Opening Day is such a wonderful time; the unofficial start of Spring has arrived with its usual amount of optimism for 30 Major League Baseball teams and their fans. Every organization has a fresh start, and even though the year before didn’t end the way they would have liked, each team is back to 0-0, with an equal shot to be hoisting the World Series trophy at the end of October. If you’re a Yankee fan, you have plenty of things to be optimistic about, but even a fan of the Houston Astros can be optimistic around Opening Day. The 106 games they lost doesn’t matter because at this very moment, they have just as good of a chance to win it all as the Bronx Bombers. They better take advantage of this time while they can, because that optimism may go away by May or June. As a former baseball player, Opening Day was the perfect chance to get off on the right foot with a fast start, both as a team and individually. Sure, it’s only one game, four at-bats, or six innings pitched out of hundreds, but I think getting immediate success can do wonders for a team’s confidence. So, if you wanted to put money on who would win on Opening Day, who would you put it on? I’ve got some ideas, and I’ve got some hard facts to back it up for you.
There were some awesome things that have happened since the Mariners and Athletics squared off in Japan. Ichiro Suzuki had the season’s first four-hit game, Kyle Lohse almost became the first pitcher since Bob Feller to throw a no-hitter on Opening Day, and J.P. Arencibia‘s 16th inning home run helped put the Jays into the win column for this first time in 2012, while also playing in the longest Opening Day game ever. While those things were going on, the Mets and Mariners kept their trend of dominating season openers, Roy Halladay extended his win streak to 10 straight opening days, and Adam Dunn will try to match Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey, Jr. today with his eighth home run. What I found interesting was that most teams with the highest winning percentages in season openers were not able to use that quick start to their advantage the rest of the year. See the comparison below:
Opening Day Winning Percentage: All-time Winning Percentage:
New York Mets: .640
New York Yankees: .568New York Yankees: .576San Francisco Giants: .538Seattle Mariners: .571Los Angeles Dodgers: .524Arizona Diamondbacks: .571Boston Red Sox: .518Baltimore Orioles: .567St. Louis Cardinals: .518San Francisco Giants: .550Chicago Cubs: .513Los Angels Angels: .549Cleveland Indians: .509Chicago Cubs: .544Cincinnati Reds: .507
It’s amazing to me that only three of the teams that are on the left side of this chart (Yankees, Giants, and Cubs) were able to turn their good fortune on the first game of the season into a solid year. Could it be because these three organizations are some of the oldest franchises in Major League history? That’s possible, but out of the eight best Opening Day teams, the Diamondbacks are the only team that can make that excuse, and they still have the 13th best all-time winning percentage (.498). The Mets are celebrating their 50th year of existence in 2012, yet their winning percentage (.479) is 20th best; the Mariners are more successful than only two MLB teams (.467); Baltimore has been around for over 100 years and hasn’t been able to keep an all-time winning record (.474); the Angels have the same winning percentage as the Dbacks, but LA had a 37-year head start on Arizona.
What exactly is the point I’m trying to get across? If you’re a gambler, bet on the teams on the left of the table on Opening Day, but even though those picks will most likely be profitable, I wouldn’t stick with them for the next 161 games. This chart is pretty solid proof that my whole philosophy about getting off on the right foot gives a team the upper hand isn’t all that accurate. It may boost the squad’s confidence, but it can be squashed rather quickly. If your team wins its first contest of the year, don’t start thinking that they can run the table; baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. However, dreaming about your team going 162-0 just for a split second is pretty cool. I’ve been able to do it many times before things went south during the summer.
Enjoy this Opening Weekend, as it will be the only time that every single Major League Baseball team has the same chance as the next to win the World Series. This is by far one of the best times of the year, and like Lew Freedman said in his article about Opening Day, maybe it will become a holiday so we don’t have to work all day and can actually enjoy the beauty that is the start of another baseball season.