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I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down
2006-08-14 10:06
by Mike Carminati
There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond.

—William "Author" Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy; as a squash is before 'tis a peascod, or a codling when 'tis almost an apple. 'Tis with him in standing water between boy and man.
—William "Author" Shakespeare, Malvolio in Twelfth Night

On July 31, the Red Sox were a game up on the Yankees, and the Dodgers were in last place, five games behind the division leading Padres.

At the time the Dodgers were in the midst of an eleven-game winning streak. They have now won fifteen of their last sixteen. Their low point was July 26, when they lost 10-3 to the Padres to complete an eight-game losing streak and series sweep at the hands of the division leaders. For the two weeks following the All-Star break, the Dodgers were 1-13. The found themselves in last place with a 47-55 record, 7.5 games behind San Diego on July 26.

As for the Yankees, on July 31 they were in the midst of fleecing Bobby Abreu from the Phils (along with Corey Lidle also from the Phils and Craig Wilson from the Pirates).

Both teams now have slight (one or one and one half game leads) in their respective divisions. It made me ask myself a few questions. I said, "Self, how many times have the Red Sox been leapfrogged by the Yankees late in the season?" (among other questions). The Red Sox led most of the season, so how many days has a team been in first only to lose their division or league? Looking at the Dodgers, one has to wonder what the latest date in a season was that a division or league winner was in last place? Was it later than July 31?

I looked up the most times that one franchise leapfrogged over another team that was the division/league leader to nab the title. The Yankees have won their division/league 35 times after the Red Sox had gone out in front. That's tied for the most among all franchises. Here are the most all time:

Lost FirstTo Team#Yrs
Boston Red SoxNew York Yankees35
Baltimore OriolesNew York Yankees35
Cleveland IndiansNew York Yankees28
Detroit TigersNew York Yankees25
Minnesota TwinsNew York Yankees20
Philadelphia PhilliesAtlanta Braves19
Oakland AthleticsNew York Yankees19
Chicago CubsSt. Louis Cardinals19
Chicago White SoxNew York Yankees19
San Francisco GiantsLos Angeles Dodgers18
Pittsburgh PiratesSt. Louis Cardinals18
Atlanta BravesLos Angeles Dodgers17
Cincinnati RedsLos Angeles Dodgers17
Cincinnati RedsSt. Louis Cardinals16
Minnesota TwinsOakland Athletics16
Cincinnati RedsAtlanta Braves15
Chicago White SoxOakland Athletics15
Chicago CubsSan Francisco Giants15
Chicago CubsPittsburgh Pirates15
Philadelphia PhilliesLos Angeles Dodgers15

By contrast, the Red Sox leapfrogged the Yankees just 12 times. The least times it happened among the original 16 franchises was once, and it of course happened among the tail-end teams like my Phils and the Browns (i.e., Orioles):
Lost FirstTo Team#Yrs
Baltimore OriolesCleveland Indians1
Baltimore OriolesMinnesota Twins1
San Francisco GiantsPhiladelphia Phillies1
Oakland AthleticsBaltimore Orioles1
Minnesota TwinsBaltimore Orioles1
Cincinnati RedsPhiladelphia Phillies1

As for the most days in first only to lose the division/league title, the crown goes to the '69 Cubs whose September swoon led to the Amazing Mets 1969 World Series win. Of course, the '64 Phils make an appearance:

TeamLgDivYearFinal Pos# Days in 1stWild card?
Chicago CubsNLE19692151
Seattle MarinersALW20002149Y
Brooklyn DodgersNL 19422143
San Francisco GiantsNLW19932141
Brooklyn DodgersNL 19512141
Pittsburgh PiratesNL 19212141
Boston BeaneatersNL 18892140
St. Louis BrownsAA 18892138
California AngelsALW19852137
Seattle MarinersALW20032132N
Philadelphia PhilliesNL 19642132
Los Angeles DodgersNLW19912129
Seattle MarinersALW20023128N
Houston AstrosNLW19792127
California AngelsALW19952126N
Milwaukee BravesNL 19562124
New York GiantsNL 19342123
Detroit WolverinesNL 18862120
Chicago ColtsNL 18912120
Colorado RockiesNLW19952116Y
New York GiantsNL 19353116
Cleveland IndiansAL 19212115
Brooklyn DodgersNL 19462115
Boston Red SoxALE19782114
Detroit TigersAL 19502114
Baltimore OriolesALE19892114
Arizona DiamondbacksNLW20003113N
Detroit TigersAL 19112112
Philadelphia PhilliesNLE20012112N
Chicago CubsNLC20013110N
Cincinnati RedsNL 18983109
Cincinnati RedsNLW19872108
Los Angeles DodgersNL 19622108
Philadelphia WhitesNA 18732107
Atlanta BravesNLE19942105
Kansas City RoyalsALC20033104N
Minnesota TwinsALC20012103N
Chicago White SoxAL 19073102
New York GiantsNL 19142101
Los Angeles DodgersNLW19812101
Oakland AthleticsALW2004299N

As for the Dodgers, if they go on to win the division, they will come in second in the latest a team has been in last place only to win their division/league title. July 26 would beat out the 1914 Miracle Braves run at the NL crown and the M's first division title in 1995 by at least a week. They do fall short of the '73 Mets who were in last place on August 30 with a 61-71 record. They were in sixth in the NL East, a half-game behind fifth-place Philadelphia, and 6.5 behind the division-leading Cards (68-65). They went 21-8 thereafter, beat the Big Red Machine in the LCS, but lost the Series to the A's (the Cards went 13-16):

New York Mets1973NLE08306
Boston Braves1914NL 07188
Seattle Mariners1995ALW07164
Kansas City Royals1984ALW06287
San Diego Padres1996NLW06224
Los Angeles Dodgers1995NLW06214
Baltimore Orioles1974ALE06164
Pittsburgh Pirates1974NLE06156
Atlanta Braves2005NLE06134
Toronto Blue Jays1989ALE06066
Oakland Athletics2000ALW06043
Philadelphia Athletics1871NA 06029
Indianapolis Hoosiers1914FL 05318
Atlanta Braves1992NLW05266
Oakland Athletics2002ALW05234
St. Louis Cardinals1996NLC05204

Note that 16 times after mid-May did a last place team win their division/league crown. If the Dodgers win the NL West, they would become just the fourth team to go from last to first after the All-Star break.

2006-08-14 10:23:50
1.   Eric Stephen
Awesome stuff. Also, the Dodgers were in last as late as July 31, at 50-55 (5 GB of San Diego).

I remembered the agony of the Dodgers losing in 1991 to the Braves, but I didn't realize LA was in first for 129 days! That stings even more now. Visions of Darryl Strawberry's only productive Dodger season are dancing in my head.

2006-08-14 11:05:24
2.   Scott Long
Nice work. By the way, if you want to get the Scott Long demographic to be guaranteed to check out a post, put up an Elvis Costello song title. Declan rules!
2006-08-14 11:39:53
3.   Cliff Corcoran
2 Yup, the title hooked me too, though the EC version was a cover of an old Sam & Dave tune.

Meanwhile, it's become something of a cliche in the AL East that the Red Sox are always first on Memorial Day and the Yankees are always in first on Labor Day. Nice to see the numbers support that (if vaguely).

2006-08-14 13:03:26
4.   unmoderated
i was also here to post about elvis, but stumbled upon baseball statistics.

intersting ones, too.

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