Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the streak and its implications

with this cub team playing with all the vigor of day-old fish, this writer is about out of unused pejoratives and expletives. (pity his poor wife, who long ago had the intelligence to become ambivalent to the cubs but is still daily harangued by her lesser half regarding their shortcomings.) instead, this page would hope to simply use the power of historical research to drive home the implications of what we are observing.

earlier, some considerable tasking of the brilliant database at baseball reference yielded a time-sensitive five back rule which clearly demonstrated that this cub team no longer, in light of its futility thusfar, has any right or reason to expect to be a .500 baseball club in late september, much less a playoff team.

now, this page would like to call attention to research done at this time last year which has sadly also become applicable.

with the cubs now having lost seven straight, we return to the question of what, if anything, such a streak means for a baseball club.

the answer is unsurprisingly grim. losing at least seven in a row is a frequent waymarker on the road to cub loserville. as the data indicates, from 1970-2004, 23 cub teams lost as many as seven straight; just five ended with winning records. and indeed, with the addition of 2005 to the sample period, the relevant numbers get just slightly bleaker still. and from the 1901 season forward, only twelve of 48 winning teams have endured such a losing streak -- and only three, or 6%, managed to win at a rate equivalent to a 90-win season.

what that previous research left unsaid was that the average winning percentages of cub teams vary inversely with the length of the maximum losing streak.

this chart includes every cub season since 1901 catagorized by its maximum loss streak (first column). the second column gives the average winning percentage of the teams in each catagory; the third gives the number of teams in the sample; the fourth indicates the number of the teams in the third column whose winning percentage exceeded .555 -- that is, won at a rate equivalent to 90 wins in a 162-game season.

it is easily seen that clubs which have lost seven straight can have only a very modest expectation of being a winning team in the end -- to be specific, seven of the 16 in this rank managed a winning season, and only two of those won at a rate that could be expected of a 2006 playoff team.

moreover, the perils of going further in this ill wind plainly harbor yet darker fates for these 2006 cubs. despite a terrible pitching matchup for the cubs this evening, one has to hope that this team can show even in a small way that it isn't fated to disaster -- thought this page would insist that, with independent comfirmation from a 27th game violation of the five back rule, the odds that this club is anything but a loser are now very, very small indeed.

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