While I'd rather the Sox were 6-0 going into this weekend's series with the MFY, I'm getting a little tired of the examples that have been cited to show that the Sox will have to make a historic comeback to make the post-season. One of my favorites is the percentage of teams starting the season as poorly as the Sox making the playoffs. This is stupid for a number of reasons, but I'll cite two:
(1) The majority of teams that start badly are bad teams. Looking at the Sox' roster, is this a bad team? ESPN's Jayson Stark ran the numbers for the 85 teams that started 0-5 or worse and found that 61 (72%) of them finished with a losing record. Does anyone really think the Sox will be under .500 this year? Two-thirds of those losing records (67%) were from teams that lost 90 or more games. Again, does anyone see similarities to this year's Sox team? This year's team is pretty much a healthier version of last year's crippled team who won 89 games.
(2) You can throw out almost two-thirds of the seasons covered because there were no playoffs. One team won each league and played for the championship. The only seasons that are comparable to this one are those after 1995, when the current playoff format was established. I'm sure that might change the percentages.
Now let's look at the teams the Sox are chasing in the East. Aside from the MFY, who lead the Sox by 4 games, does anyone think the Sox won't be able to catch the Baltimore Orioles or Toronto Blue Jays with 156 games remaining? Remember, you don't have to win the division to make the playoffs.
Over the past few years the rule of thumb was it took 95 wins to make the playoiffs in the AL East. To win 95-games, the Sox would have play .609 ball for the rest of the season. That's a 98/99-win pace. What's funny is many experts picked the Sox to be around a 98-win team before the season.
The 95-win threshold to make the playoffs in the AL East was for when the division had three elite teams. The Rays are also 0-6 right now, and Longoria is on the DL. In contrast, the Sox are healthy (except for Matt Albers who is on the DL). Looking at the two teams' rosters, the Sox are the better team on paper. It's possible that the AL East may be a two-team race. I'd be shocked if Baltimore or Toronto won 95 games. Also, do the A's, White Sox, Twins, Tigers, etc. look like 95-win teams? It may only take 92 wins to make the post-season this year.
Finally, here's one recent example of a team that started the season badly and made the playoffs. No, they weren't 0-6. But the 2001 Oakland A's started the season 2-10. They finished the year with 102 wins and made the playoffs as the Wild Card (the division-winning Seattle Mariners won 116 games). The 2001 A's were able to recover from being 8-games under .500 with 150 games remaining, finishing the season with a .630 winning percentage despite playing in a tough division (The AL West was the toughest division that year). The Sox are in a better situation right now than the A's were at the start of the 2001 season. They are 6-games under .500, with 156 games to play.
It’s important that the Sox start winning soon, and they should. After the MFY series, they play TB, Toronto, Oakland, LA, Baltimore, and Seattle. Hopefully, they’ll be close to .500 or over .500 on May 1st. Even if they're a game or two under .500 on May 1st, they should be OK. Many teams have had sub-.500 months and made the playoffs. The Sox have even done it a few times. It’s one thing to be concerned. But let’s give this team time before we panic. There are 156 games remaining this season.