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Friday, November 01, 2019

World Series Loss Brings Astros’ Season-Long Dominance to Staggering End

HOUSTON — Baseball offers no harsher end than a loss in Game 7 of the World Series. You have endured the April frost and July heatstroke, the blowouts and the walk-offs, the delayed flights and the late-inning pitching changes, and you have played as long as you can play. And now you are faced with the most binary of options: win, and float with your friends through the next days and weeks in a champagne-soaked haze, or lose, and descend alone into winter.

Three of the last four seasons have slammed to a halt with this stark contrast, each team’s opposite emotion heightened by the suddenness with which it came. As the 2016 Cubs danced, the Indians staggered through the clubhouse. As the ’17 Astros doused one another in alcohol, the Dodgers wept openly. But on Wednesday, as the ’19 Nationals celebrated a title that even they barely believed had come, the Astros’ response was muted.

The tears were dry by the time the uniforms came off. Houston had just capped a 107-win season with a 6–2 loss, but the mood in the clubhouse reflected more disappointment than devastation.

At his locker, first baseman Yuli Gurriel checked his Instagram metrics. Across the room, outfielder Josh Reddick and reliever Will Harris argued about fantasy football invoices. In the quietest corner of the room, shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman José Altuve leaned forward in the office chairs in front of their lockers. Between them, on the floor, sprawled third baseman Alex Bregman. In whispers, they discussed the improbability of what they had witnessed: Zack Greinke, seemingly on his way to a one-hit shutout, carried a 2–0 lead into the seventh inning. Then came a solo home run. A walk. A pitching change. Another longball. Two innings later, the Astros watched the Nationals celebrate at Minute Maid Park.

Some thoughts on what it means to lose a World Series, in parallel with the articles on what it means to win one.


QLE Posted: November 01, 2019 at 12:56 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, the agony of defeat, world series

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   1. The Duke Posted: November 01, 2019 at 10:39 AM (#5897697)
In the moment it seems terrible but in 5-10 years it will be viewed as another great season ending with a trip to World Series. As a cardinals fan I can tell you there are worse endings. It’s hard to even think of the 2004 World Series. At least the Astros won 3 games.
   2. ajnrules Posted: November 01, 2019 at 11:32 AM (#5897732)
2011: Rangers blow a 2-run lead and lose Game 7 of the World Series 6-2.

2019: Astros blow a 2-run lead and lose Game 7 of the World Series 6-2.
   3. Blastin Posted: November 01, 2019 at 11:56 AM (#5897743)
Note this is by Stephanie Apstein, who I do believe won the moral victory over Taubman this week. Wonder if he's still so ####### glad they got Osuna.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: November 01, 2019 at 06:43 PM (#5897953)
I think "dominance" is hard to establish given how imbalanced the AL was this year. The best argument for it is the 280 run differential which is massive. But it's a bit less impressive given the Tigers had a run differential of -330 and the O's were at -250, two other teams won over 100, two more won over 95. They were 12 wins better than the 2nd WC, 15 better than 6th place. The 2016 Cubs were 16 games better than 5th and 17 better than 6th and 8 wins better than 2nd (while being 4 games under their pythag). In the regular season, the Astros were only 21-19 against the other AL playoff teams and only 7-9 against the NLC. That doesn't seem dominant at all. Meanwhile 18-4 against the 3 hapless teams and 18-1 against the Ms (who played like a 100-loss team after their opening hot streak ... although a lot of that was thanks to the Astros).

Such things are often true of "dominant" teams of course where they are only "fine" against other good teams and just happen to destroy one team or beat up on a weak division. The 2016 Cubs went 29-8 against Cinci and Pitt and just 15-13 against the other NL playoff teams ... but at least they went 15-5 against the AL (mostly West).
   5. puck Posted: November 01, 2019 at 11:49 PM (#5898008)
Does Elo help? Not sure that's any better at dealing with having such bad teams in the cellar.

FWIW, on 9/27 538 had these:

1591 Astros
1591 Dodgers
1584 Yankees
1561 A's
1558 Nationals
   6. Walt Davis Posted: November 02, 2019 at 01:46 AM (#5898051)
Does Elo help?

Probably not for comparisons across years but within-year I assume so. Problem is I have no idea if, say, the 30 point difference between Astros and A's is meaningful. But from what you've posted, it seems pretty clear the Astros didn't "dominate" this year -- equal to Dodgers, bit ahead of Yanks -- which could be used in any cross-year comparison.

