Instead of going on and on about how it’s early (it is, still) and that we shouldn’t be overreacting, let’s instead drop the “over” and react with a story about the 2015 Houston Astros. It’ll apply to several 2018 teams off to hot starts, such as the Mets, Angels and Pirates.
In 2015, the Astros started the season 18-7. It was a surprise, as they had won just 70 games the prior season. Sure, everyone expected them to be better, but not in the conversation for the best team in baseball. The thing was, they actually weren’t that good. They just played over their heads during that 18-7 start. They would go 68-69 the rest of the way and that was probably more in line with how good that team was. Their true talent level was around .500, but the huge start where they played over expectations banked them some extra wins and helped them to make the playoffs at 86-76.
The next season, it seems like the Astros regressed to 84 wins, but it was probably more in line with their rise of talent. Things just looked out of whack thanks to that 18-7 start. If they went something like 70 wins to 80 wins to 84 wins, it wouldn’t have been nearly as surprising.
Moving on to this year, let’s lock in on the aforementioned trio of hot starts that some might call surprising.
The Mets are 12-2. You don’t need me to point out that their pace of 139 wins is unsustainable. Le’ts say the Mets true talent level for the season is something like 83 wins. That would be a true talent level pace of them being 7-7 or 8-6 right now. So they’ve already banked five wins. Let’s say they play at an 83-win pace the rest of the way. That means they’d go something in the ballpark of 88-74 and that’s likely to get them into the postseason. Just like that, all thanks to the Amazin’ start.
The Pirates are 11-4. Most projection systems had them in the high-70s in wins heading into the season. Let’s say that’s their true talent level, meaning they’ve banked around five wins. That then pushes them up into the low-80s in wins, which gets them into contention into the middle of the summer and maybe they make some noise around the trade deadline and play themselves into the mid- or high-80s.
The Angels are 13-3. I liked them as a wild card heading into the season, so let’s say their true talent level is 88 wins. They’ve already banked at least four wins, so all of a sudden, they look like a 92-win team and that could possibly make them a division contender.
We also have to factor in the intangibles. They are likely overrated among casual fans, but it can’t be discounted to start seeing a team feeling positive, confident and together. I think back to the 2015 Royals and how much better they were than many wanted to give them credit, and much of that was tied into how much you could feel in the clubhouse they were playing for each other and confident in each other.
Things will change as the longest major professional sports season continues to unfold. It’s early. Way early. We shouldn’t overreact. We can react, though. We’ve seen enough from the Mets,Pirates and Angels to believe they can parlay their starts into something more than what was expected heading into the season. Just because they can doesn’t mean they will, but it’s on the table. Oh, and I’m not ignoring the Diamondbacks and/or Red Sox. They were playoff teams with 90-plus wins last season.