When does 'still early' become 'too late?'

When does 'still early' become 'too late?'

When does 'still early' become 'too late?'
CHICAGO -- A few years ago, analyst Rany Jazayerli did a study for Baseball Prospectus, asking a simple question: How meaningful are the first few dozen games of a season, in terms of predictive value? In other words, at what point does "still early" become "too late?"

The question has a special relevance for the White Sox, who finished April with a 10-18 record and set a franchise record for losses in an opening month. There was a lot of complicated math in Jazayerli's study, but his conclusion was that, generally speaking, a team is what it is at about the 48-game mark. There are lots of exceptions to the rule, including last year's White Sox, but the rule of thumb is that once that threshold is reached, a team's current record has as much predictive value as any kind of preseason projection.

That being the case, the White Sox are entering an important three-week stretch. They aren't worried about complicated statistical analysis, they just know they need to win -- something they managed to do just three times in their last 17 games entering Sunday. The question: How do they turn the tide?

"A rah-rah speech isn't going to make it happen," said Paul Konerko. "Every guy has to know what he's doing up there. It's a different answer for every guy in here.

"You have to go home and kind of hold court with yourself, and ask if you're going about it in the right way. If you are and it's just not happening, that happens sometimes. That's baseball."

With a new month starting, the White Sox get a clean slate, but their goals for the month look a little different from what they would have expected, given their preseason status as a division favorite.

"Right now, I don't even look at the record," said Konerko. "If you do look at the record, it's pretty simple, you just want to get to .500. You have to try to look at the big picture.

"Let's say we play the month of May and we're .500, you wouldn't count out a .500 team. Hopefully, we are better than that. No one would count you out of any divisional race if you're a .500 team at the end of May."

Manager Ozzie Guillen returned to the dugout on Sunday, saying he's grown weary of questions about bad starts.

"I'm tired of saying it's too early," said Guillen. "I get tired of telling myself it's too early. It's never too early. If you go out there and start saying stuff and pushing these guys, talking to those guys, then you say, 'Well, the manager is panicking. The coaches are panicking. The owners are panicking.'

"There is no way we are going to play this bad any longer. There is no way. We've done everything on the field to be terrible. Now, it's our time for the ball to bounce our way."