None of this meant to be a ding on the Astros. A darn good team and I consider them the best team this year. And I suspect that there have been few truly dominant teams in MLB history, especially in the last 50 years or so.

The 75 Reds won 108 games, 16 better than the Pirates and 20 more than their closest division rival. But the NLW had two pretty crappy teams that year and bWAA puts the Reds just 5 wins better than the Pirates (that doesn't seem possible but those are the numbers). They were 6-6 against the Pirates, 8-10 against the 2nd place Dodgers, 7-5 against the NLE 2nd place Phils ... but 39-9 against the Braves, Astros and hapless (against Cinci) Cubs. They went a staggering 64-17 at home (790); they were 11-4 in extras, 32-20 in 1-run games ... but didn't substantially out-perform their pythag. And of course they needed 7 games to squeak past the Red Sox (after sweeping the Pirates).

The next year they had 6 fewer wins, just 1 win more than the Phils, 5 more WAA than the Phils (and 2 more than 75), a 5-7 record against them ... but did beat up on the Dodgers and Pirates and then swept the Phils and Yanks.

Obviously some of the pre-expansion Yankee teams were dominant ... and obviously the post-expansion Yanks and Braves dynasties were dominant in a multi-season way. But I'm not sure anybody but the 98 Yanks were actually dominant. 114 wins, 14 more WAA than 2nd-best Boston, 52-29 on the road, 22-12 against the other AL playoff teams (7-5 against Red Sox), 13-3 against NLE and 11-2 in the postseason. That's clear dominance.
   7. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:35 AM (#5898061)
Not to downplay the analysis above which is very good, but isnt the concept of season long "dominance" a bit of an abstraction anyways? Teams dont stay the same, their personnel changes. And players dont even stay the same throughout the season. WE're talking about a collection of 40 or so players who were interchanged at various pts in a 6 month long season. The only common factor being that they happened to wear HOU colors.

Clearly WAS was not the same team that began the season. They were very hot really the last 4 months. I didnt see any reason to make them underdogs. Do we not have a sense that you need to be at least one of the "hot" teams to win a world series.

Almost every world champion I can think of was playing well down the stretch. are there any exceptions to that?

What about 2011 Cards? .600 the last two months, I guess that's pretty good.
2012 SFG? .670 the last 6 weeks anyhow.
2008 PHI? .600 the last two months.

Im sure someone will find one.

Has anyone studied that? DO teams that are playing well in the recent past have a better chance than teams with best seasonal record? The only issue is How many data pts are sufficient? I would suggest at least a 50 game sample, anything less seems like just raw noise.
   8. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:47 AM (#5898063)
Okay the 2006 Cards were playing .440 the last two moths of the season. But their WS rivals DET was also the same!

A battle of ice cold teams..
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: November 02, 2019 at 09:22 AM (#5898067)
Im sure someone will find one.

The 2000 Yankees went 10-17 from Sept. 3 on.

But I agree with the larger point. Teams aren't static.
   10. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 02, 2019 at 10:12 AM (#5898076)
The 2000 Yankees went 10-17 from Sept. 3 on.

It was actually much worse than that. From September 14th through the end of the season they went 3-15 with a run differential of -89. In their last 7 games, they lost them all by a combined score of 68 to 15.

But I agree with the larger point. Teams aren't static.

And the 2000 Yankees sure proved that. After dropping the opener of their Division Series to the A's, they went 11 and 4 for the rest of the postseason, leaving nothing but a few bat splinters in their wake.
   11. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 02, 2019 at 10:17 AM (#5898077)
I think "dominance" is hard to establish given how imbalanced the AL was this year.

The most misleading "dominance" ever was that of the 1954 Indians, who were 89-21 against the bottom 5 teams** and counting the World Series, went 22-26 against teams with winning records.

** The 4th place Red Sox finished at 69-85, 42 games behind.
   12. Belfry Bob Posted: November 02, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5898080)
These recent Astros remind me of the 69-71 Orioles, for whom I also rooted as a youngster. Dominating team, Hall of Famers, favored against everyone...and won one WS in three tries.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 02, 2019 at 11:06 AM (#5898087)
Funny you should mention the '69-'71 O's.

Fangraphs has a good piece up on the best teams not to win it all.


Those O's are 3 of the top-20 teams ever in WAR. Of the top-20, only 7 won the World Series.

