Mark It Down

Because it’ll probably (hopefully) be relevant at some point in the season, the Boston Red Sox are in first place. April 15 is your date to note.

Of course, this is actually the third day the Sox have gone to bed in
first — they were up by a half-game on March 25, when they were 1-0
and everyone else was idle. Then they were up by a full game April 2,
after taking three of four from Oakland. Thirteen days later, here we
are.

How does that compare to the Sox’ previous first-place seasons (dates are when the Sox took sole control of first without losing it)?

  • April 18 — 2007
  • April 28 — 1946
  • May 13 — 1995*
  • May 16 — 1986
  • June 15 — 1912
  • June 23 — 1903
  • July 6 — 1918, 1975
  • Aug. 22 — 1915
  • Sept. 5 — 1988
  • Sept. 19 — 1916
  • Sept. 28 — 1990
  • Oct. 1 — 1967
  • Oct. 8 — 1904

*1995 was of course a strike-shortened year. May 13 was only the team’s 15th game.

So if the Sox can keep and expand their tenuous half-game lead through September, this will be the earliest they’ve ever taken control of the top of the standings and held it.

Of course, here’s the other side, the dates at which Sox teams who were in first on April 15 lost at least a share of the lead for good:

  • April 16 — 1909, 1952, 1969
  • April 17 — 1908
  • April 22 — 1942, 1947
  • April 24 — 1941
  • May 9 — 1994
  • May 23 — 1936
  • May 28 — 1920
  • June 28 — 2002
  • July 26 — 1993*
  • Aug. 1 — 1917
  • Aug. 2 — 2006

*A bit misleading, as the Sox gave up the lead they had on April 24, fell as many as 10 games behind, then rallied to tie for first briefly in late July. Opening Day was not consistently before April 15 until the 1960s, and during the 1940s, April 15 was often Opening Day itself, leading to some of the skewed results we see here.

Of course, several of these teams were simply awful who managed to win a couple games early. But the 1917, 2002 and 2006 clubs — all within close proximity to World Series champions but just a few pieces short — are good lessons about how much can go wrong in a long season.

26 comments… add one
  • Paul – the strike was in 1994. The yanks were well on their way to winning the AL east and had a good shot at going all the way. That team not being able to show its potential was a huge disappointment for me when I was younger.
    The Sox finished first and made the playoffs in 1995 and were swept by the Tribe in the first ever ALDS. The yanks won the WC that year and lost in a heartbreaking series to Seattle. Amazingly, the Sox the AL east with 86 wins and the Yankees won the WC with 79! My how things have changed…

    sam-yf April 16, 2008, 8:22 am
  • Do’h i forgot that 1995 started late too because of the strike Thats what I get for posting so soon after waking up. Sorry!

    sam-yf April 16, 2008, 8:23 am
  • Interesting information to speculate over, but it’s still way too early. The Yankees were behind by double digits last season and almost came back in the division, so I really don’t put as much value in the early standings as I used to.
    Tonight is a huge game for both Wang and Buchholz. Buchholz can show us that last week’s game–which would have been more highly touted had it not been overshadowed by Wang’s masterpiece–wasn’t just a lucky fluke. I’m worried that if Buchholz struggles tonight he’s going to lose confidence and continue to have trouble for the rest of the season. If he does well though, I can see him gaining a lot of confidence and momentum and succeeding the way he did last Fall.
    Wang meanwhile has a chance to go 4-0, which would account for almost half of the Yankee wins this season. Barring an injury I could see Wang easily getting 20 wins, especially now that this Yankee offense is gearing up.
    By the way, will Posada be back tonight, or is he out for longer? I haven’t been paying attention.

    Atheose April 16, 2008, 8:26 am
  • not to downplay the rest of the schedule, but these sox/yanks matchups are what i really look forward to…i understand what you mean atheose about not getting too hung up on the early season standings, in fact, i am always reminding myself and others not to push the panic button too early on a slow start, especially given the yanks’ tendency to finish strong [regular season anyway]…but i’d prefer to see them get off to a good start and maintain a steady pace throughout the season…of course the usual blips of good and bad streaks go along with it, but to be in a position like they were last year with every game being a must win down the stretch just playing catch up, let alone scoreboard-watching the sox, has to take a toll…on me anyway

    dc April 16, 2008, 8:44 am
  • So the Sox and Yanks, after tomorrow, will be through 26% of their head-to-head games after 10.4% of the season.
    This isn’t a complaint about the schedule as it impacts our clubs materially, but I am simply not a big fan of so many games so early in the year against the Yankees.

    SF April 16, 2008, 9:06 am
  • “but I am simply not a big fan of so many games so early in the year against the Yankees.”
    How come? The Yankees are typically slow starters, this year apparently due to the weather.

    AndrewYF April 16, 2008, 9:11 am
  • It always seems like the Sox do well against the Yankees early in the season, and the Yankees get hot and whoop us late in the season, so I’m all for having early games against the Yankees.

    Atheose April 16, 2008, 9:28 am
  • How come? The Yankees are typically slow starters, this year apparently due to the weather.
    Has to do with my emotional involvement in the season. It’s personal. The games are invariably played in poorer weather, the intensity isn’t there for me, I haven’t gotten fully into the season enough to look at these games with any kind of attachment. And then the mainstream media attacks the games like they are the ALCS, ESPN gets super-melodramatic about the spectacle of Sox-Yanks even though it’s April. Something about these early season games bunched together give me additional baseball fatigue at a time when I am trying to get more into the season. It’s like there is no buffer between no baseball and too much baseball.
    I am not being very articulate about this, I realize. I just don’t like the Sox and Yanks playing each other so much so early in the season — frankly I don’t like this kind of scheduling with any teams – the Sox don’t play the Yankees again until July.

