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0-5 Success

Posted by Raphy on April 7, 2011

Houston, Boston and Tampa Bay all sport disappointing 0-5 records . Five games isn't a lot over the course of a long season, but it is rare for really good teams to start that poorly. In fact  only 2 teams in history have overcome an 0-5 start to win their divisions.

PIT sched  1974-04-05  1974-04-12     0-5      .000     20     38   88-74     1 Division Champ
CIN sched  1995-04-26  1995-04-30     0-5      .000     24     37   85-59     1 Division Champ

Six teams that have started 0-5 have gone on to win more than 55.6% (the equivalent of 90 out of 162) of their games.

CIN sched  1995-04-26  1995-04-30     0-5      .000     24     37   85-59     1 Division Champ
LAD sched  1976-04-09  1976-04-16     0-5      .000     13     24   92-70     2
MON sched  1987-04-06  1987-04-12     0-5      .000     10     28   91-71     3
BAL sched  1978-04-07  1978-04-12     0-5      .000     15     49   90-71     4
NYY sched  1930-04-15  1930-04-22     0-5      .000     16     30   86-68     3
STL sched  1960-04-12  1960-04-17     0-5      .000     11     22   86-68     3

41 Responses to “0-5 Success”

  1. Dcarson10 Says:

    I believe the Redsox certainly have a good chance of making this a three team list. There's no reason to believe that Pedroia and Youkilis won't pick up their hitting soon. Crawford and Ellsbury should improve soon. I don't think their hitting should be a concern.

    That rotation, which everyone was saying was so strong in the off-season, could be their downfall. Lester is solid and he will pick it up, but the rest of the rotation is very questionable. Buchholz was great last year but it's still early in his career to count on him to be a number two. I've never been a Beckett fan. Aside from 2005 and maybe 2003, he's been a 2-3 guy. Lackey has been going downhill since 2007 and there's no reason to expect that trend to stop this year. Matszuaka is well....Matszuaka. Did anyone expect him to pitch well this year? I certainly don't.

    In order for this rotation to be great, too many things have to go right. While no, Lackey's ERA won't stay at 22 and Lester's will get his under 3.5 soon enough, it's possible their rotation will prevent them from winning the division.

    As for Houston, them being 0-5 is a dissapointment? I wouldn't even consider them a .500 team, let alone a division winner threat.

  2. mikeyjax Says:

    Honorable Mention to the '77 Phils who started 1-6 and still walked away with the division.

  3. John Says:

    (Disclosure: I am a Red Sox fan, wallowing in this early-season gut punch. Take this as you will...)

    I'd point out a couple things:
    - If you pick ANY five-game stretch, be it 1-5 or 132-136, and examine all teams in history that lost all five of those games, you are going to have a list of mostly bad teams, because good teams have a much lower chance of losing those particular games. These sorts of stats like to pretend it's less arbitrary to start from Game #1, but really, over a 162-game season, it all comes out in the wash. (I'm not sure if P-I could do it, but I'd love to see how many teams have lost games 132-136, and how many of them made the playoffs.)
    - Meanwhile, plenty of good teams -- even playoff teams -- have had five-game skids during their season, or worse. One week in a six-month season means relatively little.

    The Red Sox will be okay. They'll be in the playoff hunt in September. I'm among those skeptical of the Rays, after their postseason, and as Dcarson10 pointed out, there's no crazy expectations for Houston. So neither of those other 0-5's are particularly surprising to me. (Don't get me wrong: the Rays are a decent team still. I just don't see them competing in that division.)

  4. Mike S. Says:

    Re: Houston. I already saw that some scouts believe that they are the worst team in baseball. These scouts have them going something like 60-102, and finishing dead last, behind the Pirates (who have started out pretty well).

  5. John Says:

    I can't imagine Houston being worse than KC, who amusingly were looking at their second-best start in 22 years before their one major-league-star-level player (Joakim Soria) coughed up a hairball Wednesday afternoon.

  6. John Says:

    In mulling this post, I decided to take a look at the longest losing streaks for all world champs (yes, as a Red Sox fan, I'm still thinking that) in the divisional era. I found this to be interesting:

    - There's only been one champion without a 5-game losing streak this century: the 2007 Red Sox. There was only one champion in the 1990's without a 5-game skid: unsurprisingly, the 1998 Yankees. So in the era of expanded playoffs, only 2 of 16 champions.

    But in the era of the eight-team playoff field (1969-1993), 9 of the 25 champions bottomed out with a four-game losing streak, and two -- the '88 Dodgers and the '70 Orioles -- only had three-game losing streaks.

