Baseball is a sport made for large numbers. It’s predicated on “We’ll get ’em next time” and occasionally its darker cousin: “Oh, no, not again.” Because MLB teams play almost twice as many games per year as their next closest major-league counterparts, you can understand the shape of a team’s season only by examining dozens of games; thousands of plate appearances; and tens of thousands of individual pitches. To truly know a baseball team is to be positively immured in data, like the dirty cop in Witness who gets buried in the corn silo. And even that’s not enough sometimes.
So it’s important not to get carried away with one weekend’s results. In Monday’s column about immediate reactions from MLB’s opening weekend, I tentatively identified the Phillies’ sweep of Atlanta as a bellwether, fully aware that the same thing happened in 2019, when the Braves went on to win the division and the Phillies finished 16 games back. Or consider the 2018 Mets, who started the season 11-1 and finished 77-85. Obviously it’s too early to tout the Orioles as the new AL East favorites or start hemming and hawing about the Braves, but while these games are but a trivial fraction of a 162-game season, they still count.
So for teams that anticipate being in a close pennant race this year, how much damage can three or four games do?