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How Deep a Hole Can You Dig?

And still climb out to bask in the post-season sunshine.

Hannah Foslien

It really is too early to panic.

Sure, one home run (not sure you heard) and an all-around black hole offense can make things seem pretty grim, but 11 games - be it at the beginning of the season or the middle of June (when supposedly no one would notice) - does not a season make.

As I wrote yesterday, there is nothing too damning about a 4-7 start as long as it doesn't turn into a 9-17 April and it got me to wondering just how far below .500 previous playoff teams have found themselves and at what point in the season. Below are the American League playoff teams from the last six years, the lowest point they reached below .500 and the date on which they were at that point. For the years prior to 2012, I added what would have been the second wild card team in italics. For those teams that were at least 3 games under .500 at some point, I included the date they got over and stayed over .500.

Year-Playoff Team Most Games Under .500 Date Date over .500
2013 Boston 0
2013 Tampa 5 18-Apr 12-May
2013 Detroit 1 4-Apr
2013 Cleveland 5 28-Apr 6-May
2013 Oakland 2 15-May
2012 New York 3 8-Apr 13-Apr
2012 Baltimore 0
2012 Detroit 6 8-Jun 7-Jul
2012 Texas 0
2012 Oakland 9 10-Jun 13-Jul
2011 New York 0
2011 Tampa 7 10-Apr 27-Apr
2011 Detroit 5 2-May 9-May for good on 30-May
2011 Texas 0
2011 Boston 8 15-Apr 16-May
2010 Tampa 0
2010 New York 1 4-Apr
2010 Minnesota 1 5-Apr
2010 Texas 4 21-Apr 12-May
2010 Boston 5 19-Apr 6-May for good on 19-May
2009 New York 2 12-May 15-May
2009 Boston 4 14-Apr 20-Apr
2009 Minnesota 6 17-Aug 31-Aug
2009 Anaheim 5 25-Apr 9-May
2009 Texas 3 23-Apr 4-May
2008 Tampa 3 20-Apr 25-Apr
2008 Boston 1 11-Apr
2008 Chicago 3 13-May 17-May
2008 Anaheim 1 31-Mar
2008 New York 5 20-May 25-May for good on 11-June

Thirty teams total, with 22 of them bottoming out in the month of April. Only one, the 2009 Twins reached their lowest ebb after early June. That team, by the way, went on a 31-14 run to end the season and reach 87 wins. They were pretty much the 2013 Royals with the good sense to win 87 games in a year when the Central was not very good.

Throwing that Twins team out of the equation, all but three playoff teams were over .500 to stay before the end of May and one of those, the 2008 Yankees, was over the even mark for good shortly thereafter (June 11th).

That leaves us with the 2012 Tigers, who went on to win 88 games and win the Central despite having just the seventh best record in the A.L. and the 2012 A's who went 51-25 after the All-Star Break. Yes, the freaking A's have won 180+ games the last two years in a crappy stadium with bad fan support and a small budget: UNPOSSIBLE!!!!

Six years and one league worth of data does not provide us definitive proof of anything. However 26 of 30 playoff teams were over .500 by the end of May (all but one of those 26 by May 19th) and two that weren't won 87 and 88 games respectively. I guess one can take heart in those two teams being A.L. Central clubs, but that means you are banking on both Detroit and Cleveland, who won 92+ last year to both regress to the mid-80s.

Panic time? The end of May seems to be a good rule of thumb. Now, a nice little five game win streak this week would put this fine piece of research to bed. That would seem like a good plan - a nice process if you will - to put into action.