Fast starters may lack staying power

The Orioles, White Sox, Braves,and Dodgers have surprised almost everyone by their hot starts, but are they for real?

Originally Published: May 13, 2005
By Gary Gillette | ESPN Insider
Of the division-leading teams six weeks into the 2005 season, the Angels and Cardinals are pretty much doing what was expected of them. The four other teams in first place – the Orioles, White Sox, Braves and Dodgers – have surprised almost everyone by their hot starts. The Sox own the best record in baseball by a substantial margin, while the O's are tied with the Cards for the second-best record.

Who'da thunk it? Of course, it's still early in the season and plenty of unexpected things can happen. But it wouldn't be the nation's pastime if the fans and pundits weren't busy trying to figure out if these surprising teams are for real.

A good way to try to answer that question is to look at the history of early season records for all teams. Each team has a true unknown win probability that is represented by a sample from the actual record for the season. We can make a pretty good guess at the true value, however, since we know exactly the variation in all teams (measured by the standard deviation in wins for a season) and we also know what the expected variation would be if all teams were truly equal.

Gary Gillette | email MLB insider contributor
Gary Gillette, a contributor to MLB Insider on, is the editor of the 2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, which was published in March by Sterling. Gary can be reached via e-mail at