Drawing Conclusions From Mediocre Performance

Streaks: Do They Matter?

Does a string of losses keep you from having a good team? 

The somewhat indifferent start of the Braves this season, a quarter of a season of 0.500 ball (or so), concerns folks, and not without reason.  While 0.500 ball has been competitive in the first quarter of the season in the NL East, it won’t be competitive by the end of the season, probably.  And there is more cause for worry in that the Braves have had 3 losing streaks of four games in this first quarter of the season.  Good teams don’t lose four in a row or more vary often, do they? 

Well, sometimes they do.  I took every World Series winner since 1961, when the season expanded to 162 games.  I then looked at how many losing streaks of four games or more they had in the regular season.  The record, 5 bad streaks, is held by the 1993 Blue Jays; they had two 4-game losing streaks by June 13, and then had a horrendous stretch in early July when they had two 5-game losing streaks sandwiching a lone win: 10 out of 11.  Amazingly, they were 3 up in the standings when that stretch began and were still ½ game up when it was over.  They had another 6 game losing streak in early September at which they were still tied for the lead, but then proceeded to run off 9 wins in a row and 17 out of 21 to get to the playoffs.  The short (possibly obvious) answer is that you can still have a good record with a bunch of losing streaks as long as you have some winning streaks as well.

The 1993 Jays were far from unique.  The 1975 Big Red Machine won 108 games but had a 6-game losing streak and two 4-game slides.  The Miracle Mets had three 4-game and one 5-game losing streaks.  The 1979 Pirates Family had 2 4-game losing streaks, one 5-game losing streak, and one 6 game losing streak.  The 1990 Reds lost eight in a row at one point.  Finally, the 2014 Giants (who had to get in by a Wild Card) had two 6-game, one 5-game and one 4-game collapses en route to a World Championship.                                                            

Now don’t get me wrong: it’s not like you need some 4-game losing streaks to build character or something.  The Red Sox champs in 2013 and 2018 had none, and the average number of 4-game-or-more losing streaks since 1961 is a little over 2.  But you can lose 7 or 8 in a row and still hoist the trophy at the end of the year: Eight teams have.  Just don’t have a big losing streak in October:  that never works.

How late can you be a 0.500 team?

On a related issue, how long can you stay in idle around 0.500 and still get a ring?  Let’s start with the bad news: of the last 58 champs (not counting last year’s Dodgers) 17 were never under 0.500 and another 22 had their last stint at 0.500 in April.  11 last experienced total mediocrity in May, hopefully to be augmented by this year’s Braves.  But the good news is that 5 winners were at 0.500 at some point in June, and 3 teams were at 0.500 as late as July: the 2003 Marlins (7/2), the 1985 Royals (7/12), and the 1964 Cardinals (7/24).  On July 24th 1964 the Cardinals were 10 behind the Phillies, and in current parlance, one might have thought they’d be sellers at that point.  But they went 46-21 for the rest of the season and were assisted by one of the most famous September collapses in baseball history:  the Phillies still led the Cardinals by 6.5 on September 20th and managed to blow it.  When the circumstances are right, you can tread water for over half a season, even the start of the season.

And almost any good team will have long stretches in which they win only half their games. The only World Series winner (not counting last year) who didn’t have at least a 30 game stretch of the season in which they played 0.500 ball is the Big Red Machine in 1976. And some teams treaded water for months. The 1981 Dodgers were a 0.500 team between June 16th and October 4th. The 1987 Twins didn’t gain a game between April 10th and August 28th. The 2000 Yankees were a 0.500 team between May 9th and the end of the regular season. And the 2006 Cardinals were 5 over 0.500 on April 22nd and finished the season 5 over, at 83-78: 162 days of completely average play… just about the whole damned season.

Just because great teams had some bad (or mediocre) stretches doesn’t mean such things are good. But this is just another example of small sample size bias — when the Braves have a mediocre month, there is indeed a chance that they are a mediocre team. In fact, that’s probably the way to bet, because the vast majority of teams are mediocre, kinda by definition. But to those who see progress and green shoots, mediocrity for a month, or even two, ought not dampen your enthusiasm a whit. Hell, if you’re the 2006 Cardinals, and you reside in a mediocre division, all you have to do is have a good couple of weeks in the regular season, win the October Crapshoot and you can wear your ring proudly for the rest of your life.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

94 thoughts on “Drawing Conclusions From Mediocre Performance”

  1. Remember when the Braves played the Yankees in April and everyone was like “look, see even the mighty Yankees are struggling! Don’t worry about the Braves, it’s early.” Pffft yeah. Yanks 28-20 now. Cream rises. Still can’t figure out if Braves are cream or trub.

