BY Steve Rudman 07:39AM 04/06/2011

Nobody Asks But Us: April’s Importance

Mariners know the necessity of getting off to a fast start.

Jason Vargas, Seattle's No. 2 starter, will pitch for the Mariners against Cleveland in the home opener on Friday / Getty Images

The Mariners, who play at Safeco Field for the first time in 2011 Friday night against the Cleveland Indians, have not had a winning month of April since 2009, when they went 13-9 in the season’s first calendar month and finished with a record of 85-77. How important is it for the Mariners to get off to a quality start?

At this time of year, many managers — Lou Piniella especially comes to mind — are fond of saying (particularly if their clubs stumble out of the gate, that “it’s early yet”, suggesting there is a lot of baseball still to be played, and that even a ship listing severely in April can be righted.

Sure, it happens, but not often. In fact, in their own case, the Mariners not only put the lie to this, they stand as nearly perfect examples of what happens to teams, especially in the AL West, that get off to bad starts.

Since 1994, when baseball sub-divided into three divisions, 34 editions of the Mariners, Angels, Rangers and Athletics have combined for losing records in March/April. ¬†We are not counting April of 1995, when the season did not commence until the end of that month due to the previous season’s player strike (each of the AL West clubs played only a handful of April games that year).

Of the 34 losing March/Aprils suffered by the four AL West entries, 25 of those resulted (58.8 percent), in losing seasons. Meaning that just nine of those clubs had a losing record in April, but a winning mark at the end of September.

Since 1994, April has been the most indicative month as to how the Mariners are going to perform throughout the season. Consider:

  • 7: The number of times (again, since 1994) that the Mariner have posted a winning record in March/April.
  • 7: The number of times that the Mariners finished with a winning record after having a winning March/April.
  • 7: The number of times the Mariners had a losing March/April.
  • 0: The number of times the Mariners recovered to post a winning record after a losing March/April.

In the AL West, the Athletics and Angels each had four losing March/Aprils, but rebounded to end the season above .500. ¬†Oakland had the most remarkable turnaround, going 8-17 in March/April of 2001, but finishing with 102 victories compared to Seattle’s record 116.

The following are the only AL West clubs that started out losing in March/April, and then went on to finish with a winning record. Note that of the nine teams that recovered to end on a positive note, only three wound up in the postseason, and only two got past the American League Division Series.

Year Team April Season Postseason
1999 Angels 10-14 87-75 Failed to make playoffs
2000 Athletics 12-13 91-70 Failed to make playoffs
2001 Angels 11-13 99-63 99 wins, but no playoffs
2001 Athletics 8-17 102-60 Lost to NYY in ALDS
2004 Athletics 11-12 91-71 Failed to make playoffs
2006 Angels 12-13 89-73 Failed to make playoffs
2009 Angels 9-12 97-65 Lost ALCS to NYY 4-2
2009 Rangers 10-11 87-75 Failed to make playoffs
2010 Rangers 11-12 90-72 Lost World Series to SF

The Mariners started the 2011 season 2-0 and now stand 2-3 after losing on Tuesday night to the Texas Rangers in Arlington, TX. Seattle closes out its three-game series with Texas Wednesday (Felix Hernandez pitches) and plays its first home game on Friday (Jason Vargas pitches).


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