The Angels have started the 2014 season by dropping their first three games, all at home. Woe is the Angels. But what does it actually mean?
Is this small sample size just a bad period where everything went wrong? Will they right the ship and sail on to glory? Is this small sample an actual meaningful indicator that this team is irreparably flawed?
One can certainly draw their own conclusions based on the way the Angels played and the way the roster is constructed, but what I’m curious to know is what the historical records tell us. Literally hundreds of teams have dropped their first three games of the season, fewer have done that all at home. Even fewer have done it in the Wild Card era where there is more hope of salvaging a season that goes off the rails. In fact, there have only been 23 teams that meet that criteria since 1995. Let’s see what their miserable start led to:
1996 - Cleveland (99-62, 1st in AL Central, lost ALDS)
1996 - Oakland (78-84, 3rd in AL West)
1998 - Arizona (65-97, 5th in NL West)
1998 - Montreal (65-97, 4th in NL East)
1999 - Cincinnati (96-67, 2nd in NL Central)
1999 - Kansas City (64-97, 4th in AL Central)
2001 - Florida (76-86, 4th in NL East)
2002 - Los Angeles (92-70, 3rd in NL West)
2003 - San Diego (64-98, 5th in NL West)
2003 - Atlanta (101-61, 1st in NL East, lost in NLDS)
2003 - Toronto (86-76, 3rd in AL East)
2003 - Detroit (43-119, 5th in AL Central)
2003 - Cincinnati (69-93, 5th in NL Central)
2004 - Seattle (63-99, 4th in AL West)
2004 - Toronto (67-94, 5th in AL East)
2006 - Philadelphia (85-77, 2nd in NL East)
2007 - Philadelphia (89-73, 1st in NL East, lost in NLDS)
2007 - Houston (73-89, 4th in NL Central)
2007 - St. Louis (78-84, 3rd in NL Central)
2008 - Detroit (74-88, 5th in AL Central)
2010 - Houston (76-86, 4th in NL Central)
2011 - Tampa Bay (91-71, 2nd in AL East, lost in ALDS)
2012 - San Diego (76-86, 4th in NL West)
The good news is that four of the 23 teams went on to qualify for the post-season. Three of which won their division outright. There were also two teams that won 92 or more games but didn’t reach the post-season. Those are records that should be good enough for a Wild Card berth in this current format. So, yay! The 0-3 start is not a death sentence.
Pulling further out, only eight teams finished over .500. That’s a bit more distressing. But wait, it gets worse. Eight teams of the 15 sub-.500 teams finished with 90+ losses. So, yeah, there is a real chance at disaster looming. Granted, those team were probably knowingly bad going into the season, so 90-loss season probably wasn’t entirely unexpected, which it would be for the Angels.
The takeaway here is that it is too early to panic. This obviously isn’t good, but it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, another loss or two against the Astros isn’t the end of the world either. Those 2011 Rays actually went on to lose their first six games and still clinched a Wild Card spot. Now, losing your first seven games (home or away), that’s a different story. No team in any era has done that and qualified for the post-season.
Good thing the Angels don’t have a history of getting swept in a four-game series by the lowly Astros, right?