It's often said that baseball, with its 162-game schedule, is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to put together a full body of work, so records on May 1 are often ignored.
Every year, a handful of teams that weren't expected to contend begin the season with a blazing start. The media furor begins, and somebody's crowned the next Cinderella story of baseball.
Anyone remember the 2007 Brewers? They started off the season with a 17-9 record through April, with their .654 winning percentage as the best in the league. They won their first National League pennant that year, right? Wrong. They finished the year by going 66-70 and dropping out of playoff contention in the last week of the season.
Similarly teams can get off to rough patches due to injury or an unfavorable schedule, yet rebound to find their rightful places atop the standings.
Last year one of those teams were the Braves, who began with a 10-14 record that put them in the cellar of the NL East. The only teams with worse winning percentages were the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Braves went an outstanding 81-56 the rest of the way to capture the NL wild card.
So how can we predict which teams will get off to hot and cold starts in 2011?
By using the projection for opponents' winning percentage in March and April, as well as home/away games and injuries, we can look at which teams have the smoothest Aprils before falling on their faces and which teams will struggle through a rough first month before regaining composure.
Keeping with the "slow and steady wins the race" theme, I've sorted the following 10 teams into tortoises and hares.