May is far to soon to judge MLB success or failure

May 3, 2016 3:00 AM

More than any other sport, baseball is a game of patience. It’s not how you start, but where you finish, and with a 162-game regular season, there is a lot of baseball left.

Don’t panic if your team gets off to a bad start. There is plenty of time to make adjustments and turn things around. If off to a hot start, don’t make World Series reservations just yet.

The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals did something they were expected to do last season but couldn’t – get off fast. Great, but a year ago the first week of May, the Yankees were in first place in the AL East while Toronto was last. By the time the 2015 regular season ended the Blue Jays had won the division and the Yankees were missing the postseason.

Two years ago this week Kansas City was 14-17 and going nowhere in the American League. Fast forward to October and the amazing Royals were hosting Game 7 of the World Series. Last season in May they were neck-and-neck with the Tigers but ended up winning the whole thing. In June 2014 the San Francisco Giants had a miserable 5-18 skid, certainly not looking like the champs they would become in October.

Look at it another way: two years ago the only NL division leader at this time that went on to win the division was Washington. And in the AL the Angels ended up passing Oakland by 10 games. Three years ago Texas and Arizona were leading in both West divisions in May, but ended up losing out the division titles to Oakland and the Dodgers.

Some of the early season disappointments in 2016 have been the Rays, Astros, Pirates and Diamondbacks. But remember that a few years ago the Phillies started 1-7 and ended up as NL East champs, while the eventual pennant winner Colorado was 10-16 at the end of April and 45-46 at the All Star break.

Oakland GM Billy Beane once said you spend the first third of the season seeing what you have and evaluating your team. The middle third is trying to acquire pieces to fill weak spots and the final third you sit back and watch the team try making a run at the postseason.

In the same way GMs need patience when analyzing baseball as do handicappers. Surprises will emerge over a long season and offer smart bettors good value for their wagering dollar, even with individual players. Pitchers are more susceptible to injuries than any other professional athletes.

Betting numbers are made based on current and past performance. It can take a while before oddsmakers catch on to a struggling or injured pitcher. A few years ago the Royals started 17-4, the Mariners started 40-18 and the Diamondbacks were 52-42 at the All Star break. None made the playoffs.

After all, it’s only May!

Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Twitter: @JimFeistSports . Email: [email protected]