On Tuesday, we talked about the Phillies bad start to the 2012 season: April was the first losing month the Phillies have had since 2009.
One of the replies I got on Twitter to that post was a sarcastic "OH THE HUMANITY" type of response, and that's fair, since it's only April. But wins and losses in April don't count any less than wins and losses in September, despite what some folks will try to tell you.
But is it historically normal for teams that struggle early in the season to make the World Series? Let's take a look at the last five years' World Series champions.
2007 Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox of '07 had by far the most impressive April of any team we're talking about here, going 16-8, good for a winning percentage of .667. If the Phillies were 16-8, they'd be in first place in the NL East and everyone would be chillaxing. (The kids still say that, right?)
But the Sawx also scored 125 runs in that month while only allowing 84. That means Boston's pitching was pretty close to as good as Philadelphia's, and they're offense was worlds better. The Sox did, however, have one month as bad as the Phillies April, going 13-14 in June. So winning the title after a losing month is totally possible.
2008 Philadelphia Phillies
See, the added bonus of this exercise is remembering a title run! The Phillies finished 92-70 that season, good for first in the NL East, but they only had one truly dominating month, in September when they went 17-8. (Though they also won 60 percent of their games in July.) The Phils started out 15-13 that year (April plus one March game) and even had a June that was worse than the April they just finished.
Obviously there are differences between the two teams. That Phillies team scored 133 runs in March/April but gave up 122. It's a reminder that even great teams have bad months, and that if the Phils get some of their hitters back, they can start rolling again.
2009 New York Yankees
The Yankees won 103 games that year, which is pretty, pretty good. They also had a few scorching months, including September (19-9, .679 winning percentage), August (21-7, .750) and July (18-9, .667).
I mean, woof. You play like that late in the year and it doesn't matter what you did in April. Which is why a coldish start by the Yanks in April -- 12-10, .545 -- was a non-factor.
2010 San Francisco Giants
If any team should remind the Phils of themselves this year, it's the Giants, who struggled badly to score runs the entire season, and didn't even have potential star power returning later.
The Giants had multiple months at or under .500, when they went 14-14 in May, 13-14 in June and 13-15 in August. Oddly, they never had a month as bad offensively as the Phillies just completed, and they went 13-9 in April. The biggest takeaway from this Giants team is that when the bats started heating up on a team stacked with pitching, it's easy to reel off wins. Also: don't lose close games.
2011 St. Louis Cardinals
Be honest, with the hot streak the Cardinals pulled off down the stretch, you just assumed they stunk early, right? Wrong: the Cards actually posted a .593 winning percentage in March and April last year, getting off to a 16-11 start.
The Cardinals scuffled through much of the middle of the season before closing out hot.
The lesson to learn? Only one team that won the World Series in the past five years posted an April winning percentage above .600. Of course, none of the champions posted a winning percentage below .500 either.
Which is to say, there's cause for concern with the Phillies poor start, but it's absolutely not time to panic. Yet.