  2. Thanks, JonathanF. Our mediocre record to this point may mean that this team will not be competitive, but the range of possibilities for this team is still very wide. That’s what makes a baseball season so appealing. Even the best teams sometimes have 50 game stretches in which they go about .500.

  3. Now I’m on intrigued…Drew Waters is not in Gwinnett’s lineup tonight.

  4. We’ve certainly rolled the dice and taken our chances in October when we’ve had one of the best teams in baseball, and came up short. Now we’ve definitely zagged instead of zigged — maybe this bunch of jerks and stiffs can run into some hardware where our past paper tigers just crumpled in October!

  5. Been spending a pleasant sunny afternoon, vicariously, watching the Jays and Yankees in NY and have run across someone I didn’t know performing at a very high level.

    A pitcher, he was the second player from the 2019 Draft to reach the Bigs which caught my attention. And he had an interesting name with quasi Braves overtones. MANOAH. Know him?

    In a 7 inning game he went 1 through 6 innings of the Yanks in a doddle, they couldn’t touch him. So I started this post hoping for a live accounting of a complete game. Alas, no deal, they used a closer and won the game in a breeze. Simeon and Bichette had the back to back solo homers, early.

    Manoah. Surely not. You noah?

  6. Brave shave learned the hard way the past couple years how much depth matters. Let’s try a thought experiment. Fill in the blank with whatever player you think applies.

    “On a playoff-caliber roster, your 4th outfielder should be at least as good as_______.”

  7. #1
    The Yanks have had some remarkable pitching this year, especially lately, and they’ve won some low-scoring games. But their lineup is a joke right now.

    I went to the game Tuesday night vs. the Jays, and that night’s Pinstripe lineup had 5 guys hitting below .200 and another (Gardner, batting 9th) just a tick above it. (They lost 6-2, getting out-homered 3-0.)

    At the moment, they’re 1st overall in AL pitching, but 12th in runs scored — that’s about the opposite of what was expected. Their big boppers can’t seem to ever stay in the lineup together — and they just got some bad injury news on Kluber & Hicks — so it’s tough to forecast that team for the rest of the season.

    Next week, they have 7 consecutive with Tampa & Boston at home. We’ll see how that shakes out. But it wouldn’t shock me if they stumbled back a bit.

  8. Amazing how much space Markakis continues to occupy in our heads. When I saw the picture at the start of the article (wasn’t wearing my glasses, fwiw), my first thought was that the streakers looked like Markakis and Francouer from 2016. I can imagine Francouer doing something like that, but not so much Markakis.

  9. @12 – I would normally agree on Duvall but letting him go may not have been a bad thing. He’s hitting .216 with an ops under 700. If not for the series with the Braves my guess is it would be closer to 150/550.

  10. @14 – Jackson got 7 competitive at bats last season. There’s no telling how much no minor league season last year set back Jackson, Pache, and others.

    With a .218 average across 750+ AAA and AA at bats, he’s going to have to turn it up in a hurry at age 25.

  11. I looked it up and wasn’t too far off. Duvall is batting 210 with 4 doubles and 9 homers. In the 4 game series with Atlanta in April he was 7 for 14 with 3 doubles and 3 homers. In other words, apart from that series he is batting 181 with 1 double and 6 homers in 143 at bats. That is not going to cut it.

  12. @18 – That’s Duvall in a nutshell, plus another year’s age. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rip off another 7 for 14 with 3 doubles and 3 homers streak soon, if they keep running him out there.

    That does not necessarily mean that I think he’s the answer.

  13. @14 AAA Jackson is exactly the reason that I don’t believe the Arcia hype.

    We need a catcher that can hit like Contreras and field like Jackson.

  14. If you’re a NL team, your 4th OF should be able to DH against AL teams, give both of your corner OFs a day off whenever needed, play CF in an absolute emergency, and have a 100 OPS+. The very first name that popped in my head was Chad Curtis, who did actually play quite a bit of CF.

    More modern day examples, especially from recent Braves teams, 2021 Ender Inciarte and Guillermo Heredia are good options. Lane Adams had his run as a good 4th OF. In some years, Nick Markakis was a 4th OFer, no more than that. Matt Joyce was obviously a really good 4th OFer, though he couldn’t play CF.