    I didn't feel like going any further back.

    Random? Parity? Something to do with expanded playoffs making it harder for the truly dominant teams?

  7. John Says:

    Whoops... when I said, "eight-team playoff field (1969-1993)", I obviously meant "four-team".

  8. Dave Says:

    @#3...true, but it's hard to just ignore the history of teams starting 0-5. There must be a reason why starting a season badly portends a sub-par season, as opposed to a generic 5 game skid during the season.

  9. John Autin Says:

    Have the BoSox suffered any significant injuries since the season began? If not, it makes no sense to reevaluate them after 5 games.

    They're 4 games out of first place, but no one expects the current first-place teams to contend. Boston is 3 games behind the Yankees -- with 157 games to play. They'll be fine.

  10. John Says:

    @#8. My point is that it's not an indicator of anything, besides the fact that good teams tend not to lost games. You're collecting a whole bunch of teams, good and bad, and then filtering for how many of them lost this game, this game, this game, this game and this game. Clearly, you're filtering out most of the good teams. Generally speaking, good teams don't lose a given game, but over the course of a season, they lose plenty.

    I figured out how to use P-I to get what I wanted here.

    As I count it, there have been 107 teams to lose every game from 131-135. Of those 107, only 3 teams made the playoffs: the 2008 Dodgers, the 1992 A's and the 1950 Phillies. Does that make games 131-135 critical? Well, no. Because using the same tool to find the 0-5 starts, I see that the 1995 Reds and the 1974 Pirates were two of 113 teams. Virtually identical to the 3-out-of-107 for my randomly-chosen games.

  11. Andy Says:

    One thing that's unfair about this type of analysis (and it's not what Raphy's done but similar analysis from other media outlets) is to list out all the many teams to start with such a poor record and fail to make the playoffs, and then state that the Red Sox (and the Rays!) face such long odds since only 2 out of however many teams have done it. The issue is that the Red Sox have way more talent than the vast majority of teams who started so poorly. Is anybody shocked by the Astros starting poorly? No, because they don't have a very good team. But how many teams as good as the 2011 Red Sox ever started 0-5 or 1-4 or similar? A bunch, no doubt, and most of them probably ended up with winning records. It would be a fallacy to think NOW that the Red Sox will win fewer than 90 games, even with this 0-5 start. Now, 90 games might not be enough to make the playoffs, but that's another story.

  12. John Says:

    By the way, if you're interested in making the playoffs and executing a five-game skid, I'd recommend starting at game 104 over either game 131 or game 1. The 100 teams that lost five in a row starting from #104 managed six division titles, three pennants and two championships.

  13. John Says:

    I meant to give a link to the Game-104 one.

  14. DavidRF Says:

    We had these posts last year too when the Red Sox started 4-9. They started 2-6 in 2009 before reeling off 11 straight wins to turn their cold start into a hot April.

  15. JDV Says:

    One thing that makes losing games 1-5 more painful is that you are, inescapably, five games under .500 and in last place. If your five-game skid happens later in the season, you might still be well over .500 and possibly in 1st place. So, it may be more relevant to ask how likely is it to come back from five games under .500 to make the playoffs.

  16. John Q Says:

    There's WAY too much emphasis put on the first 10 games/two weeks of the baseball season. It's about 6% of the baseball season which is basically nothing. Realistically any two week/10 game span in MLB is not a large enough sample size to reach a conclusion about a team's success or failure. A 10 game/two week span is basically the same as 1 Hole during One Round or 5 Holes overall at the Masters. 10 games/two weeks is also like 1 game in one NFL season.

    Maybe it has something to do with the long layoff and writers/fans are anxious so they end up putting a lot of attention of the first couple of weeks of the season.

    Go back and look at the most successful teams of the last 40-50 years and you will always finds gaps where they played poorly.

    The 2001 Mariners won 116 games and had a stretch from 6/17-6/28 where they were 4-7 and another stretch from 7/4-7/19 where they went 7-6.

    The 1998 Yankees who many believe is the greatest team of all time started the season 1-4. They had a stretch from 8/15-8/26 where they went 2-6, another from 8/30-9/7 where they went 2-5, another from 9/11-9/26 where they went 1-5.

    The '86 Mets won 108 games and went 1-6 from 8/12-8/17 and 1-6 from 9/8-9/15.

    The '84 Tigers won 104 games and went 4-7 from 5/25-6/6, 5-10 from 6/25-7/4, and 2-8 from 7/31-8/7.

