Happy Opening Day! A brand new baseball season is upon us! And while it still may be a little chilly outside, warmer weather, longer days, and – most importantly – more baseball is on the horizon. The Yankees open up the season in March and April with a fairly light schedule: the cumulative winning percentage in 2018 of the teams they will face was .464. They play four of the five worst teams in the entire MLB from 2018, including the league-worst Orioles six times.
The Yankees aren’t necessarily known for getting hot right out of the gates. In fact, their best stretch last year did not start until late-April. They started out 9-9. But how well have they fared in the early going in recent history? Here’s the record in March and April the past five seasons.
SEASON WIN %
LATEST GAME # AT .500
As you can see, the team’s winning percentage in March and April tends to be higher than their overall winning percentage over the course of the season. However, they have not performed well on Opening Day. In fact, the Yankees had lost six straight Opening Day games until last year’s 6-1 win in Toronto.
The clear low point in the past five years in terms of the opening month was 2016. This was the year that marked the team’s “rebuild” when they traded prominent plays such as Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran to replenish the farm system. With the slow start, they ended up missing the playoffs, finishing nine games out of first (fourth in the division) and five games out of a Wild Card spot. In all fairness, their schedule in April that year was rather tough: 16 of their 22 games were against teams that went on to win at least 84 games, including six against division winners (Boston and Texas).
The Yankees’ winning percentage in March and April actually lines up with the latest game they were at .500. In other words, the better they do early on, the earlier they get over .500 and never look back. It even correlates with how well they do that season (at least over the last five years). For example, their best opening month was in 2017, which is when they were a win away from the World Series. Conversely, their worst was in 2016, when they finished with 84 wins. They also had 84 wins in 2014 (their second-worst record in the last five years), but they finished second in the division rather than fourth and were four games out of a playoff spot rather than five.
In terms of specific players, I first look at Opening Day starter Masahiro Tanaka. This will be his fourth such start, having gone 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA in the previous three (all Yankees losses). His overall March/April numbers are much better, however: 3.57 ERA across 189.1 IP.