I’ve gotten quite a kick the last couple of days out of many people gleefully regurgitating the stat that no team that has started 0-4 (or, of course 0-5) has ever gone on to win the World Series. While that’s an interesting statistical quirk, that’s exactly what it is. Yankee fans are having an especially good time yukking it up over the fact that their hated rivals, the Red Sox, preseason favorites in pretty much everyone’s book, have yet to win a game. While it’s not really a good thing to lose five games in a row, ultimately, during the regular season, it doesn’t matter when those five losses occur. Just for fun, let’s look at some recent World Series champions, and whether or not they lost five in a row at some point during the season.
Working backwards, let’s start with the 2010 Giants. A quick look at their season results shows that they lost five in a row from May 19 through May 23, and expanding by two games on either side of that skid, they lost seven of nine. Later in the season, from June 26 through July 2, they lost a whopping seven in a row, and again expanding by two games on either side, lost nine of eleven (going back one game earlier, they lost as well, so that’s ten of twelve). Granted they clinched their playoff berth on the last day of the season, so perhaps that explains some of it. Let’s go back a little further.
The 2009 Yankees won 103 games, and won the AL East by a comfortable 8 games. From May 2 through May 7, the Yankees lost five in a row, and expanding by the next four games, lost seven of nine. They would go on to lose four of five and then five of six (separate groups of games) before the end of June. Let’s keep going.
The 2008 Phillies lost six in a row from June 17 through June 24, and lost two of the three games on either side of that. They would also lose four in a row in the first week of July, four in a row (and five of six) in mid August, before losing just eight the rest of the season. Are we noticing a pattern here?
The 2007 Red Sox actually didn’t lose five in a row at any point, though they did lose four in a row from June 3 through June 6, which was the tail end of a stretch where they lost six of seven. They would also lose six of eight, and four of five twice before the end of July. They would again lose four in a row in August, and again in September. Just so we have a nice sample of five teams, let’s go back one more season.
The 2006 Cardinals made it all the way to June 20 before losing more than four games in a row (although they did lose four in a row in early May). Starting on June 20, they would lose a whopping eight in a row, followed by losing two of the next three. Starting on July 27, they would again lose eight in a row. On September 20, the Cardinals had a healthy seven game lead in the NL Central. By September 26, that lead was a scant 1.5 games, as they lost seven in a row.
I’m not trying to say that protracted losing streaks are in any way a good thing. I’m merely trying to show that over the course of 162 games, they do happen, even to the best teams (yes, I realize that Cardinals teams won only 83 games, but this whole thing started about winning the World Series, remember?). Today is only April 7, and the Red Sox have 157 games left, the majority of which are against teams in their division, which is currently led by Baltimore and Toronto, two teams nobody picked to do anything this year. The first five games of a season are no more predictive than any random five game sample throughout the season, they just stand out more. So let’s put the shovels away, and not bury them just yet.