    The '76 Reds, the BIG RED MACHINE won 102 games and went 4-8 from 8/14-8/26

    The '61 Yankees won 109 games and were 4-10 from 5/6-5/20.

    In terms of the Masters, Jack Nicklaus bogeyed 3 holes in Round One of the 1986 Masters and was +2 after Round One and +1 after Round Two. Even as late as the 7th hole of Round Three Nicklaus was still +1 Overall. He eventually won the Masters with a score of -9.

  17. BSK Says:

    "...true, but it's hard to just ignore the history of teams starting 0-5. There must be a reason why starting a season badly portends a sub-par season, as opposed to a generic 5 game skid during the season."

    Chicken... egg... Perhaps being a sub-par team portends a bad start. The Red Sox are not (likely to be) a sub-par team. Their bad start is likely an abberration. It is hard to put much predictive value in it.

  18. Greg Says:

    In the last 50 years, only two World Series champions have not had a losing streak as long as four games. The majority have had losing streaks as long as five games.

    WS Winners And Longest Losing Streak Of That Season
    2010 Giants - 7
    2009 Yankees - 5
    2008 Phillies - 6
    2007 Red Sox - 4 (3 times)
    2006 Cardinals - 8 (twice)
    2005 White Sox - 7
    2004 Red Sox - 5
    2003 Marlins - 6 (twice, both in May!)
    2002 Angels - 6
    2001 Diamondbacks - 5
    2000 Yankees - 7
    1999 Yankees - 5
    1998 Yankees - 4
    1997 Marlins - 5
    1996 Yankees - 5
    1995 Atlanta - 5
    1993 Blue Jays - 6
    1992 Blue Jays - 5
    1991 twins - 7
    1990 Reds - 8
    1989 A's - 4
    1988 Dodgers - 3 (10 times)
    1987 Twins - 6
    1986 Mets - 4 (twice)
    1985 Royals - 5
    1984 Tigers - 4 (three times)
    1983 Orioles - 7 (twice)
    1982 Cardinals - 4
    1981 Dodgers - 4
    1980 Phillies - 6
    1979 Pirates - 6
    1978 Yankees - 4 (twice)
    1977 Yankees - 5 (twice)
    1976 Reds - 4
    1975 Reds - 6
    1974 A's - 4
    1973 A's - 5
    1972 A's - 4 (twice)
    1971 Pirates - 4 (twice)
    1970 Orioles - 3 (twice)
    1969 Mets - 5
    1968 Tigers - 4
    1967 Cardinals - 4
    1966 Orioles - 4 (four times)
    1965 Dodgers - 4
    1964 Cardinals - 5 (twice)
    1963 Dodgers - 5
    1962 Yankees - 6
    1961 Yankees - 4
    1960 Pirates - 4 (twice)

  19. Dave Says:

    @#11 and #17...the Red Sox are good on paper but how do we know they will be good on the field? Just because?

  20. BSK Says:


    There is no guarantee that they will be good. That is why I put the "likely to be" part in the parentheses. Of course nothing is guaranteed. But the odds are in favor of them being a very good team. And we would be remiss to ignore that.

  21. Andy Says:

    #19, they have a lot of talent, particularly on offense. In the absence of a lot of injuries, they are pretty much guaranteed to be a great offensive team, even if 1 or 2 guys have so-so years. It is true, however, that their rotation doesn't look great so far, particularly since Beckett looks like he's pitching injured and Lackey and Matsuzaka didn't look good in their first start each.

    When teams that look good on paper aren't good on the field, it's almost always due to injuries. Once in a while it's because a whole bunch of guys have down years at the same time. All in all, it's not very common except with injuries (see 2010 Red Sox for a good example of this...)

  22. Mike S. Says:

    @ 5: Watch KC in the next couple of years. (I'm not a Royals fan). Prospects on the come, they are just like TB was right before TB exploded in 2008.

  23. John Q Says:

    I think the wild card and the extra division winner has changed the dynamic of the impact of poor starts. A poor start in a 6 or 7 team division with no wild card had a far greater impact then it does today.

    Take the 2005 Yankees, they were 11-19 on May 6 and ended up winning 95 games and the division.

    The '08 Phillies were 8-10 on April 19, 27-24 on May 24th and they eventually won 92 games and the WS.

    The '06 Cardinals were 3-13 from 6/20-7/6 of that year and won the WS.

    The '03 Marlins were 34-39 on June 18th and eventually won the WS

    The 2000 Yankees were 38-36 on June 30th and eventually won the WS.

