So game number one is in the books. The anticipation for the start of the season has dissipated. With but one game’s worth of data to go by, some folks will have nothing better to do but to dissect every piece of the action from Sunday’s game, send up flares and call for the head of (insert name of your most deserving “goat” here).
So, how much of a difference can the outcome of the first game make? Prior to this season, the Yankees had gone 62-44-1 in openers. The average winning percentage in seasons featuring an opening game win was .569, with a range from .331 (1908) to .714 (the magic 1927 season). In seasons with an opening game loss, the average winning percentage was .563, and ranged from .329 (1912) to .708 (another magic season, 1998). Six percentage points over 162 games is slightly less than one whole game’s difference in the won-loss record.
Some more numbers to chew on. There is a mere 4% correlation between a Yankee opening day win and their final record. In fact, the pythagorean winning percentage for Spring Training games is a much better predictor of regular season success. As an example, based on the Yanks runs scored and allowed during Spring Training from 2003 through 2009, there was a 67.6% correlation with their regular season record. This may not bode well for 2010, as the 130 runs scored and 162 allowed during this Spring’s games would project to a .394 winning percentage. Somehow, despite the opening game loss, I have a feeling this will be a year with a poor correlation.