What happened to other teams who started 1-5?

The darkness... It is closing in... - Christian Petersen

"It's a long season," is one of the truest of cliches. But there's no doubt, starting the season by losing five of your first six makes the task of qualifying for the post-season even harder. What happened to previous teams to begin the way the D-backs have?

I checked the records and since the major-leagues expanded to thirty teams with the addition of the Rays and D-backs in 1998, a total of 37 teams have started off the season going 1-5. The table below lists them all, ordered by year, and gives their final record as well. Teams in bold made the post-season; teams in italics are those who, like Arizona this year, played all six of those games at "home" - don't forget, for scheduling purposes, that's how the two contests in Australia are considered. The table is sortable by clicking on the column headers.

Tm Year Wins Losses
ARI 1998 65 97
DET 1998 65 97
FLA 1998 54 108
ARI 1999 100 62
DET 1999 69 92
DET 2000 79 83
TBD 2001 62 100
BAL 2002 67 95
SDP 2002 66 96
TEX 2002 72 90
ARI 2003 84 78
PHI 2004 86 76
SEA 2004 63 99
TOR 2004 67 94
COL 2005 67 95
NYM 2005 83 79
FLA 2006 78 84
MIN 2006 96 66
PHI 2006 85 77
TEX 2006 80 82
HOU 2007 73 89
PHI 2007 89 73
SFG 2007 71 91
WSN 2007 73 89
COL 2008 74 88
SFG 2008 72 90
CLE 2009 65 97
HOU 2009 74 88
BAL 2010 66 96
HOU 2011 56 106
BOS 2012 69 93
CHC 2012 61 101
HOU 2013 51 111
MIA 2013 62 100
MIL 2013 74 88
PIT 2013 94 68
SDP 2013 76 86

It is obviously way too early to give up on the Diamondbacks. The poster child for a poor start not necessarily being a season killer was right here in Phoenix. It was 1999, where the team started off exactly as this year's model did, losing five of their first six games, and were only at .500 on May 4, with a 14-14 record. That team exploded late in the year, playing .750 ball (51-17) down the stretch, and ending with 100 wins, setting a franchise record that has never been matched since. However, they started the season in Los Angeles and Atlanta, not at home, and as we'll see, that makes a difference.

Overall, however, you have to say the numbers above are not exactly encouraging. Of those 37 teams to begin with one victory in six attempts, only four made the post-season that year, though things are now a little easier than they were there, with the addition of a second wild-card. But even reaching the .500 mark for the entire season was accomplished by a mere eight - as well as the 1999 D-backs, the 2003 incarnation of the team also managed it, [The Philadelphia Phillies appear the masters of the false start: they went 1-5 three times, in 2004, 2006 and 2007, but still finished above .500 every time]

So, while it's still possible to have a good year, we should not be under any illusions as to the difficulty of the task ahead for Arizona. Because the bottom line is, more often than not, teams that start off this badly just don't recover. The mean number of wins put up over all these cases was 73 (so, going 72-84 the rest of the way) and the median was 72. Things get even darker if we focus in on the eleven italicized sides, who like the 2013 Diamondbacks, played all of those first six games at "home". None of them made the playoffs, and the 2006 Phillies were the sole franchise to finish above .500, going 45-30 after the break. The average record for those eleven sides? 69-93.

Let's hope the 2014 Diamondbacks aren't one of those, and there's no denying, every team is different. I certainly don't think this team is as bad as the 2012 Cubs or last year's Astros. But I will feel a great deal better about going forward, after they have put some more wins under their belts, and ideally, swept the Colorado Rockies at Coors this weekend.

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