The Diamondbacks finished the month of April with a winning record (15-12), and are in the thick of the early 2013 pennant race. Perhaps as noteworthy is the fact that they also posted a winning record both at home and on the road.
But, who among us thinks that matters? After all, we have not yet reached the “call-up” phase of the season in early June, when top prospects get their first shot at the “Show.” The frenzy leading up to the July 31 trade deadline is over two months away, when teams must determine whether they are buyers or sellers. The dog days of August have not hit and the pulse-raising final month of the schedule in September is a monsoon season away.
It is true that a team cannot win a championship in April, completing less than 20% of their total games. However, Diamondback history tells us that what happens in April truly matters in September. A review of the twelve post-2001World Series teams reveal trends that should not be ignored.
Using Diamondback team records through the end of April of each season from 2002 through 2012, the team exited April with a .500 or better record five times. In those five seasons (2002, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2012), the D-Backs finished first in the division twice and in second place one season. Using this unscientific analysis, the D-Backs have a 40% chance of finishing the season at the top of the division when they leave April at or above a .500 winning percentage. Digging a bit deeper into the numbers, we find that in the three seasons since 2001 in which the D-Backs left the month of April with a winning record both at home and on the road, they finished in first place twice, or 67% of the time.
For the six seasons since 2001 where the D-Backs posted a losing record through the end of April, they finished first in the division only once, that being Kirk Gibson’s inaugural 2011 season at the helm and only after he convinced a team who had finished 25 games and then 27 games out of first place in the two prior years that they could change the culture. This same unscientific analysis reveals that when the D-Backs finish below .500 in April, they have less than a 17% chance of winning the division.
The season is young and there are literally dozens of variables that will impact where the 2013 Diamondbacks will finish the season in late September. The Diamondbacks did accomplish two things, however, this past month by finishing April with a winning overall record as well as a winning record at both Chase Field and on the road. These two historical yardsticks suggest that this April success creates a significantly greater statistical probability of a division title come late September.
I’ll take those odds.