Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees

I’ve said a few times in the course of the discussion that exploded this weekend about the Jays’ atrocious start to the season that as clean and easy as it may be for us to look strictly at teams’ records from the beginning of the season– and, following that, imbue such data with special significance– it really doesn’t matter when in a season that a team has an awful stretch, because they still have to play out of their minds the rest of the time in order to not be entirely sunk by it.

Granted, this flies in the face of those who think about it in much the same way as the wholly bunk “pitch to the score” theory goes, where it’s somehow better for a team that has built up a lot of wins first to play awfully for a stretch, supposedly because they’ll still be able to “turn it on” when it counts, or whatever inspiring sorts of things need to be concocted in order to explain the ebbs and flows of a season. But, mathematically, it seems to me to be pretty sound. And even though it means the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays have reduced their margin for error to practically zero, when you look at some of the quality teams who have played as awfully for stretches as the Jays did in April, it at least gives you a little bit of hope. For now.

Reader Chris Frenette sent an email to Drew and I last night, which I’ll reprint here verbatim (excepting a few grammatical edits):

After listening to the podcast yesterday I decided to do a bit of research to see how many other playoff teams in recent years had losing stretches similar to what the Jays are going through right now.  I researched the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Cardinals back to 1990, and the Angels and Giants back to 2000.

It’s also worth mentioning almost all of these stretches were either right before or after a lengthy win streak, and most of these teams were probably in far less competitive divisions top to bottom.

It looks like the Jays are directly on the precipice of uncharted territory in terms of a team with a worse results over a ~30 game period recovering to make the playoffs. Of all the examples cited, I believe only one of them was bad to begin a season, while every other team on here had a history of good results prior to their losing stretch.

Year Team Worst Stretch Length Winning % Final Win Total
2012 OAK 4-14 18 .222 94
2012 DET 11-21 32 .344 88
2011 TBR 11-17 28 .392 91
2010 TBR 10-17 27 .370 96
2007 LAA 8-15 23 .347 94
2004 LAA 13-24 37 .351 92
2002 LAA 3-12 15 .200 99
2000 SFG 2-10 12 .167 97
2004 SFG 9-16 25 .360 91
2008 SFG 5-13 18 .278 92
2011 NYY 3-10 13 .231 97
2010 NYY 9-17 26 .346 95
2007 NYY 10-17 27 .370 94
2005 NYY 9-18 27 .333 95
2003 NYY 6-16 22 .273 101
2000 NYY 15-26 41 .366 87
1997 NYY 3-11 14 .214 96
1996 NYY 7-15 22 .318 92
1995 NYY 5-19 24 .208 79-65 (strike season)
2009 BOS 7-14 21 .333 95
2005 BOS 6-12 18 .333 90
2002 BOS 6-14 20 .300 93
1999 BOS 6-13 19 .316 94
1998 BOS 9-17 26 .346 92
2012 ATL 9-16 25 .360 94
2010 ATL 10-17 27 .370 91
2005 ATL 9-17 26 .346 90
1996 ATL 5-14 19 .263 94
1991 ATL 10-17 27 .370 94
2011 STL 4-13 17 .235 90
2012 STL 8-17 25 .320 88
2002 STL 8-17 25 .320 97
2001 STL 9-17 26 .346 93
1996 STL 6-19 25 .240 88

The data is incomplete– note: I added the ones for the Rays in 2010 and 2011 myself– and yet still we see rather clearly that a great number of excellent clubs have endured spells of poor play and shit luck as bad as the one the Jays are currently in. Not a whole lot have been worse and lived to overcome it, but the Jays are still right there in terms of what is surmountable in the midst of a still-excellent season, and the only thing that makes the Jays’ current awful run more glaring is where it lies on the calendar, and the fact that they’ve yet to show anybody that they can put together the kind of great runs that the teams listed above also had.

I still believe they can do it, though, and I think anybody who thought they were among the best teams in this division back in March should share that sentiment. Shit, it doesn’t even have to start turning around tonight– though it would be bloody nice– but it certainly, certainly needs to soon.

No, making the playoffs from here won’t be easy, but it was never going to be.

Comments (76)

  1. Yes it would be nice if they start winning some games soon, would love to see them take 2 of 3 from Boston this series.

  2. Hopefully not a long summer

  3. The table shows bad stretches from teams that did well over the course of the year. Our bad stretch also happens to be our entire record. The question is, when the season is done will we be able to call this a “bad stretch” or could it be closer to representing our total record? If we finish 70-92 (not an unrealistic predicition but definitely a pessimistic one) then this “bad stretch” is more of a normal stretch by a bad team.

