There's an old adage in baseball, "you don't win a pennant in April, but you can lose one", that rings so true. The past two Aprils for our beloved Philadelphia Phillies have been an identically dreadful 10-14. The past two Augusts/Septembers for our darling Philadelphia Phillies have been remarkable resurrection stories that concluded by falling just short of the playoff window of opportunity. I've been carefully listening and reading the theories to winning baseball over the years, and have devised that there are four main schools of thought when it comes to making the playoffs- getting of to a Hot Start, playing well during the Dog Days of Summer, ending with a Strong Finish, or All Wins are Equal.
Theory 1- Hot Start:
Why is Jimmy Rollins playing the role of cheerleader for the Phillies this spring? Because a hot start is important. Getting out of the gate running and building confidence through wins is crucial. Playing solid baseball in the early months (April/May) helps set precedent for the rest of the season. Think about the "hot start" in terms of foreplay...leads to bigger and better things. Example- Detroit Tigers hit the ground running to a 35-18 record in April/May and rolled straight into the playoffs.
Theory 2- Dog Days of Summer:
120 degrees on the playing surface can make it difficult to persevere. The days are longer and the nights are shorter, all the while temperatures continue to rise to scorching skin levels as buckets of sweat pour from the players. This is when the true character of a club shines through, are they warriors or weak. Winning during these times proves that the team has what it takes to thrive under heat. Example- the New York Mets flourished in the hot summer heat, coming out with a 39-27 record and ending up in the playoffs.
Theory 3- Strong Finish:
Keeping within striking distance is vital if you plan on making that late season push for the playoffs. The previous months all meld into one and suddenly you're looking at a month and a half season (mid-August through September). This is the time when pretenders are viciously separated from the contenders. Think of the "strong finish" as the "happy ending", whether that be a sundae after your meal at Friendly's or the finishing touch to a nice massage. Example- the New York Yankees brought their season to a final destination in the playoffs by playing 27-17 baseball down the stretch.
Theory 4- All Wins Equal:
It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that a win on opening day (April 2nd) is equivalent to a win on the final game of the season (September 30th). All wins are created equal, as they are simply a notch in the win column. It's nice to get off to a hot start, win during the dog days of summer, and finish strong, but the underlying theme is to win as much as possible at anytime. Example- the Oakland Athletics were pretty much even keel all season long and made their way back to October baseball, "it's a marathon not a sprint".