Friday, July 26, 2013

Tampa Bay Rays, Team of Destiny

Did you know the Tampa Bay Rays, after last night's rainout in Boston, have won 19 of their last 22 games? This has to be the quietest hot streak we've seen in a while. It's almost as if there's something else that has been dominating the baseball news...

Anyway, I looked to see how unusual a 19-3 run is. Since the start of divisional play in 1969, there have been 50 streaks of 19-3 or better, including the Rays, or a little over one a season. (Yes, I eliminated duplicates, in which one team, say, had three 19-3 streaks over a 24-game stretch.) How successful were those teams?

All of them finished with winning records. That's not a surprise. A team with a 19-3 streak would have to go 61-79 over their other games to finish below .500. That's a .436 winning percentage, what you'd expect from a 71-91 team. That kind of team is not likely to win 19 of 22. (I could figure out the probability, but it's Friday and I'm tired.)

Of those fifty teams, 38 played in the postseason. Ten won the World Series, five lost it, and 19 made the playoffs but were eliminated. Twelve went home at the end of the season. Wait, you're saying, that's only 47. True enough: In the strike year of 1994, three teams had 19-3 runs. Two were leading their division when the season ended, and one was only a game out of first. 

Split further, in the two division era (1969-1993), 25 teams had 19-3 runs. 64% made the postseason, 40% made the World Series, and 28% won it.

In the three division era (1995-2012), 21 teams had 19-3 streaks. 86% made the postseason, 24% made the Series, and 14% won it.

So since the advent of wild cards, only three teams (1996 White Sox, 3 behind the wild card; 1998 Angels, 7 behind the wild card and 3 behind in their division; 2005 A's, 7 behind the wild card and their division) have failed to make the playoffs. The Rays' run doesn't mean they're favorites to win, or even play in, the Series, but it does mean the odds are good that we'll be watching them into October.

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