The second month of the season begins this Friday and begs the question: Should early front-runners start buying playoff tickets? The short answer is probably not. Looking back over the past five years only ten of the thirty division leaders on May 1st went on to take their division’s crown. In particular, it’s worth noting that while we’re looking at a very different team, the New York Mets, which are this year’s most surprising early success, last jumped out to a first-month division lead 2010. Alas, that team went 65-73 through the rest of the season and didn’t make the post-season. The upshot: don’t write off these April high-fliers…just don’t bet the farm on them either. Here are some other thoughts for week four of the Major League Baseball season:
Time travel: Back in 2009, a study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance analyzed ten years of data on how plane travel impacted Big League teams. The researchers concluded that teams that had to jump time zones between games were at a disadvantage compared to those who didn’t have the same travel requirements. In fact, those who didn’t have to shift time zones between games had a “significant” advantage, the researchers wrote. Let’s put that to the test. On Monday, look for the Baltimore Orioles to prevail at home versus the Chicago White Sox. The Orioles played at home over the weekend and now get to remain there for this contest. In contrast, the White Sox must go from the Central time zone to the Eastern time zone for this clash. Adding to the White Sox’s woes: They played a double header on Sunday, meaning that they’ll be particularly tired for this Monday tilt.
Kershaw’s “comeback”: It’s pretty shocking to see Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw sporting a 4.07 ERA and a 1-1 record through his first four starts. After all, this is the guy who sported a 1.77 ERA last season and a 1.83 ERA the year before. But fear not, Kershaw and his Dodgers will come up winners on Tuesday at home against the San Francisco Giants. First thing to remember: small sample sizes can be very deceiving. Consider Kershaw’s ERA at this point last year – 4.43. Like in 2014, Kershaw’s numbers are skewed by one bad performance (in his second start this season, Kershaw gave up six runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched against the Arizona Diamondbacks). Being at home will no doubt comfort Kershaw who owns a fantastic lifetime .638 winning percentage at Dodger Stadium. Throw in the fact that the Dodgers as a whole entered this week nearly unbeatable at home (8-1) and this is a good one for L.A. fans.
Pitchers’ duel alert: Look for a low scoring affair on Wednesday when the San Diego Padres host the Houston Astros. Although he’s been under-the-radar, the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel has been one of baseball’s most on-form pitchers during the first month of the baseball season. He owns a 2-0 record and a minuscule 0.62 ERA. Pitching at Petco Park for this game will only enhance his chances for a solid outing. Despite the San Diego’s improved offence, Petco still ranks 26th (out of 30th stadiums) in terms of run production so far this year, according to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors. San Diego starter Andrew Cashner will also benefit from pitching at the Padres’ home field. (Throughout his career, he owns a 2.03 ERA in 48 appearance at the stadium.) Considering the Astros currently rank 11th out of 15 American League teams in run scoring, further puts Cashner is a strong position for some serious run prevention.