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Why a Bad April Makes a Huge Difference in Major League Baseball

This time of year, fans of underachieving baseball teams are telling themselves that it’s still early and there’s still time to get back into it, but I’ve got some bad news for you. If your team finished below .500 in April, they’re screwed. It’s as simple as that and history proves it.

As a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, I scoffed at anyone who told me the Jays’ season was over after digging an early season hole for themselves. Then I did some research and scoffed at myself. Lots of scoffing, I know, but taking a look at how the past 18 World Series winners performed in April, it’s clear that a strong start to the marathon 162-game season is essential to winning the World Series — or in the interest of users of this site, winning a World Series futures bet.

We’ve now had 14 consecutive World Series winners finish above .500 in April, and just one team since 1999 with a sub-.500 record that went on to win the World Series — that team was the 2002 Angels. Here’s a look at each World Series winner’s win percentage in April over that span:

YearTeamApril Win %
1999Yankees.666
2000Yankees.652
2001Diamondbacks.520
2002Angels.458
2003Marlins.500
2004Red Sox.714
2005White Sox.708
2006Cardinals.680
2007Red Sox.666
2008Phillies.555
2009Yankees.545
2010Giants.590
2011Cardinals.615
2012Giants.545
2013Red Sox.692
2014Giants.592
2015Royals.681
2016Cubs.772

What this means is that we can eliminate a handful of preseason contenders as potential World Series winners. Here’s a few teams who were legit contenders just a month ago, but based on the poor April trend, you can probably write off:

Team Win % in AprilPreseason World Series Odds
Blue Jays.320+2200
Royals.304+3300
Mariners.423+3300
Rangers.440+2800
Mets.417+1400
Giants.346+1100

You’d think with 135+ games left to be played in the regular season that teams would be able to overcome a slow start and either reach or surpass their preseason potential, but this clearly isn’t the case. It’s obvious that building momentum early in a season has a major impact on how the rest of a season goes and that early season injuries  — I’m looking at you, Blue Jays and Giants — can derail a season before it barely gets started.

So, what can bettors do with this information? Well, it’s more about what you shouldn’t do. One might mistake the Giants jumping from +1100 to +4000 on the World Series futures board as value, but in reality, it’s a huge waste of money. Focus your futures dollars on teams that have had strong starts. There’s still plenty of value to be had with teams off to surprise starts such as the Orioles, Rockies and Diamondbacks.

As for my Blue Jays, this isn’t a trend I’m willing to bet against, so there’s always next year... or maybe the year after that.

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