    You can find poor/mediocre starts/seasons from WS teams even before the wild card.

    The '87 Twins were 27-26 on June 5th of that year and won the WS.

    The '80 Phillies were 55-52 on August 10th and in third place and eventually won the WS.

    The '78 Yankees were 47-42 on July 17th and in Fourth Place! They eventually won 100 games and won the WS.

    The '73 Mets were 52-65 on August the 14th of that year and were One game away from winning the WS.

  24. John Says:

    @ 22. I know. The Royals WILL BE formidable. But part of the reason they're so good is that they've traded virtually every big-league asset of any value whatsoever.

    I'm looking forward to the Royals' coming back. I was a Brett fan, back in the day.

  25. Evil Squirrel Says:


    Including the '06 Cardinals in your list of examples kind of stands out since they represent the complete opposite of what this topic was about. Had they not gotten off to such a great start (42-26 on 6/19) they would have never sniffed the playoffs, let alone the WS since they went 41-52 after that date (Who said important games are only played in August and September?)

    Run that season in reverse, and the 2006 Cards are one of the best stories in recent memory (And Pujols is the runaway NL MVP winner since his April/May stats were ridiculous). As it is, they nearly pulled off the greatest choke of all time (Almost blowing a 7 game lead with a week and a half to play), and lived to tell about it and raise the WS hardware....

  26. Dvd Avins Says:

    Even if every team were equally good and every game was 50-50, there would be few teams that would start 0-5 and go on to win 90 games. First, only one out of 23 teams would start 0-5, a little fewerthan one a year. Then a team would have to go at least 90-67 the rest of the way. That's about two standard deviations over the man, which means that only about one out of forty teams that start out that way will exceed 50-50 by that much. (Another one out of fourty would fall short by that much.) So all in all, we'd expect about one team every 50 years. The fact that there are more than that suggests that teams are naturally streaky, because of injuries, failing starting pithers who will be replaced, and other personnel moves.

  27. DavidRF Says:

    The 1991 Twins are an even better fit than the 1987 team even though they weren't a "cinderella". They were 20-24 in late May. They had a fifteen game winning streak and didn't look back.

    I don't think that anybody is claiming that a five game losing streak somehow eliminates the Red Sox. These are fun posts and winning teams have rough patches throughout the year. It is a bit disconcerting seeing them "use up" one of their rough patches right away though.

  28. DavidRF Says:


    Should we redo all the math? 🙂

    We could do this everyday until they are back to .500 (or eliminated).

  29. DavidRF Says:

    Its still PIT-1974 and CIN-1995 as they both lost game #6. Maybe the Sox knew that and weren't worried. 🙂

  30. John Q Says:

    @25 Evil Squirell,

    Valid point.

    I was really trying to highlight how a team could be awful for a two week period and still win the WS. The Cards had a .187 win% 3-13 for that three week period.

    The big problem is a 5 game sample size (3% Overall) in a major league season is far too small a sample size to derive a lot of meaning. I bet if you flip it around and check teams that started with a 5-0 start, you would find a lot of poor/mediocre seasons.

    It's hard to predict anything after just 5 games. The '78 Mets were 4-1 after five and ended up loosing 96 games.

    I think water seeks it's own level. Good teams end up being half-way decent and bad teams end up finishing poorly.

    The '82 Mets had a 24-18 record on May 24, they ended up going 41-79 the rest of the season.

    The '80 Mets were 50-51 on August 2nd in fourth place, 6 games out, the finished the season 17-44, 24 games out of first.

    The '91 Mets were 49-34 on July 13th, 2 1/2 out of first and they ended up going 28-50 the rest of season.

    The '04 Mets were 43-40 on July 4th in second place 1 game out of First. They ended up 28-51 for the season

  31. Don Malcolm Says:

    Appreciate the full data dump for this breakout, which used to be something that those of us "playing at home" could also do. Not any more, apparently--when I try to run the similar report for all teams and all years I only get "top 200" and "bottom 200." I know that I collate all of it by going team by team, but that's mighty tedious. Any chance that you guys will create a new pay level that will make it possible for folks who want the same capabilities as the "insiders" at B-R?

  32. BSK Says:

    A few more thoughts...

    They've yet to play at home, which is at least slightly encouraging.

    Then again, they have looked pretty crappy. It is one thing to lose 6 games but look good while doing it (playing well, remaining competitive, excelling in at least some areas). From what I've seen (and I haven't watched every game in entirety), they've looked bad. Until today, they hadn't really gotten a decent pitching performance, they put some runs on the board in the first few games but have otherwise looked out of whack on offense, and the bullpen has been a disaster.

