Three Lessons from Opening Week
2021 Season Off to a Good Start
History doesn’t always repeat in baseball, but it often rhymes. There were three lessons from the opening week of the 2021 season that really should come as no surprise. It seems we re-learn these lessons every season!
Playing in the Cold is Challenging
The first lesson from opening week: Playing cold weather baseball is challenging! Four opening day games on Thursday, April 1st were played in chilly conditions, with one game postponed a day due to threat of rain. The first home run of the 2021 season was hit in Detroit during a snow shower and the player who hit it, unable to see where it landed, slid into second base when the ball bounced back onto the field after just clearing the fence.
Open the Gates and People Will Come
The second of the three opening week lessons: Open the gates and people will come! Opening Day attendance averaged 93% of the allowed capacity across MLB. No more than a few hundred fans (less than 5% of tickets sold) appear to have been kept away in the cities with chilly weather. With tickets so limited, there wasn’t much of a drop off for second game attendance, which averaged 94% of that on opening day. These opening day numbers were between 10% and 40% of what we might usually see for the start of a season. The exception was in Texas where the Rangers sold unlimited tickets to their first game in their new Globe Life Field and reached 95% of capacity. Another series of opening days is occurring this week, and most of these games are seeing warmer than normal weather.
Early Results Don’t Predict the Outcome
The last of the three opening week lessons: It’s hazardous to draw conclusions from the past – either based on the early innings of a game or on the standings of the past season. On opening day there were six comeback wins in 13 games, and two teams lost after holding comfortable leads in the 8th and 9th inning. A lot of games were close, with a record of eight opening-day games decided by a single run. (The old record for one-run games on Opening Day was six in 1972.) On the second day of the season, with only six games on the schedule, there were two more comeback wins, including another ninth inning rally.
Of the 11 Opening Day games involving playoff teams from 2020, only two of them finished the way that one would have expected based on last year’s standings. In five games, a playoff team from 2020 lost to one of the teams that were left out of last season’s playoffs! But in a broader application of lesson 1 above, three of those five playoff teams came back to win the opening series.
Mid-April Weather: More Like April and Less Like June
Because the calendar shows we’re approaching mid-April, it is not shocking to see weather more like April and less like June – in other words a reversal from warm days back to cool. The past week saw a quick return of warmer than normal weather in the northern cities but that is now changing. There is some threat of rain during a transition back to cooler weather. Notice the wide area of the country in which below normal temperatures are favored for the second full week of April!
The highest chances for unsettled weather for the second full week of April will be along the East Coast and from the Gulf Coast states northwestward to Dallas and possibly Denver. Last April, the coldest days occurred right in the middle of the month (14th to 17th) in places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh when it was chilly enough for some wet snow. That chilly spell lasted for about eight days — similar to the below normal temperature pattern that will spread east from the Plains states over this next week.