Only 9 teams have ever had 60 WAR, including the '69 O's. Only 3 of those won the World Series.

The top teams by wins do a bit better. 27 teams have won 105+. 15 won the WS, and the 1904 Giants didn't have a chance to compete.
   14. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: November 02, 2019 at 11:47 AM (#5898092)
when I looked at the graph in snapper's link, I was struck by the fact that the 69 O's have one of the highest position player WAR totals in MLB history, but their pitcher WAR was middle-of-the-pack; then it dawned on me that position player WAR includes dWAR, so what was considered to be excellent pitching was greatly influenced by their incredible defense
   15. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:42 PM (#5898106)
The 2000 Yankees went 10-17 from Sept. 3 on.

That has to be too small of a sample size.

OK after Aug 1 they are .500 (31-30). So Yes that's a very good example.
   16. jingoist Posted: November 02, 2019 at 11:10 PM (#5898242)
Look at the dwar that Robinson, Belanger and Dave’s Johnson posted that year and it isn’t hard to figure out why their starters had such won/loss results and lower eras. Cakes has stated numerous time that infield was enormously beneficial to his success.
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: November 02, 2019 at 11:29 PM (#5898245)
when we were looking at Jim Palmer's HOM case (I mean, he was going in, but still), we noticed some interesting data.

many know that he never once allowed a grand slam in his career.

someone decided to look into whether his modest K rate went up with, say, a runner on 3rd and 1 out - and it did!

it sure seems like he knew exactly what he had at 2B (especially Grich)-SS-3B-CF, and "pitched to the defense."

I'm not sure Palmer should get demerits for that.
   18. Jack Sommers Posted: November 03, 2019 at 12:47 AM (#5898273)
   19. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 11:31 AM (#5898313)
These recent Astros remind me of the 69-71 Orioles, for whom I also rooted as a youngster. Dominating team, Hall of Famers, favored against everyone...and won one WS in three tries.

Not completely true in either of those cases: The 1970 WS Champion Orioles were pre-Series underdogs to the Reds, and the 2017 WS Champion Astros were pre-Series underdogs to the Dodgers.
   20. Dag Nabbit at Posted: November 03, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5898314)
OK after Aug 1 they are .500 (31-30). So Yes that's a very good example.

The 1958 Yankees played .500 over the last two months of the year. It's because they're pitching (aside from Whitey Ford) fell apart. The pitching remained a problem all 1959, as they uncharacteristically stayed around .500 almost all season long - it was their worst year under Stengel. The most visible problem with their staff was Bob Turley, who had been great, but blew his arm out in the final months of 1958 - and never got better. He was never any good again .... EXCEPT in the 1958 World Series. The Yankees overcame a three-games-to-one deficit largely on Turley's pitching in those final games. The last drops of quality came out of his arm at the exact perfect time for the Yankees.
   21. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5898322)
I'd always thought that Turley blew his arm out in early 1959, after he'd pitched very well in 3 out of his 4 April starts. Or was it simply that he started feeling arm injury symptoms in late 1958 and was able to pitch through it until something finally snapped in early May of 1959?

That 1958 Yankees team was really Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Up through the morning of August 3rd, they were 67-34, 17 games ahead of the second place Indians, and every other team in the American League was sub-.500. If you weren't aware of the fact that the AL of that era was on life support, you might have thought that they were an historically great team in the making.

And then from August 3rd through game 4 of the World Series, they went 32-33 and looked totally outclassed by the Braves until Turley and Elston Howard came to the rescue, salvaging the Series in an improbable comeback and likely postponing the day of reckoning.
   22. Sunday silence Posted: November 03, 2019 at 01:53 PM (#5898337)
had no idea 58 was so interesting. I always thought it was just another boring NYY win.
   23. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 02:28 PM (#5898340)
Actually it was, in the sense that the pennant race was effectively over by the 25th of May, at which point the Yankees were 9 games ahead. Their lead reached double digits by July 4th, and never went below that until a week after they'd clinched the pennant. 5 of Stengel's 10 pennant were blowouts, but 1958 was far and away the most boring from start to finish. They took the lead 3 days after opening day and after that were never dislodged from that position.

   24. Belfry Bob Posted: November 05, 2019 at 01:34 AM (#5898675)
Orioles were pre-Series underdogs to the Reds

Really? That's not the way I remember it, not sure why it would be the case, the Reds didn't have much starting pitching and it was the first BRM entry. I haven't found any references that said the Reds were favored...what's the source?

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