Friday, April 19, 2013

Hot and Cold Starts to Current MLB Season

The 2013 Major League Baseball season is a couple of weeks old and we now see which teams have gotten off to the hottest starts: the Atlanta Braves (13-2), the Oakland A's (12-4), and the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies (each 11-4). To some extent, one could say that there always seems to be a team or two starting off with a bang every year. Last year, for example, the Rangers started off 15-4, whereas the Dodgers began with a 12-3 burst.

However, if the Braves, A's, Red Sox, or Rockies can continue to mow down opponents, they may be able to join the pantheon of teams with all-time great starts. This 2011 Yahoo! Sports article lists "Five of the best starts in baseball history." Three of them might be considered fabulous long-term starts: 30-5 by the 1902 Pirates, 33-7 by the 1939 Yankees, and 35-5 by the 1984 Tigers.* The other two great starts were over a shorter term: 13-0 by the 1982 Braves and 17-1 by the 1987 Brewers.

Blogger Jim Mancari identifies the pillars of the Braves' strong start this year:

Justin Upton has already clubbed a league-leading eight home runs, and Evan Gattis — who is supposed to just be a placeholder for the injured Brian McCann — has shown impressive pop at the plate.

[Chipper] Jones’ replacement Chris Johnson is hitting over .400 to start the season — Chipper who? Freddie Freeman is also over the .400 mark to start the year.

It’s a small sample size, but the Braves have the capability to give the [Washington] Nationals fits all season... 

The starting pitching staff has been great so far. Through his first three starts, Paul Maholm has not given up a run — earned or unearned — in 20 1/3 innings. Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor have also looked good early.
Where the Braves definitely have the Nationals beat is in the bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel is perfect in save opportunities and has only allowed two hits and two walks (no runs) in 6 2/3 innings of work.

For Oakland, a fast start seems almost out of character, as recent A's squads have tended to be at their best in the second half of the season. The A's had a hot July last year and also did very well in August during several seasons in the 2000s.

We also, of course, have seen some terrible starts to the 2013 season. Not surprising is that of the Miami Marlins (3-13), who undertook an off-season fire sale. More surprising is the start of the superstar-laden Angels (4-10).

*In fact, I have a chapter in a new book about the '84 Detroit squad.

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