Are fast starts a sign of greater success?

Fans in K.C. and the Bay Area are wondering if early season success will translate into big things in the fall.

Updated: April 18, 2003, 3:49 PM ET
By Dan Ford, STATS, Inc.
As the 2003 season wraps up its second week of play, probably the biggest surprise thus far is the shocking success of the Kansas City Royals. After suffering through the first 100-loss season of the franchise's existence last year, the revitalized Royals shot out of the gate, winning their first nine games and reaching double digits in the win column before taking a second loss. Meanwhile, over in the National League, the San Francisco Giants were on a similar track, racking up seven victories from the get-go and going 13-1 before losing a second time on Wednesday. There's still a long way to go in this diamond marathon, but fans in KC and the Bay Area are wondering if this is an indication of bigger things to come this fall.

The fact that the immediate backgrounds of the Royals and Giants are polar opposites puts an intriguing twist on this story. While the Royals stumbled through their worst season ever in 2002, the Giants fell just one game short of a World Series championship. Does a fast break from the starting gate mean more for one team than the other?

We can look to the past for similar hot starts to gain perspective. Reaching double figures in wins before suffering a second loss is a rare happenstance. From 1920 through 2002, we found only 16 teams that accomplished this feat. Two -- the 1959 Indians and 1989 Rangers -- went 10-1 before taking their second defeat. The best one-loss start was 17-1, reached first by the 1981 Athletics and matched six years later by the Brewers. To compare these teams to this year's Royals and Giants, we charted the teams' records from the year prior to their jumpstart, then looked ahead to how they finished at the end of the season. Using these criteria, we'll have to eliminate a few teams in this comparison. The aforementioned 1981 A's did not play out a full season due to the player's strike that season. The 1982 Braves (13-1) are similarly removed because their previous season was incomplete. And the 1994 Braves (also 13-1) are discounted due to the stoppage of play that season. That leaves us with 11 teams whose starts matched or surpassed this year's Royals.