    Call me crazy, but it’s so hard for me to believe that Camargo is so dadgum slow that he can’t be a 4th OFer. And with his infield positional versatility, he could still be Marwin Gonzalez. And yet, he sucks. Most odd.

  15. @21 – I was a little surprised they did not use Camargo instead of Riley in LF last year when Duvall was hurt. There was a plan at one point that Camargo was going to play some OF.

    I wonder if they thought Camargo was a better 3B than Riley, and that was more important than LF defense (it is) or if they thought Camargo is truly not an OF.

  16. @8 – Saw him at East Cobb last Saturday. Did not notice anything out of the ordinary about his shape.

  17. Feeling so inspired by this move.

  18. Also, Soroka confirmed to be out for season…but not confirmed to be out for his career.

  19. @26 not surprising but still stinks he is out for the year. I think the starting pitching side is fine, but the Johan move is useless as it does nothing offensively, particularly if Ender and his first base groundouts is the left field replacement

  20. Soraoka out for the season? Shades of Mike Hampton, and he will probably get another arby raise next year

  21. Is it too much to ask to build a roster with enough depth so the likes of Carmago, Biddle, and Tomlin are never your first options when a pitcher or OF go down?

    Seems like the whole “building depth” thing was identified after 2019. Why are we still in this situation?

  22. Sike!

  23. Did Soroka’s first surgery not do well? Or did he reinjure it? They’ve been very vague when talking about it.

  24. Ugh. Adrianza has already been turning back into a pumpkin.

  25. One thing I will fault Braves management for is that they really don’t like to put themselves in position to get lucky.

    There is zero upside to playing Adrianza. He’s 31 years old with 1300 MLB plate appearances. Arcia, Demeritte, or even Camargo would give you a better chance of getting lucky.

    Adrianza might do better than Ozuna has done, but he can’t do as well as what we need done.

  26. Endy Chavez was a good fourth outfielder, but he really couldn’t hit, could he?

  27. @30 It might be when your budget is under $150M and you’re having to find $40M in free agents every year to fill crucial roles in the lineup and rotation while the rest of the team becomes more expensive.

  28. So Camargo will get 4 at bats and be sent back to the minors. The question is, how many consecutive days will he be on the major league roster? My guess is about 10.

  29. Ingdigo Diaz
    there are few who have the skills that he has
    striking out the side in an inning
    he won’t settle for three, four is his more usual beginning.

  30. I think there’s a window to get the game in tonight.

    It’s not going to be pretty, though. Drizzly, chilly & windy now.

    Got tix for tonight & tomorrow. Guess I better bundle up.

  31. I just drove from Lexington, VA all the way to New Hampshire and skirted NYC and it was pouring rain the entire way from when we cranked the car til we pulled in the driveway.

  32. There are so many probably unacceptable things to say to that news, Chief. Chose whichever tickles you.

  33. Ian Anderson’s work against Maybin and the pitcher is … less than impressive.

  34. @54
    well, shit.
    Strangulation/ aggravated assault

    I’m guessing a 1 handed choke technique, since the cast wouldn’t allow 2 hands?

    2021 is just great

  35. Freddie has zero idea/command of the strike zone as a hitter, right now.

  36. Well if that’s true Ozuna needs to be cut immediately. We’re about to find out a lot about the integrity of the Braves organization.

  37. Apparently Ozuna’s wife was also arrested last year for domestic abuse. I’m all turned around at this point.

  38. @63 Sounds like a typical marriage, lol.

    But back to the game, this offense sucksssss, and the mets scrubs are embarrassing them.

  39. @63 IMO that matters not. Never ever put your hands on a woman, ever. I’m not being political here.

    Based on Braves Twitter’s reaction there is going to be major backlash if he’s not cut.

  40. Anyone tell the Braves that it was last night’s game that was postponed…not tonight’s.

    Sheesh – – the sushi I had last night had more life in it than the Braves team that showed up tonight.

  41. Would have to think that the wife would have to not press charges and declare to the world that they have a squirrel’s nest relationship in order to prevent Ozuna from being released.

  42. Letting THIS Mets lineup get seven runs in an inning … yikes.

  43. Santana and Flaa unsurprisingly stinking up the joint. Hard to imagine snd of the young pitchers sucking worse.

    If Ozuna is cut, what’s the answer? It can’t be the Ender/Adrianza combo.

  44. At this stage I would rest Fried, Morton, and Freeman. Play the kids for the experience. Lost season

  45. The police witnessed him grabbing her by the throat and him hitting her with the cast. I don’t know what the response time was, but there likely was other violence before they arrived. This is really bad.