    • It certainly would be.

      • would be interesting to see how many of these stretches were v. opponents within their division.. jays are 3 for 13 v. their division in April… don’t care how bad of a stretch your on, when you’re losing head to head against your division, you’re digging a hole, a deep, dark whole…

        • I wish I had the same faith Andrew, but it could end up being one of a few bad stretches, which suggests it isn’t a statistic abnormality at all.

        • @ venting.

          I think the additional researrch that has to be done is teams that are 9-17 & x games behind in the division.

          9-17 in a weak division 5 games back isn’t as bad as 9-17 & 9.5 games back.

          I may have to dig out my stats books from college to find out the answer.

          I think one scenario to run is how many games will it take to get to the playoffs with second wildcard.

          I need an average number from 2008 onwards since the Rays don’t suck .

    • but if this is indeed a bad stretch that isn’t a fair representation of what we can expect from the team, then we have already used up our bad stretch card and cannot afford another. When seasons are over it doesn’t matter when a bad stretch occurred, but when the season starts off with a bad stretch then the team will have to play out the year knowing there is very little room for error.

      • Yes, but all of those other teams, whether they knew it or not, had to play terrific baseball in the other parts of the year to overcome those stretches too.

        But no, it won’t be easy.

  4. A win streak would do a lot to calm down the fan base. It will be challenging with the pitching we’re about to face the next half dozen games…

  5. Lester tonight.

    Remember this: http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=320722102

    This year’s Jays offense is a better offense than that one.

  6. Post should have ended with:

    “If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed — just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other. And maybe — I don’t know — maybe we’ll learn to play this game like men.”

    Otherwise was good. Im pumped

  7. Apparently, Jake Eliopoulos has suddenly passed away. Terrible news.

  8. If you look at our schedule this year it is pretty brutal. I’m thinking, looking back, this week is going to be the low point of the season (barring injuries).

  9. To play Devil’s Advocate.
    Is the current streak indicative of the future or in spite of it?
    Is it possible that the players were. over hyped and regression from their former performance was due?
    I just raise the questions as a concern. The fan in me justifies all this as a blip, as the team gels or gets it’s shit together or gets luckier.
    I’m hoping for taking 2 of 3 from Boston.
    I still think they’ll be in contention in Sept.

    • Fuck that regression talk and same with that taking two of tree….I want a butt hurting sweep of our former friend Farrell.

      • You know that would be absolutely glorious because we know Farrell has been doing a little private snickering. I think his political correctness in front of the media is nothing like the man. I base this on hate and loathing only.

    • I think the Jays fall somewhere in between runaway World Series favourite and .500 team. I still like the Jays to win between 85 and 90 games. Whether they make the playoffs has as much to do with the other teams as it does with the Jays. I still pour myself a drink on game day with the hope of a win.

      • “I still pour myself a drink on game day with the hope of a win.”

        I just teared up. I usually only cry when I watch Rudy.

        • Glad I could be of service! Given that it’s the Red Sox tonight, I’m halfway into a bottle of wine with a backup in case of emergency.

          Do you get the sense that Farrell is going to run wild tonight since JPA is behind the dish. I have a bad feeling.

          • I was about to ask you how big your glass was, but the 2 bottles of wine part put paid to that need.

      • +5. I agree. I think my gut tells me this is an 85 win team, 88 if we get lucky.

        That’s pretty good given losing Reyes, random injuries, 2 mascots.

        I hope 2014 is mascot free. I don’t hate Derosa or Blanco, but the more i watch baseball the more I realize you need 25 players.

        Character guys are fun, but the jays don’t have margin for error.

    • i don’t think you understand the definition of regression in a baseball context. it isn’t simply “lower” or “worse” it’s results moving back toward the mean – whether that’s higher or lower.

      here’s an example from wikipedia via fangraphs:

      “A class of students takes two editions of the same test on two successive days. It has frequently been observed that the worst performers on the first day will tend to improve their scores on the second day, and the best performers on the first day will tend to do worse on the second day. The phenomenon occurs because student scores are determined in part by underlying ability and in part by chance.”

      if Blue Jays hitters regress during the next months of 2013 it means they will perform much better statistically since their career numbers are much, much higher than their April numbers. the best predictor of future baseball performance is most recent performance, so you can look at 2011/2012 to see if the Jays’ hitters’ April 2013 is an anomaly or a trend…

      And you should know the answer to that.

  10. I wrote something yesterday that got buried deep in yesterdays deuce ( yes,I know how that sounds). I’ll paste it here, it seams appropriate, and because although wins are the goal, they are different from the target……

    “As competitive as NY,BOS, and BAL are, the Jays are only 3 and 1/2 games behind the only team in the division that really matters. Yes, TB is the team, in my opinion, that the Jays really need worry about.

