helps when aiming for a winning season or the playoffs.  The Indians have 10 winning seasons with 5 winning April’s.  The Astros had 11 winning seasons and 5 winning April’s.  The Rangers have 9 winning seasons and 6 winning April’s. Each team reached the playoffs 6 times.  Each team had a winning record at the end of April 4 of the 6 times they reached the playoffs.  The first month of the season is important…even if the rest of the season seems to drag on…FOR..EH…VVVERRR!