  46. Team is cursed.

    Never waste your time or reputation on justifying domestic violence. On the 1% chance both enjoy the abuse, it’s still despicable to put on display to the public. There must be zero tolerance on this. It’s a heart breaking thing to hear, and it also makes me wonder about his locker room presence this year.

    Ozuna is probably done. Same with his career.

    Sliver lining: this most likely gets the Braves off the hook with this ever more likely albatross of a contract. Seems likely Ozuna put on a good show during the few months of dating the Braves, but it went south after the wedding.

  47. I just can’t believe what a POS season 2021 has been. It’s just not been the same team we’ve been watching since 2018. Dud season so far.

  48. As a teacher that has seen the impact of domestic violence in a home, I hope this is handled quickly.

  49. Yeah, given the history of Ozuna and his wife i was at least going to say let’s wait for the facts. However, if the police report is true, not much else is needed imo.

  50. Devil’s advocate from only a baseball side:
    This may be a good thing for the Braves (again only on the baseball aspect)
    It looks like some money just opened up. We can make a trade for a cheaper and/or better option. We just have to hang close for 3-5 weeks.

  51. Lots of much smarter comments & takes on the Ozuna situation in this thread…I’m so far from a domestic abuse expert.

    BUT – – I gotta say I’m not sure I’ve ever seen even the slightest bit of temper from Ozuna in all the games I’ve watched. He never has struck me as someone that could go off the handle – – to the degree that the police report is stating. This is really surprising to me.

    Despite this horrible development – – and despite a really frustrating season – – as I’ve gotten older, it’s been easier (not easy, but EASIER) to put it all in perspective. The important stuff that I relish most were things like Saturday morning – – time spent with my dear family at the farmers market, enjoying great coffee & bluegrass, with lots of hugs on the kids.

  52. Sadly re: Ozuna you never know what someone is capable of until you do. It’s an unpleasant situation for everyone.

    Jumping in on Scott’s statement: we can step back and appreciate that we have June baseball to look forward to. Something we didn’t have last year. And while the Braves aren’t hanging with the Dodgers and Padres this year, at least they aren’t the Tigers or Pirates.

    I’ll go back to lurking now…

  53. As I said a month or so ago, the Braves should be sellers at the deadline if anyone wants anyone besides Acuna on the 25 man roster including Albies.

    The only untouchables on this roster are Acuna, Fried, and Anderson, IMO. The rest can all go. Any of them.

  54. After a notable recent absence that was in no way connected to the team’s success, I see a certain type of analysis has returned.

  55. If I’m rebuilding, I’m selling anyone over age 30 and trying to acquire players like Ozzie Albies.

  56. Guys, we’re 24-26. Division leader is 25-20. We ain’t selling at the deadline. We’re closer to being buyers at this point than sellers. Braves fans, of all people, shouldn’t give a rip what our regular season record is. Where has that ever gotten us?

  57. I should emphasize IF we are rebuilding. There is zero reason to rebuild right when we are finally entering our window to contend. Rent an outfielder, get Pache 300 AAA at bats, see where Michael Harris and others end up this year, and hammer down. (Or should I say Hammer Down?)

    No trade can be evaluated without knowing the return, but my rebuild keeps my 24 year old, cost controlled, 4.5 WAR second baseman.

  58. Can’t beat fun at the old ballpark? Well, last night experience rated near the bottom…

    Only upside: As it was bone-chillingly cold (that unique wet-cold you get from being on Flushing Bay) with powerful gusts blowing hot-dog wrappers in circles, even the Mets fans couldn’t completely rejoice in the rout. Physically, they were as miserable as I was.

    Of course, as I realized this wasn’t going to get any better (my comfort or the score), I did something I never do — left in the bottom of the 6th inning. That’s when I got the Ozuna news & I thought: “Well, I guess things can get worse…”

    From the sound of it, Ozuna’s situation appears to be worse than that of Domingo German, the Yankee pitcher who served a long suspension for his scary incident a couple years ago. (Ozuna committing a felony in front of the police?) And no bail? Woo, bad.

    FWIW, tonight’s weather looks unrelentingly wet. As it stands, I can’t imagine they’ll play… which means they’ll probably tack on a doubleheader to each of the next 2 Flushing visits (which would make the July trip a 5-game series).

    Better luck vs. the Nats.

  59. What’s the deal with the Mets? We’ve played 5 more games than they have and we come to their place and potentially have 2 more rained out. They better get used to doubleheaders.

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