clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Red Sox could use a hot start in 2016

New, comments

It's far from scientific, but the Red Sox have been much better when they get off to a hot start. How does the early-season schedule look in 2016?

Winslow Townson/Getty Images

All of us know that every regular season game is created equally. Regardless of the day or month, each game is worth the exact same. A win is a win is a win is a win is a thing that people say. This is all true, too. It’s a conversation that people have all year, but especially in September. When a team is coming down the home stretch and plays poorly, the narrative turns to them choking when the games matter the most. This happens despite the fact that we all know all 162 games are created equally. Except, with all of that being said, I’m not exactly sure that last part was true.

The rest of this piece is going to be me arguing against that initial premise we all agree is true. Over the last few seasons, it’s become increasingly clear that getting off on the right foot is extremely important for this team’s success. There are a few plausible reasons for this, including some intangible ones. Mainly, winning in April creates confidence that can be carried through the rest of the season. We all remember recent years that got off to poor starts. After that happens, you can see in the players’ body language that there is no confidence. Building on that, there has to be something to the whole "building a winning culture" that literally every player and coach has talked about.

It’s hard to argue that those things are true, and a reasonable mind could certainly disagree. Luckily, there is a big tangible reason why getting off to a strong start matters more than the rest of the season, too. Simply put, the players need to convince the front office that they are worth investing in. With the extra wildcard added in, there are more teams in contention, which just makes it harder to pull of trades at the deadline. It’s possible that teams will adjust eventually, but for now it is perpetually a seller’s market. If a team gets off to a bad start, it becomes really hard to dig themselves out of that hole. Maybe they can get back to a roughly .500, but even at that point it’s probably not going to be worth nearly gutting the farm system in pursuit of a World Series.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s entirely possible that all of this is built off of recency bias, because it’s been relatively easy to know what to expect out of recent Red Sox teams based on their records through the first month or so of the season. Personally, I think the modern era of this franchise started in 2011, and that’s one of the things that connects the past five seasons. For reference, here are the team’s records through the first month since 2011.

Year

April Record

2011

11-15

2012

11-11

2013

18-8

2014

13-14

2015

12-10

Now, there clearly isn’t a perfect method, especially looking at this past season. Last year, the team was actually all right in April before completely falling apart in May. With that being said, there is only one year in here in which the Red Sox got off to a better than mediocre start, and that was the one year in which the Red Sox had success. In this small sample, it’s been fair to say that Boston hasn’t been successful without a hot start.

So, with that in mind we’l look forward to the beginning stretch of 2016. In this particular year, it’s even harder than normal to break down a schedule without having seen any game action. In this age of the extra wildcard and extreme parity, every team in the American League views themselves as contenders. To be fair, it’s hard to argue with most of them. With that being said, there are probably three teams that are a cut above the rest right now in Kansas City, Toronto and Houston. Ideally, it would be nice for a team to avoid those teams as they try to build early success.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they play three games in Toronto as part of a six-game road trip to start the season. A couple weeks later, they have four more games agains the Blue Jays. They follow that four-game series with a three game set in Houston. None of that is good. On the other hand, they have four games against the Braves, who is arguably the worst team in all of baseball right now. They also have 13 of their 25 games being played at Fenway Park to start the season, a clear advantage. The final part of the April schedule I’d like to point out is a relative lack of off-days. When I think of the first month’s schedule, I picture a ton of days off. This year, the Red Sox have a scheduled day off after Opening Day in Cleveland, and one more ten days later. That’s it. They’ll be playing a lot in April.

I’m not going to sit here and predict a win total through their first 25 games of the season. What I will say is that the Red Sox are going to be tested early on, and it’s likely we’ll have a good idea of what the team is after just a month. That’s not to say they’re doomed to stick to their April performance, but the schedule is a good subsection of what the entire season will look like. If the recent past is any indication, they’ll need to get off to a hot start if they want to have a successful 2016.