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Monday, June 18, 2001

Looking Ahead to 80 Games

Don puts Seattle’s hot streak into historical perspective.

The Seattle Mariners lost a game yesterday.

That’s big news this season. (It’s certainly more newsworthy than the overseas exploits of our accidental Prez, for example.)

Seattle’s 11-9 loss to San Diego dropped their record to 52-15, and relegated them to a tie for the best start after 67 games. For several days, the M’s had been trying to catch up with the 1912 New York Giants, who’d ridden a 16-game winning streak to the greatest start in baseball history over 65 games (54-11), but they appear doomed to fall short. With Sunday’s loss, they were caught by the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates, who were also 52-15 after 67 games.

Here’s the complete list of top 67-game starts:

Team??????????? Record
1912 Giants     54-13
1902 Pirates   52-15
2001 Mariners   52-15
1907 Cubs     51-16
1928 Yankees   51-16
1939 Yankees   51-16
1913 As       50-17
1929 As       50-17
1953 Dodgers   50-17
1998 Yankees   50-17

That’s nice, but the headline makes mention of 80 games, doesn’t it. And so   we’re now going to look ahead, craning our eyes on a more distant and difficult   target.

Though some sample size mavens don’t think so, 80 games is a lot. Any team   can win six out of eight?but can they do it ten times in a row? What’s the best   80-game streak ever? What’s the best start after 80 games?

Before I answer those questions, though, let’s take a look at some recent data   centering around 80 games. What follows is best streak/start and worst streak/start   for the years 1990-2000. This should give you a sense of the typical range of   performance in 80 games, or roughly half a year:

Year?? Best Streak???????? Best Start? Worst Streak??? Worst Start
2000???? SFG 55-25????????? CHW 51-29???? MON 25-55????? HOU 27-53
      CHW 53-27? ATL/SEA/STL 48-32???? HOU 26-54????? CHC 32-48
1999???? ARZ 55-25????????? CLE 53-27???? CHC 23-57????? FLA 28-52
???????  NYM 54-26????????? NYY 49-31???? ANA 25-55? MIN/MON 31-49
1998???? NYY 64-16????????? NYY 60-20???? FLA 24-56????? FLA 27-53
      ATL 55-25?????????? SD 52-28????? TB 26-54????? ARZ 27-53
1997???? ATL 53-27????????? BAL 53-27???? PHI 22-58????? PHI 23-57
      BAL 53-27????????? ATL 52-28????? KC 27-53????? CHC 31-49
1996???? ATL 53-27????????? ATL 50-30???? DET 20-60????? DET 23-57
      BOS 51-29????????? CLE 49-31????? SF 24-56????? PHI 33-47
1995???? CLE 57-23????????? CLE 57-23???? MIN 27-53????? MIN 28-52
      ATL 55-25????? ATL/CIN 51-29???? DET 28-52????? PHI 31-49
1994???? MON 56-24????????? ATL 50-30???? SEA 30-50?????? SD 31-49
      NYY 52-28????????? CLE 49-31? BOS/SD 31-49????? CAL 33-47
1993???? ATL 58-22?????????? SF 53-27???? NYM 22-58????? NYM 24-56
      SF 56-24????????? PHI 53-27???? COL 26-54????? COL 28-52
1992???? ATL 56-24????????? TOR 49-31???? SEA 27-53????? SEA 32-48
      MIN 52-28????????? CIN 49-31????? LA 27-53????? CAL 32-48
1991???? MIN 54-26?? ????????LA 49-31???? CLE 22-58????? CLE 26-54
      ATL 53-27????????? PIT 49-31???? MON 29-51? BAL/HOU 33-47
1990???? OAK 53-27????????? CIN 50-30???? NYY 27-53????? NYY 30-50
      NYM 52-28????????? OAK 50-30???? ATL 28-52????? HOU 32-48

The eagle-eyed among you will note that there’s always a team that manages   to play .667 ball or better over some 80-game stretch of each season. The two   best performances in the past eleven years over an 80-game in-season stretch   were the ‘98 Yankees (64-16, a cool .800 WPCT) and the ‘93 Braves   (58-22, straining to overhaul the Giants).

The distance between the best streak and the best start is 37 games over eleven   years. Those ‘98 Yankees won 75% of their first 80 games, and were four games   off their best 80-game performance of the year. That’s a little more than the   average dropoff.

You might not be too surprised to discover that the 1998 Yankees are one of   four teams to start a season with a 60-20 record. Since this has been something   of an ongoing topic thus far in 2001, you may already have an idea as to the   identity of the other teams in this select pantheon. But I will list them below   anyway:

Team?????????? Record
1902 Pirates??? 60-20
1907 Cubs?????? 60-20
1912 Giants???? 60-20
1998 Yankees??? 60-20
1928 Yankees??? 58-22

Will the Mariners be the fifth team in this exalted group? The next couple   of weeks will tell the tale, of course. They have an interesting stretch coming   up this week that may be pivotal in that regard?four games against the hungry,   underachieving Oakland A’s, fresh off being swept by the Giants in Pac   Bell Park. If ever a team was motivated to "make a statement", it’s   the A’s, who were pretty much handed the AL West by just about everyone prior   to the start of the 2001 campaign.

What about the best 80-game streak of all time, though? We’ve already seen   that the ‘98 Yankees fashioned a 64-16 mark during their 114-win campaign. Has   anyone done better than this? Has anyone else even done as well?

The answer to both of those questions, as it turns out, is "yes."   There is one team that had a better 80-game streak than the ‘98 Yankees. And   there are two other teams who did as well. The team that did better will be   no surprise to anyone, but the two teams that did as well are quite unexpected   additions to this pantheon of half-season glory:

Team???????????? Record
1906 Cubs???????? 65-15
1914 Braves?????? 64-16
1944 Cardinals??? 64-16
1998 Yankees????? 64-16

That’s right. George Stallings’ "Miracle Braves" (that’s the   Boston Braves), who went on to sweep the Philadelphia A’s in one   of the great World Series upsets of all time, climbed from last place to first   on a long march of unprecedented brilliance. Only those 1906 Chicago Cubs,   who won 116 games, were better over an 80-game stretch.

Also approaching the half-season Valhalla: the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals,   in the third of three consecutive 100+-win seasons, who brought the NL to its   knees with a depth of talent that seemed endless.

As you can see, the Mariners are simply not going to make a run at the "best   streak" record. They’d have to win their next thirteen games. That’s a   tall order, even for a team that’s currently 52-15. We’ll be keeping track,   however, and when we get to the 80-game mark?as noted, in a couple weeks from   now?I’ll post a more complete list of "best eighty-game starts". We’ll   see where Seattle ranks on that list when the time comes.


Don Malcolm Posted: June 18, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Geoff Posted: June 19, 2001 at 12:08 AM (#603945)
If I remember reading it right, the '14 Braves were in last, but an unusually close last, about 10 or 12 out on July 4. And of course they were good - they were incredible after July 4 - but looking at the talent on hand, no one's going to confuse them with the 1906 Cubs or 1927 Yankees. Miracle teams usually aren't great teams, just teams that were as great as they had to be for one shining stretch. So, yeah, I was a little surprised...good point, though.

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