Take an average baseball team and let them play 11 games, and the binomial distribution says the chances of them going 0-11 are 0.00049. That’s a 1 in 2,048 chance. If you were to flip a coin 11 times every day and count the number of tails (it’s the same idea if we’re discussing a true-talent .500 team), you’d get 11 heads and no tails only about once every six years.
Okay, but that’s a .500 team; the Indians clearly aren’t that good. So what if we use their current 51-60 record? With a winning percentage of .459, the Tribe’s chances of losing 11 out of 11 are…0.1 percent. That’s a 1 in 869 chance—more than double the odds for a .500 team, but still pretty darn low.
But the Indians have been playing really poorly lately, so perhaps even that’s too generous. What if we call the Tribe a 100-loss true-talent team? It takes a .383 winning percentage to achieve that level of infamous immortality. A 62-100 team would still win at least one of 11 games 99.5 percent of the time. You’d have a 1 in 203 chance of seeing them go 0-11.
...What would it take for a team’s losing 11 straight to be not just possible but probable? For a team to have a greater chance of losing 11 games than winning at least one, its true-talent winning percentage would have to be no better than .061. Such a team would finish with a 10-152 record (yes, you read that correctly). Which is, of course, absolutely ridiculous. Say what you want about how bad the Indians are or how poorly they’ve played or how this always happens to Cleveland sports teams, but snark and sarcasm aside they are not a historically bad team.
Managing to put together an almost statistically impossible losing streak isn’t something to be proud of (I have a lot of feelings about it, but “pride” definitely isn’t up there). But unless you honestly think that this Indians team is worse than the ’62 Mets, then the Tribe’s 11-game losing streak really is pretty incredible. Maybe that will take the sting out.