    On the one hand, all of these areas are naturally going to struggle at some pont in the season. Maybe it is better to have them all struggle at once, blow 6 games, then have each one struggle seperately and lose half your games over an extended stretch.

    On the other hand, I might just be rationalizing.

  33. Raphy Says:

    @31 - Don - I don't have any insider tools. To create the list which is linked to in the post -

    1) Use the steak finder:
    2) Set "Games in Streak" to 5.
    3) Set "Year" to All Years.
    4) Set "Team" to All Teams
    5) Choose "From Beginning of Season Only"
    6) Click on "Find Streaks"

  34. Don Malcolm Says:

    Thanks for the clarification. It seems that if one chooses your option and sorts by "date" (which is the default), the full report comes up. When one sorts by "Wins" or "Losses," however, a truncated report along the lines of what I described appears. There are some nuances there, and thanks again for helping me figure them out!

  35. DoubleDiamond Says:

    @18 - The two 6-game losing streaks by the Marlins in May 2003 are what probably led to the firing of their manager Jeff Torborg and the hiring of Jack McKeon.

    Since I knew that the 1983 World Series losing Phillies had also fired their manager in mid-season, despite being in first place at the time, I wondered if this had occurred during or just following a long losing streak. What I discovered is that this was not the case, but the Phillies did have three 6-game losing streaks that year. Two were under original manager Pat Corrales, and the other was under replacement manager Paul Owens.

    The Phillies also had one of those rare 163-game seasons that year - not because of a tiebreaker game at the end but because of a tie. The tie was in a game against the Expos. Philadelphia and Montreal playing to a tie in 1983 would not have sounded strange - provided, of course, that the teams were the Flyers and the Canadiens.

  36. John Q Says:

    Double Diamond,

    Good one on the '83 Phillies, I totally forgot they changed manager mid way through the season.

    That '83 Phillies was one of the strangest WS teams. They basically won because of Mike Schmidt's great season and then John Denny had a crazy career year. Carlton was very good and Joe Morgan & Al Holland had good seasons but other than that there wasn't a heck of a lot.

    Pete Rose didn't hit any HR that year and had a .316 on base with a .286 slugging percentage. I can't think of another WS team 1b that had such terrible numbers. And the back-up was a 40 year old Tony Perez who had a .316 on base percentage.

    The thing I remember about that year was that the Pirates were in 1rst place as late as September 16-17th and then the Phillies came out of nowhere and won 11 in a row and went 14-2 to take the division.

    That Pirates team was kind of the last hurrah for those 70's era Pirate teams. Parker, Bibby, Easler and Hebner would be gone after the season Stargell, Moreno, B. Robinson, and Milner left after the '82 season and then Berra, Lacy & Tekulve would be gone after 1984 season.

    They would struggle for the next 5 seasons until Bonds, Bonilla, and Drabeck took over the show

  37. Sean Says:

    If it was mid-July with 70 games left and Boston was 4 games out---there would be NO concern as long as they were healthy.

    They are healthy and have 156 games left to make up that -4.

    Because it's the ONLY 6 games played thus far, it sounds bigger than it is-----but unless people think that they were completely wrong about this team's ability to win 95+ games, it's silly to be concerned with anything you weren't concerned with before.

    Francona said it best. 'We'd better start acting like a good team.'

  38. John Q Says:

    When I was looking at the '83 Pirates I noticed they started off the season 5-0.

    Like I said people make way too many assumptions about the first two-four weeks of the season.

    If you've played fantasy baseball you know what I mean. There's always a bunch of guys that panic when a good player performs poorly and either trades them or releases them outright. I remember David Ortiz was dropped in one of my leagues because he started out poorly. I think Ortiz was a 7-9th round pick and he was just dropped outright. Someone else picked him up and It ended up that Ortiz hit 32 HR and 100rbi for the season.

  39. John Says:

    Well, in case anyone cares...

    I wasted a bunch of time yesterday trying to determine if WHEN your five-game losing streak is, during the season actually matters, with regards to making the playoffs. The answer, as we probably all expect, is that it doesn't, at all.

    This graph, which shows the percentage chance of making the playoffs if you lose five games in a row starting with game #X, looks like pure noise to me.

    Now, if you have a six-game losing streak, I'd imagine the overall percentage would be slightly worse, and so forth.

  40. John Says:

    I can't seem to make a link anymore. How annoying

  41. John Says: