Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Win, or the Start of a Winning Streak?

The Red Sox won! They won! That’s so fantastic!

Sure, being 1-9 over their last ten games isn’t a huge increase over being 0-10. But, it has the same effect as a player getting that first hit of the season. In that case, it’s nice mentally for the player to not look at the scoreboard and see that .000 batting average anymore. Similarly, it’s nice for the team to remember that they can win. There’s none of that “pressure” trying to end the streak.

It also puts an end to all the talk of how many teams with various length losing streaks have made the playoffs. Or how long it’s been since a losing streak of each length, and whether those teams made the playoffs. Now they can just play.

Because, the problem with those “previous losing streaks” stories is that they don’t take context into account. I’ve said before that losing or winning streaks don’t define a team. I team isn’t good because it wins ten in a row. A good team might win ten in a row. Conversely, losing ten in a row doesn’t make a team a bad team. But, comparing it to bad teams that lost ten in a row is certainly supposed to imply that.

Has a ten game losing streak doomed the Sox season? Of course not. It would be ridiculous to even suggest that at the end of May. There are over 100 games left. What the streak stories have tried to do is say that like other teams that have lost a lot in a row, this team has no talent. Obviously, that’s not the case. Want some proof? Check out the 2011 Red Sox.

I know. I know.

Most people like to refer to that team as the one that “collapsed.” I’ve never subscribed to that. I look to the fact that they won the same number of games that year as the team that won the World Series. Sure, winning one more would have been nice. But, if you win 90 games, that’s a season for you. (Heck, this year with the second wild card, that team would have made the playoffs with a four-game cushion.) You may remember that the Sox had a bad couple months that year. In fact, in August and September, they went 24-32. That’s a .429 clip. This year, the Sox stand at 21-29. That’s a .420 pace. So, it’s not like the Sox need to go on some inhuman run the rest of the season. It’s not like they need to go 100-2 in order to salvage the season. They just need to reproduce something they’ve done before, very recently. Even the rest of the 2011 season wasn’t elite. After all, they went sub-.500 in April that year. So, in April-July, the Sox went 66-40-.623. To get to 91 wins this season, the Sox would need to go 70-42-.625. What’s unrealistic about that?

Really, this team is just 2011 in reverse. They had all the injuries and poor rookie performances at the end. In 2014, the Sox have had them all at the beginning. Assuming the Sox come back healthy, there’s no reason to think the Sox can’t match that 2011 team. Not to mention the fact that this division isn’t breaking down any doors this year. The Sox are going to be playing a lot of lightweights the rest of the way. If they can put it together, that .625 clip might be a breeze.

The ten game losing streak will be a funny story in the World Series.

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