    If Tampa had the same start as Boston this year, then Drew’s theory of fighting thru the AL east to get to the top rings much truer, but they didn’t.

    Forget about wildcard projections, too many variables, the goal is the division, Tampa is well within the sights of the Jays and it going to be a glorious fight to the finish.

    Book it!”

  11. Apologies, but it’s funny you point out making grammar corrections in the same sentence you say a reader sent an email “to Drew and I.”

  12. starting 15-0 then 0-15 is not the same as 0-15 then 15-0.

    the team that starts hot was always above .500 so you can assume they had a better than 50/50 chance at winning each game.

    the team ice cold was always below .500 so you can’t assume they would somehow go on a winning streak since they had never done it.

    it’s not a 50/50 endeavour, winning is always more difficult than losing.

    • jesus man. what the hell are you talking about?

      • I think he is saying that a team that starts poorly could very well just be a team that isn’t very good rather than victims to an early statistic abnormality.

      • Almost all the teams listed above were above .500 when they started losing. The jays were always below .500. You can’t assume by any logic that the jays will start winning.

        • I think you can argue that this team is better than their record shows. Bu their current win % is 34.6% To turn this season around and make the playoffs they will have to play at about 60% for the rest of the year. we can’t put together much of a strong argument to suggest that the team will all of a sudden to win at about twice the pace they are right now for the rest of the season.

        • damn you’re right! the logic is airtight. the Jays are gonna go 9 – 153. run for the hills! run for your life!

    • It seems to me, in a game without ties, that it is precisely a 50/50 endeavour. For every win, there is a loss.

    • I think the point he was making is that you can’t assume anything at all, dude. If the Jays are a good team, then this is just a slump a la the teams he listed. If the Jays are a shitty team then its an indicative stretch. It’s up to you to decide whether they’re a good team or a bad team, but the record itself is not indicative one way or the other.

  13. Funny how Kawasaki is the picture with this post. I will take his .313 OBP as a fill in player but with 5 BB to 5 SO we can probably expect the OBP to get lower as well.

  14. So, when is Stooten going to comment about the fact he totally works for Rogers now?

  15. I just poured two beers in a frosty thundermug. Getting started early here but it’s been raining off and on all day.

    I caught a 3 foot Hammerhead shark yesterday, I’m taking it as a good omen.
    If he has eyes on both sides of his head and couldn’t see me coming then surely we can do the same to a man with two faces.
    Eat shit Farrell. Go Jays.

    I released the shark.

    • I am also going to start pouring the beer. despite my previous cautious comments about the future of this team, all of a sudden all that matters is beating the shit out of my least favourite team in pro sports and I will worry about overall wins and losses in september.

    • Fuck ya! Good on the release. Wait…where the hell are you?

      • Englewood Florida.

        • Awesome, hope you have a good time. I’ve been to Florida twice and each time they were having freakish cold snaps….Florida hates me.

          • It may not be just Florida, Tom.
            I heard that Alabama isn’t exactly fond of you either.
            South Carolina said Meh.
            Nevada likes you, especially Vegas.

    • Smasher, I trust you jumped it first?

  16. I actually agree with Zaun. Morrow is getting mean,

  17. LET’S TALK ABOUT THE BLACKBERRY Z10

  18. You just gave me a baseboner Stoeten.

    Thank you.

  19. Your “Simmer Down” folder is going to be full before we even reach the All-Star break.

  20. Stoeten get rid of these fucking troll idiots would ya because it’s tough enough these days and who needs this shit.

  21. 1989: 12-24 after 36 games. Finished 89-73
    Granted, Jimy Williams was fired and Jesse Barfield was traded.

    • Was wonderin when that one would be brought up. Tougher then too because it was in the old Al East. More teams to leapfrog over.

  22. Mathematically, the timing of the bad stretch is inconsequential, but this assumes that future performance is independent of past performance. In the case of flipping a coin, this is true (a result of heads does not have any bearing on future results and the probability of another heads is still 50%). Is this true for a baseball team? I don’t know.

    An argument can be made that the poor start could lead to psychological barriers for the players to perform at their peak. On the other hand, professional athletes at this level are probably mentally tough enough to not let it affect them. Again, I just don’t know.

    Another, scarier thought might be that the recent performance is providing more data on the expected probability of wins for this team and that the win probability, originally thought to be around 56% (90ish wins), should now be modified with this additional data. Once again, I am just not in a position of having enough expertise to form an informed opinion.

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