One of the most common refrains you hear whenever we start to get worked up over something that happens this time of year is "it's only April."
While that, as well as everything you can say about the small sample size these results are a product of remain true, the wins and losses, as you very well know, count just as much as the wins and losses in August and September.
I bring this up because the White Sox are in the midst of a season-opening stretch that sees them play 25 of their first 28 games against AL Central opponents.
Seeing as how they'll play a grand total of 76 games against the division this year, that's 33 PERCENT of their divisional games, all played by early May. An absurdly high number.
Entering Tuesday's game against Cleveland, the White Sox are 2-4, including 2-4 against the AL Central (duh). Let's take a look at how the White Sox have fared against their divisional counterparts since their last playoff appearance in 2008:
2014 vs. AL Central
Kansas City: 6-13
FINAL RECORD: 73-89
Kansas City: 9-10
FINAL RECORD: 63-99
Kansas City: 6-12
FINAL RECORD: 85-77
Kansas City: 7-11
FINAL RECORD: 79-83
Kansas City: 10-8
FINAL RECORD: 88-74
Kansas City: 9-9
FINAL RECORD: 79-83
Combined record vs. AL Central from 2009-14: 194-246 (.441 winning percentage)
Combined overall record from 2009-14: 467-505 (.480 winning percentage)
Kansas City: 12-6
FINAL RECORD: 89-74 (won AL Central)
And, for fun, here's how they fared against the AL Central in 2005, when they went on to win the World Series:
Kansas City: 13-5
FINAL RECORD: 99-63 (won AL Central and World Series)
As you can see, the White Sox's overall record correlates very strongly with their record against the AL Central. Their worst season (2013) also happens to be the season in which the White Sox fared poorest against the division in our sample seasons. Likewise, 2008 and (not surprisingly) 2005 featured incredible records within divisional play.
This isn't surprising, as when a team plays 47 percent of its games against divisional foes, of course those games are going to correlate with overall success. This is also a very small sample, and it's entirely possible that, if you look at records of division winners against their respective league rivals with a broader scope, you'll find several outliers.
But recent history suggests that April, perhaps more than any other month this season, will go a long way toward determining the White Sox's fate. Check out the percentage of games the White Sox play against divisional opponents by month this season:
April features more divisional matchups than any other month, beating out September and October (the White Sox conclude their regular season on Oct. 1), by a pretty substantial margin.
So while it's apt to say "it's only April" when someone worries about, say, Adam Eaton's lack of plate discipline or Jose Quintana's rocky debut, keep in mind that while individual performances are going to change drastically as they play deeper into the summer, the results remain incredibly important. By this time next week, the White Sox will have played 12 games against the AL Central.
Let's hope they make 'em count.