Steven Goldman is a columnist for Vice Sports. He was formerly the editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus and the managing editor for baseball at SBNation.com. In the former capacity he edited and co-wrote the books Mind Game, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over, Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers, and the 2006 through 2011 editions of the New York Times-bestselling Baseball Prospectus annual. He’s also the author of Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel on the early career of the Hall of Fame manager. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.
One of the most difficult estimations for both players and fans to make is when a hot start becomes “real”—that is, when does it become predictive of the rest of the season? Testing this notion will get you an answer as low as 15 games, or about 10 percent of the season, or 35 games, which is just over a fifth of a 162-game campaign.
Basic math will tell you that a great start might not guarantee a team a World Series victory, but more often than not it should get a team to the postseason. After all, there are only so many games in the season, whether we are talking the current 162-game or old 154-game schedule. If a team posts enough wins in, say, its first 30 games, that’s almost 20 percent of the season accounted for and only so much time left to undo things with a sustained period of losing.
December 11, 1917: The Philadelphia Phillies traded Grover Cleveland Alexander and C Bill Killefer to the Chicago Cubs for C Pickles Dillhoefer, RHP Mike Prendergast, and $55,000.
December 4, 1964: The Cincinnati Reds traded INF/OF Cesar Tovar to the Minnesota Twins for LHP Gerry Arrigo.
July 20, 1916: The New York Giants traded OF Edd Roush, INF Bill McKechnie, and RHP Christy Mathewson to the Cincinnati Reds for INF Buck Herzog and U Red Killefer.
Frank Robinson wasn’t the first player of color with the Cincinnati Reds, but he was the first regular. In 10 years with the Reds, he hit .303/.389/.554 with 324 home runs. In spite of this, he was not a popular player. Some of that was an arrest on a weapons charge that distorted both ownership’s and the public’s perception of him. Except for 1961, the team was mostly mediocre. During Robinson’s tenure, the Reds won the 1961 pennant and were competitive in a few other seasons (1956, 1962, 1964). Otherwise, they disappointed.
January 22, 1918: The New York Yankees traded RHP Urban Shocker, LHP Nick Cullop, 2B Joe Gedeon, 3B Fritz Maisel, C Les Nunamaker, and $15,000 to the St. Louis Browns for LHP Eddie Plank and 2B Del Pratt.
December 3, 1969: The Mets traded OF Amos Otis and RHP Bob Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for 3B Joe Foy.
December 8, 1914: The Philadelphia Athletics sold 2B Eddie Collins to the Chicago White Sox for $50,000.