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Devil of a Streak
2004-06-23 15:05
by Mike Carminati

As I'm sure you've already heard, the Devil Rays have improbably won twelve straight games. Should they make it thirteen straight, they reach .500 for the first time since April 17, when they were 5-5. It's especially odd given the fact that it took the D-Rays 40 tries to win their first 12 games this year, and that occurred just a little over a month ago on May 21.

A year ago today, Tampa Bay was 24-49, .328 winning percentage. They were 20 games behind the first-place Yankees, and 9.5 behind the fourth place O's. Two years ago? They were again last: 24-48, .333, 21.5 out of first with the worst record in baseball. In 2001, they were last in the AL East, 21-51, .291, 22.5 back, with the worst record in baseball. In 2000, they were last in the AL East, 28-42, .400, 10 games back, with the worst record in the AL. In 1999, they were, you guessed it, last in the AL East: 29-41, .414, 12 back. In 1998: Lats in AL East, 31-43, .418, 22.5 games back. And that's it. Their best previous record on June 23 came in their inaugural season (1998).

Also, this has been a rollercoaster year for Tampa Bay. They started off 5-4 on April 16. Then went 5 and Twenty-four over their next 29 games to fall to 10-28 on May 19 at which time they had just lost their 5th straight and the 12th out of their last 13 tries. Tampa Bay then won 5 straight and 11 of 17 to run their record to 21-34 on June 8. With twelve straight wins their record is now 33-34. Take out their 5-24 run and they have a 28-10, .737 record.

I thought it would be fun to see what the odds were for the D-Rays to win 12 straight given the "past is prologue" theory at various points throughout the young season. I also included their odds of reaching the all-time record of 26 straight (by 1916 Giants). By the way, the odds of a .500 team winning 12 straight is one in 4,096 and winning 26 straight, one in 67,108,864:

DateWLPCTPrev WLPCTOdds of winning next 12 (one inů)Odds of winning next 26 (one inů)
16-Apr54.55654.5561,1574,335,959
19-May1028.263524.1729,065,7381,186,788,999,240,560
8-Jun2134.382116.647104,16574,426,614,399
22-Jun3334.4931201.0004,90699,216,164

The Devil Rays should they match the Giants all-time record, will be a good record companion for the 1916 team. Here's a rundown of that team that I put together when the A's were threatening their record two seasons ago:

Of these teams [i.e., the all-time win-streak teams], the 1916 New York Giants are by far the oddest. They have the longest streak and qualify for the list for two separate streaks, but they are one of two teams to be included that finished fourth. As a matter of fact half of their win total is derived from their two streaks. They would be 43-66 without those two streaks. So I investigated further.

First the 1916 Giants presaged the 1979 Pirates and any of a half-dozen or so teams today who have more than just the home and away jerseys. The Giants had four jerseys and three-well, I'll let Marc Okkonen from Baseball Unifoems of the 20th Century describe it-"provided the ultimate-an almost plaid effect with a crossing of multiple fine lines of purple" and purple hose. Wow, and you thought the Diamondback unis were ugly. This sartorial trailblazing was abandoned after one season.

Their season is almost nearly as strange:

- On April 23 with a record of 1-5, the Giants are trailing 8-1 in the first inning of an exhibition game with the Long Branch Cubans at West Side Park, Jersey City, when rain ends the game sparing them embarrassment.

- They do not collect their second win until the 11th game of the season; their third win comes in their 16th game.

- They then proceed to win 16 more in a row for 17 in total. The streak starts May 9 and goes to May 29, inclusive. The 17 wins are all on the road. The Giants move from eighth (last), 8.5 games out, to second, 1.5 game out, during the streak.

- On June 22, they lose to the Braves at home, 3-1 in eleven innings for their third straight loss. They are 25-24 in third place, 5 games back. In the eleventh the Braves execute a triple steal with Johnny Evers the lead runner (the NL's only triple steal in extra innings)

- The Giants lose three of four games to the Dodgers in consecutive doubleheaders (June 24 and 26). The only win is for Christy Mathewson who relieves Bill Perritt, and it proves to be his last in the majors. Also, three fans are arrested in the game for not throwing back foul balls (see the Angels fans the other day just wanted to comply with the law). In the process the Giants fall into fourth place, 6.5 games out.

- The lose both ends of a doubleheader to the Phillies on June 29 and to the Dodgers on July 4, both at the Polo Grounds.

- On July 20 the Giants trade three future Hall of Famers in Christy Mathewson, Edd Roush, Bill McKechnie (Hall of Fame manager) for former Giants Buck Herzog and Red Killefer.

