Saturday, June 20, 2015

Streaking in the AL East ( Or Can The Red Sox Have The Much Needed Winning Streak?)

For all of the 2015 campaign as our Red Sox have floundered ( to put it politely), the carrot that has been held in front of us is that elusive long winning streak that will put the Sox back in the hunt. The curative effect of that type of win streak may be diminishing as the Sox deficit is now nine games rather than the four or five of earlier in the season.  But the question we ask here is can this team have such a long win streak?

To look for clues to help us predict the future of this Red Sox team, we will search in three places:

1. Performance of recent poor Red Sox teams: 2012 and 2014.

2. The streaks and standings of this year's AL East.

3. The results for the past eight seasons for the team which resided in last place in the AL East on June 20.

RED SOX 2012 & 2014

Last year's Red Sox squad had one each of a long winning streak and string of  losses.  But they both had happened before June 20. From May 15 to May 25 the Sox lost ten in a row. Amazingly, they ended this streak by immediately going on their longest winning streak of the year, seven from May 26 to June 1. After the back to back streaks the Red Sox were only six games out on June 1, but from that point on never had another winning streak of more than five games.  And they only had one of these, wrapped around the All Star Game ( the middle three wins coming versus the Royals, the eventual AL Champ).

In 2012 the longest win streak was six games, but that came in April.  The only other strong stretch came at this time of year.  The won 11 of 14 from June 12-27.  The bad news for this year's Red Sox team concerning that period is the '12 Sox were 6.5 games out before the 11 of 14 and were still 6.5 games out after it.  The other interesting thing about the one hot stretch of 2012 is nine of the eleven wins were in interleague games.

2015 AL EAST

This year's Red Sox team snapped what had been their longest losing streak of the year at seven games earlier this week.  At this point in the season, the seven games is also the longest losing streak by any AL East team (although all the teams have had similar streaks).  Twice this season, the Red Sox have matched their longest winning streak. Unfortunately the longest winning streak so far has been three. From April 9-11, one over the Phillies and two over the Yankees (including the nineteen inning marathon win).  Then the recent three game sweep of Oakland at home, which temporarily raised some hopes.  Here is a list of the other AL East teams and their longest win/loss streaks of the year:

Team                   Winning Streak                          Losing Streak

Tampa Bay              5 (April 22-26)                         6 ( May 23-29)
New York               7 (June 1-9)                              6 (May 17-24)
Baltimore                6 (June 7-13)                            5 (April 20-24 & May 30-June 3)
Toronto                 11 ( June 2-14)                           5 (May 13-17)

So not only has Boston had the longest losing streak of the five similarly bad stretches, but they have not had any thing that could reasonably be called a wining streak.  All of the divisional opponents have had decent ( Rays) to excellent ( Jays) streaks.  It is not unreasonable to think Boston could have one of their own.

Standings as of June 20 AM in the AL East

1. Tampa Bay        --
2. New York          1 GB
3. Toronto              2 GB
4. Baltimore           4 GB
5. Boston               9 GB

GHOSTS OF JUNE 20 PAST IN THE AL EAST

Now we will take a look at the previous eight seasons (2007-2014) in the AL East to see who was in fifth place on June 20.  We will look to see if any or all of these teams were able to put together any type of winning streaks before or after June 20.  We will also review the finishes of those June cellar dwellers.

2014: Tampa Bay     29-46 13 GB    1. Tor.  2. NYY 1.5 GB 3. Bal. 3.5 GB 4. Bos. 7.5 GB

The '14 Rays began their best stretch of the season in late June.  From June 25 to July 6 they won ten of twelve, and then on July 12 began a nine game winning streak. From June 25 to July 26 the Rays went 20-5 cutting their deficit in half from 13 GB to 6.5.  From June 20 to the end of 2014 Tampa Bay had a wining record of 48-39.  But they still finished fourth (passing only Boston after June 20) at 77-85, nineteen games behind Baltimore.

2013: Toronto          35-36 7 GB     1. Bos. 2. O's 1 GB  3. NYY 3.5 GB 4. TB 5 GB

The reason the Jays were only one game under .500 and within seven games of the lead is because on June 20 the were in the midst of their only great streak of the year: eleven wins in a row from June 11-23.  This hot streak cut their deficit from 12 games to 5.  After June 23, the best win streak Toronto had was three, which they did several times.  In both July and August the Jays suffered through seven game losing streaks.  The finished 2013 still last in the AL East, 74-88, 23 GB Boston.

