Before the season began, it was easy to notice which of Major League Baseball’s 30 clubs were clear contenders and which were primed for horrendous 2018 campaigns. The Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, and more have legitimate World Series aspirations and will almost certainly be playing into October.
Meanwhile, clubs like the Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins headline a pack of as many as a dozen teams that are destined to fail. For a number of reasons, you could have included the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, and Pittsburgh Pirates in that class before the 2018 season began.
If you’re comfortable with coming to conclusions despite an extremely small sample size, then the Jays, Mets, and Pirates are nowhere close to the dumpster fire the likes of the Marlins and Royals. In fact, they haven’t just separated themselves from the pack of the mediocre, they’ve elevated themselves to potential postseason clubs with their early-season success.
[Stephen A. Smith voice] HOWEVER, we’re just two weeks into a grueling schedule that spans 162 games over hot, humid summer months. Do not buy into the hype of teams that flare up during the April weeks. It will only end in misery and despair.With last season's April standings in mind, we've learned: don't buy into the early-season successes of teams like the Blue Jays, Mets, and Pirates.Click To Tweet
The Blue Jays are 8-4 and rank second in a highly competitive American League East, scoring 61 runs and allowing just 44 over the first 12 games. The Mets (9-1) are atop the National League East thanks to stellar starts from a stacked pitching staff, as Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are a combined 4-0. The Pirates are 8-2 and lead the NL Central.
It’s so tempting to jump into these runs and write 1,100 words in an article titled “NOAH SYNDERGAARD AND JACOB DEGROM, CO-CY YOUNG WINNERS” or “COREY DICKERSON FOR 2018 NL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER,” but it’s not smart. I don’t want to end up on @OldTakesExposed, and I have learned that one impressive 10-game stretch does not a champion make.
I present to you, the MLB standings on this date a year ago. Baseball-Reference.com does all the writing I need to do here to explain my point.
It doesn’t end there. Take a long, hard look at the division leaders in MLB at the time of April 11, 2017.
The Tampa Bay Rays briefly paced the AL East, as one of five non-playoff teams that led their division standings on April 11, 2017. The Mets, Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, and Cincinnati Reds are other four, while the Arizona Diamondbacks led the way in the NL West (as they do now).
The D-Backs were the only team from that point on bound for the playoffs, but they won just one game (a Wild Card matchup over the Colorado Rockies) and were swept by the Dodgers in the NL Division Series. About L.A., the Dodgers went an incredible 100-54 from April 11 on, and they weren’t the only team that put April challengers to bed early; the Cleveland Indians, Houston, and Washington each won over 90 games on their way to division crowns.
It might take a little while, but the MLB standings we envisioned over the offseason will soon come to fruition. Not to say we can’t be pleasantly surprised by underdog teams for a little while, but don’t jump on the bandwagon of teams with poorly constructed rosters and crap management. It’s all going to fall apart.
All in all, the Blue Jays, Mets, and Pirates are great stories of underrated, undervalued clubs succeeding despite lesser levels of talent on the roster. But it’s April 11, 2018, and no playoff spots are clinched in April. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t believe the hype.