- On July 26, they lose to Cincinnati 4-2 at home for their third loss in a row. Their record is 39-43. They are in fifth, 9.5 games back.

- On July 31, New York beats Pittsburgh at the Polo Grounds in both ends of a doubleheader for the second time in a row to complete a six game winning streak. They are now 45-43 in fourth place, 8.5 games back.

- On August 14, the Phillies behind future Hall of Famers Peter Alexander and Eppa Rixey sweep both ends of a doubleheader from the Giants in the Baker Bowl. They are now 52-49, in fourth, 11 games out.

- On August 20, the Giants fall below .500 again (53-53, fourth place, 14 games behind) losing to the Cards in St. Louis, 5-0. They will remain below .500 until their next streak. They also trade Fred Merkle of "Merkle's Boner" fame to Brooklyn.

- On September 6, the Giants split a doubleheader with the Robins (soon to be Dodgers) at the Polo Grounds, with Rube Benton pitching both games. The Giants end the day 59-62, in fourth place, 13.5 games out and playing out a string. The Phillies, in the midst of an eight-game win streak, are in first, followed closely by the Robins half-game back and Braves, one game back. The next day, the Giants defeat the Robins 4-1 to start their 26-game win streak.

- September 9 Pol Perritt takes both ends of a doubleheader from the Philles, 3-1 and 3-0.

- September 13, they defeat the Reds in both games of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds. They are nine games out. The Phillies and Robins are tied for first (Philadelphia leads by percentage points) and the Braves are one game back.

- September 15, The Giants-Reds game is called in the fourth with the Reds winning 2-0.

- September 16, 18, and 19, they win five of six games from the Pirates in three sets of doubleheaders at the Polo Grounds. The second game on September 18 is called after eight innings tied 1-1.

- September 23 the Giants defeat the Cardinals 1-0 and 6-2 to extend their win streak to 21 games breaking the record set by Providence in 1884. They are now 80-62 in fourth, seven games out.

- September 28 the Giants take their fourth straight doubleheader defeating the Braves 2-0 and 6-0 at the Polo Grounds. They are 84-62, in fourth place, 4.5 games out with eight games left. Also, the Phillies defeat the Robins 8-4 behind Pete Alexander. The Phillies are now a half-game out of first behind the Robins. The Braves are 4 back and the Giants 5. The Giants can still win the pennant if all things go in their favor.

- September 30 is another doubleheader for the Giants again against the Braves. In game one Rube Benton takes another no-hitter into the eighth but then gives up the only Braves hit of the game to Ed Konetchy. The Giants score their third straight shut out of the Braves, 4-0. The Braves and Giants are in a virtual tie for third with Boston ahead by percentage points.

- They lose the second game 8-3 to end the streak. Oddly, this streak came all at home while the first was entirely on the road. They are now 85-63, in fourth place, 4.5 games out with six games left. The Robins and Phillies play a doubleheader at Ebbet's Field. Brooklyn takes the first game to go up by 1.5 games but lose the second to go up by just one half again. The Braves and Giants remain 4 and 5 games back respectively. The best that the Gainst can now hope for is a tie with the Robins, but the Giants will now finish the season in Brooklyn. The Phillies and Braves will duke it out in the Baker Bowl to end their years.

- In their next game October 2 against the Robins, they lose 2-0 to fall to 85-66, in fourth place, 5.5 games out. They are officially eliminated from the pennant race. The Braves and Phillies split. Brooklyn leads, the Phillies are one game back, the Braves 4.5, and the Giants 6. The Braves mathematically can still force a tie for the pennant.

- On October third, manager John McGraw leaves the bench after five innings in disgust. His Giants lose 9-6 and he is convinced that they did not put in their best effort in order to help the Robins, a team with many ex-Giants on their roster. When Boston sweeps Philadelphia, the Robins are said to clinch the pennant. (Mathematically, the Phillies could still have tied the Robins, but since they had lost some games to ties during the season, they were eliminated. If that happened today, the teams would be forced to re-play the tie games. I am not sure if that rule was in place in 1916. If so, the Robins did not in actuality clinch until the last day of the season.)

- October 5: The Giants are beaten by Brooklyn 7-5 to finish the season 86-66 in fourth, 5.5 behind the pennant-winning Robins. In the World Series the Robins lose to Babe Ruth and the Red Sox in five games. The Red Sox play their home games in Braves Field, preferring it to Fenway Park because of the additional seating.

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