    SF April 16, 2008, 9:36 am
  • I agree. It’s not the same without the grill going and cold ones being consumed to dampen the outrageous heat and humidity. Cold baseball sucks.

    Brad April 16, 2008, 9:58 am
  • “the Sox don’t play the Yankees again until July.”
    I didn’t realize it was so long. Wow. Crazy how much will have happened between now and then. The Yanks will have released Ensberg and Hawkins. Duncan and Gardner will be on the team. Joba will be in the rotation. For the Sox, Justin Masterson will have made his debut (don’t ask how or why). Lugo will be benched for Lowrie. Manny will have 30 HRs and 90 RBIs. Oh, and the Yanks will be in first place by two games – over the Jays :)

    A YF April 16, 2008, 10:09 am
  • Cold baseball is better than no baseball

    rz-yf April 16, 2008, 10:11 am
  • A YF:
    You forgot that Hughes will lead the majors with 10 wins and a 2.05 ERA with 80Ks and only 8 BBs.
    Hey, no one said hallucinations had to be realistic, did they?

    yankeemonkey April 16, 2008, 10:29 am
  • I know you’re being facetious, but I think Hughes is still growing as a pitcher since he doesn’t have the stuff to dominate (like Joba). I still think he’ll have a fine year: 13-15 wins, 160-180 IP, 3.90-4.20 ERA, 150 – 170 K, 60 – 80 BB.
    Keep in mind that he grew in Southern Cali and pitched in Tampa and Charleston his first 1.5 years in the minors. So he’s never really pitched with a numb hand before. That’s why you’re seeing the control problems which he’s never shown before. The same is true of IPK – both his history and current problems.

    A YF April 16, 2008, 11:08 am
  • I know, A YF. I think Hughes (and Ian) will be just fine.

    yankeemonkey April 16, 2008, 11:10 am
  • Props to A YF, I think it would be a great idea, after this short series, to have a ‘what will it be like in July’ prediction thread.

    AndrewYF April 16, 2008, 11:40 am
  • As much as I enjoy Yanks-Sox games, I have to say I’m no fan of the unbalanced schedule. 18 H2H games degrades the importance of each the games thy doplay (this is debateable, I know), and it obviously makes things unfair (esp. for teams like Tampa and Toronto) when it comes to the WC. And do I really need to see 18 Yanks-O’s games every year? I say thee nay.

    Mark (YF) April 16, 2008, 1:56 pm
  • to have a ‘what will it be like in July’ prediction thread.
    Hillary will still be campaigning despite even less of a shot at the nomination?

    SF April 16, 2008, 2:14 pm
  • Manny at 30 HR and 90 RBI in July and the Sox will be in third place? LMAO A YF thats some funny stuff.

    TJ April 16, 2008, 2:28 pm
  • “So the Sox and Yanks, after tomorrow, will be through 26% of their head-to-head games after 10.4% of the season.”
    And Boston does not go back to Cleveland this season until the playoffs.
    I really, really hate the unbalanced schedule. I think it might be because I am too busy to get juiced up for 18-19 games against NYY. It takes way too much out of me.

    I'm Bill McNeal April 16, 2008, 2:38 pm
  • And I really hate the unbalanced sked in combination with Interleague play. Bud should pick one or the other.
    It stinks that the Red Sox make only one trip a season here to Chicago.
    And these two-game series? That’s crap, too.
    The schedulemakers have been quite unkind to both our teams thus far.

    I'm Bill McNeal April 16, 2008, 2:42 pm
  • Forget it. The unbalanced schedule makes heaps of money for MLB based on ‘rivalries’. Just look at the NL East. Phillies, Mets and Braves duke it out for a good chunk of the season. Much more ‘exciting’ than each of them playing the Pirates or the Astros more.
    And the international games, as stupid as they are, drum up more support for the game. Baseball is a 6-billion dollar megamarket in part because of these things.
    Now if only they could actually make the HR-derby and All-Star game interesting. They should at least have the Future’s Game in that timeslot and shown nationally, showcasing the best of the young talent that will soon hit the majors. And maybe, if they’re crazy enough, showcase the best non-pro athletes from across the country. That would be awesome.

    AndrewYF April 16, 2008, 3:00 pm
  • I like unbalanced schedules in theory (it was the best thing about the NHL pre-expansion, those Bruins-Habs games were WAR), but in baseball when it is combined with the interleague play there is WAY too much imbalance and inconsistency.

    SF April 16, 2008, 3:23 pm
  • lineups for tonite….
    1. Ellsbury, CF
    2. Pedroia, 2B
    3. Ortiz, 1B
    4. Ramirez, LF
    5. Youkilis, 3B
    6. Drew, RF
    7. Varitek, C
    8. Casey, 1B
    9. Lugo, SS
    Buchholz, P
    1. Cabrera, CF
    2. Jeter, SS
    3. Abreu, RF
    4. Rodriguez, 3B
    5. Matsui, LF
    6. Posada, DH
    7. Giambi, 1B
    8. Cano, 2B
    9. Moeller, C
    Wang, P

    sf rod April 16, 2008, 4:24 pm
  • Casey and Lowrie have really helped spark the Sox’ lineup, I think. They’ve provided some key hits, and Lowell was struggling.

    Paul SF April 16, 2008, 4:42 pm
  • Casey makes me think: Mike who? I forget that a key player is gone. Casey is looking like a HUGE upgrade over Hinske.

    Pat (SF) April 16, 2008, 6:05 pm
  • I guess you’ll need to mark down a new date Paul. This Rays team is here to stay, I just hope the yankees can make this a 3 team race.

    Sam-YF May 14, 2008, 8:28 am

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