2012: Boston.  This team has all ready been discussed above, but to sum up this team had nothing to resemble a winning streak after June 20.

2011: Baltimore        33-37  10 GB   1. Bos.  2. NYY 1.5 GB  3. TB  4.5 GB 4. Tor. 8.5 GB

This Orioles team, the most recent of a number of Baltimore teams in last place on June 20, had their longest winning streak of the year ahead of them. They won six in a row from August 22-28, but by late August Baltimore had long since buried themselves with a nine game losing streak from July 4-15, which was the middle part of a horrid 14 of 15 loss stretch. The Birds finished 69-93, in last place 28 games behind the Yankees.

2010: Baltimore       19-50   24 GB    1. NYY  2. TB 1 GB 3. Bos. 1 GB 4. Tor. 5.5 GB

This O's entry buried themselves by June 20.  The only good news here to be found for explorers of winning streaks (like ourselves) is after June 20, Baltimore had seven four game winning streaks (four was their longest), and sandwiched a single loss between two of the four gamers to have one stretch in August where they won eight of nine.  This O's team also finished the year in last, 66-96, 30 GB the Rays.

2009: Baltimore       31-37   10 GB     1. Bos.  2. NYY 3 GB  3. Tor. 5 Gb  4. TB  6 GB

The best winning streaks put up by this cellar dwelling O's team was five, which they did twice.  But not after June 20, one was in late May and other was during June 20, the 17th to 21st of June.  No other win streaks at all after June 20 and a late September 13 game losing streak capped off a 64-98 finish, 39 GB New York.

2008: Toronto         35-40   10.5 GB    1. Bos.  2. TB 1.5 GB  3. NYY 5 GB 4. Balt. 5.5 GB

On June 20 ( the 21st to be exact) the Jays were finishing the worst losing streak of the year, seven games.  The Jays went on to be the best performer on this list ( more on that at the end of this post), they had a ten game win streak ahead of them, on August 30- September 9.  After June 20, the Jays overall record was 51-36. Despite this strong second half of the season, the Jays could climb no higher than fourth.  This is to a large degree because the first place Rays won 97 games and the wild card Red Sox won 95.  The Jays finished with a winning record of 86-76, only eleven games behind the Rays and only three behind the third place Yankees.

2007: Baltimore  30-41   16 GB        1. Bos.  2. NYY 10 GB  3. Tor. 11.5 GB  4. TB 14.5

What a glorious season with the Sox ten games ahead of the pack in late June (but I digress).  The Orioles again did have their best win streak ahead of them, but it was only five games in late July. Otherwise the O's limped to the finish line in fifth again, 27 games behind the AL East and eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox.

 RECAP

So is there any hope of finding a long winning streak for the Red Sox in any of these past eight  seasons? The answer as usual is maybe.  Only three of the eight entrants had a streak of nine wins or more.  The '14 Rays with nine, the Blue Jays in '13 and '08 with eleven and ten, respectively.   That is less than a 50% record (3 of 8), but there is the likelihood the numbers are skewed by several truly awful Oriole teams ( to be honest by a equally putrid 2012 Bobby V Red Sox team).  But it certainly is possible for a last place team on June 20 to reel off a win streak of ten games or so.

Now on to less good news: the eventual finishes of the June 20 fifth place teams.  Not a single one of the eight finished above fourth place.  Three fourth place finishes, the other five in last.  The same odds as having the long win streak pertain to finishing out of last place, three out of eight.  But again the chances of finishing above fourth is zero for eight.

So the answer to the question in our post title, can this Sox team have a long winning streak is likely yes ( at least a roughly 40% chance if not better).  But the evidence is even stronger this streak (unless it were to reach 20 games or some other outlandish number) will not lead to a post season berth.  But it would be worth something just to climb back into the fringes of a race.

We will finish by going back to the best team on the list of previous AL East June 20 last place occupants: the 2008 Toronto Blue Jays.  As stated above the Jays finished a losing streak on June 21, and went on to play .586 ball the rest of the way and got to 86 wins.  Getting to 86 wins in 2015 in this AL East could mean much better than the fourth place the Jays got in '08.

Now for the really interesting thing about the 2008 Blue Jays.  On June 20, the very same date this is being typed, Toronto fired their manager, John Gibbons (who of course is also their current manager, but that is another story) and replaced him with former Jays skipper Cito Gaston.   So the best team on our list above, and the only team to finish strongly and in fact ten games over .500, embarked on this turnaround after firing their manager. Hmmmmmmm.

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