The Meaning of 28 on June 1st

Spring is a time for hope, optimism, blah di frickin blah. I noted the other day in a comment thread that I had some simple napkin math for how long to keep my hopes up:

  • 90 wins is the generally accepted threshold for reasonable contention.
  • 6 months in the regular season.
  • 90/6 = 15, so allowing for a wobbly start to the season, if the M's aren't at about 30 wins by May, start wondering about call-ups and draft picks.

I've been idly curious about whether that is possibly predictive. I poked around on that this morning; some observations follow. Math is not my strong suit, so if someone else has some other research on the topic or wants to suggest a different approach, please do.

To keep the website lookup process somewhat sane I only went back 3 years. I think 3 years also captures the current state of teams and competition, given how much talent moves around from one offseason to the next. It also gives us a couple seasons before the new one-game play-in game to compare against. Again, if there's arguments for different or larger samples, please do comment.

I have what should be a publicly accessible, no-signin-required spreadsheet available here: google docs spreadsheet

My 'analysis' was as simple as looking up the standings as of June 1 of 2010, 2011 and 2012, and then comparing those to the eventual end-of-regular-season totals. I don't care about postseason results for these purposes; I'm looking for likelihood of postseason entry.


  • In 2012, there were 4 teams at the 30-win mark on June 1st that didn't make the postseason: TB, CHW, TEX, LAD. In 2011 and 2010, the number of teams at 30 wins on 6/1 who didn't make the postseason? 1, each. (CLE was at 33 on 6/1/2011, Padres at 31 on 6/1/2010.) Thanks, expanded wild card!
  • In 2012, there were 2 teams at less than 28 games on 6/1 that did make the postseason: Detroit (24) and Oakland (grr, 22). In 2010 and 2011, all postseason teams for that year were at 27 wins or more on 6/1 of that year.
  • 8 teams in the last 3 years have been at 30 or more wins by 6/1 and missed the postseason. But regard the teams that were in that group: last year, the Dodgers and Rays; 2011, the Braves, Red Sox and Marlins; 2010, the Jays, Cards and Dodgers. I'm wildly speculating, but I think if one went back in time to early June of those years and asked those teams' fans how they felt about their team, I think it'd be pretty good. Hell, in 2011 I think we were still having some "you know, what if..." sorts of speculation ourselves.
  • In the last 3 years, eventual division winners were 30 wins or more 8 times; 28 or 29 wins 6 times; 27 wins twice; less than 27 wins, also twice, see above, grr.

So, perhaps my rule of thumb of 30 wins by 6/1 was not that far off. If one takes the last 3 years as predictive (instead of just parallel, coincidental sets of numbers... again, math not Chris_FB's strong suit) then 28 wins or more going into June seems like a pretty good shot.

Thoughts for follow-ups, please comment on interest, or take up yourself and comment and results:

  • Would it be interesting to put the run differentials side by side with these win totals and arbitrary cutoff points? I don't know if there's ever been anything done to show trends as to when most teams 'make hay' when it comes to their run differential totals. I.e. do teams with good run differentials tend to keep them steady throughout the season, or do you frequently see spikes as various pitchers or hitters go all crazypants for a month?
  • Can someone who actually has taken a statistics course ever, comment on what constitutes a predictive trend in these numbers (if anything in here does at all)?
  • Is there a magic relevance to doing this same exercise at end of June, or the All-Star Break, or in August? I think there's been fair looks into teams that stage rallies or comebacks in August ( is still a thing, for example) but we're Mariner fans and used to giving up by early summer by now, so I don't know how interesting that is for us.
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