A Great Start Doesn’t Always Equal A Great Finish
The Tampa Bay Rays have the best start in the MLB since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, who also started their season undefeated after 10 games.
But just because you have a hot start doesn’t always equate to being the final team standing at the end.
The 1987 Brewers lost their first game after winning the first 13 and by the end of April, they were 18-3. They started out in May with two wins, then lost their next 13 straight games, dropping them out of the lead and into 3rd place at 21-15, a 3-15 swing in just two weeks. By the end of May, they were 24-21, in 3rd place and five games out of first. After a long season, the hot start seemed like a façade, but they did eventually win 91 games, even though it wasn’t good enough and with the wild card still years away, they finished in 3rd place and seven games out and did not make the postseason.
The 1982 Atlanta Braves also started the season with 13 straight wins, then lost the next five before winning their 14th game. They finished the month of April with a three game winning streak and a record of 16-5 and two games up in first. By the end of May, they were 27-20, which would be a 14-20 swing after the streak. Atlanta kept the strong season going and by the end of July, they were 21 games over .500 at 61-40, and seven games up in the NL West division. The Braves won 89 games in 1982, and made the postseason, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 in the NLCS.
The Tampa Bay Rays tied the 1966 Cleveland Indians, 1962 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers who all won their first 10 games of the season, but only the Dodgers made it to the postseason, and lost to the Yankees 4-3 in the World Series.
The 1981 Oakland Athletics won 11 straight games in a season split by the labor strike and finished 37-23 in the first half, then 27-22 in the second, and lost to the Yankees in the ALCS.
The only teams that actually ended the season as the tops in baseball were the 1990 Cincinnati Reds and 1984 Detroit Tigers, who each won their first nine games of and ended up World Champs in their respective seasons.
The chase to be the best is an exciting thing for baseball and the Rays, but as we see it doesn’t always equate to being the best all around team.
It’s hard to say that this Rays team is better then the Brewers or Braves or even the Dodgers, and each of those teams did not finish on top. But the Rays do have the hitting and pitching depth to continue at least winning baseball for a full season. The key will be, will they have the same fire for a full 162 game season and play this great when it counts the most.
My prediction is that, as the Rays have been a good team for the past five seasons, that 2023 is just a cumulation of success over the years and they have the right pieces now to at least battle for the crown. This team is built to win and this just may be the season they finally win the big one, and a 10-0 record is a great start.