With streak over, will bad karma bite Tribe?

The Columbus Dispatch - - Sports - MICHAEL ARACE

Base­ball is not built for 22-game win­ning streaks. Not any­more. Such things are as un­nat­u­ral as plas­tic surgery. A team that looks so tight for so long has to bow to grav­ity sooner or later. Right?

A team that wins 22 games in a row has to be mess­ing with the base­ball gods. Sooner or later, Old Hoss Rad­bourn is go­ing to get up in the big bullpen in the sky and throw a light­ning bolt. Right?

You win 22 in a row and you start think­ing like a Bud­dhist, that life is pain as well as plea­sure, and the pain is com­ing. There has to be a karmic reck­on­ing. Right?

The Los An­ge­les Dodgers went 25-5 from July 20 through Aug. 5. They had a 21-game lead in the Na­tional League West. They pro­ceeded to lose 16 of their next 17 games. It was in­evitable. Right?

Not nec­es­sar­ily. Let us set the base­ball gods aside for a mo­ment. Here is a ques­tion di­rected to Bill James, the Coper­ni­cus of the stats-cen­tered base­ball world, whose bill­jameson­line.com is


One “ajmil­ner” asks: Of the seven long­est win­ning streaks in base­ball his­tory (that is, 20-plus wins in a row), five be­gan af­ter Au­gust 1st. It’s a ridicu­lously tiny sam­ple size, I know, but might there be a cor­re­la­tion?

Bill James an­swers:

win­ning per­cent­age has a huge im­pact in the prob­a­bil­ity of a long win­ning streak. A .600 team is TWICE as likely to have a 20-game win­ning streak as a .580 team.

Here is my read­ing: The Cleve­land In­di­ans, whose 22-game win­ning streak was snapped with a 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Roy­als on Fri­day night, are a very good (.615) base­ball team. What they did — as­sem­ble the long­est recorded win­ning streak (with­out a tie) in 140 years (plus or mi­nus) of pro­fes­sional base­ball — is ex­ceed­ingly and

in­creas­ingly rare. Yet, it is not nec­es­sar­ily a sta­tis­ti­cal aber­ra­tion in the grand scope of things.

The Dodgers were not happy about los­ing 16 of 17, but the skid might have had more to do with pitch­ing than mar­ket cor­rec­tion.

You wake up with a 21-game lead in the third week of Au­gust, you start think­ing about Oc­to­ber, and man­ag­ing in­nings. Dodgers starters Clay­ton Ker­shaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda have been pitch­ing on five days rest since the Al­lS­tar break.

The Chicago Cubs, among other cham­pi­ons, have taught us that a well-rested, three­stud ro­ta­tion can carry a team into Novem­ber.

Cleve­land’s streak es­sen­tially clinched a play­off spot and, per­haps, home-field ad­van­tage through the AL cham­pi­onship se­ries. The In­di­ans have 13 games re­main­ing, and you can bet that man­ager Terry Fran­cona will shep­herd his team with a pure fo­cus on Oc­to­ber.

Among all the crazy stats that came out of the streak, the fol­low­ing may be the most no­table: Fran­cona used 18 pitch­ers over the 22 games; six play­ers had at least 10 RBI and five more had at least five RBI; and 17 play­ers had an ex­tra-base hit. The spread of those num­bers is a nat­u­ral hedge against im­plo­sion.

It is nat­u­ral for Cleve­landers to gird for loss, or to see rain as a har­bin­ger of pend­ing tragedy. The In­di­ans are a fine ball­club, as their streak at­tests. Let us see yet how it is man­aged down the stretch.

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