Monday, May 27, 2013

Baseball Streaks--Team Hitting

Some time back I wrote a post on individual hitting streaks in baseball. This post will use the same measures I used in that post (for the most part) but view team hitting streaks instead.

I'll begin with some dubious ones, in all cases going back to 1916--these are the teams that were shut out in the most consecutive games:
With the organizational success the Braves have had beginning in 1991, it's hard to remember just how woeful they were prior to that. In this four-game stretch, they played relatively well, only giving up a combined 16 runs. They had a decent lineup featuring Bob Horner, Dale Murphy and Claudell Washington but still managed to finish the season at 66-96, only three seasons removed from their playoff appearance of 1982. 

Those are TWO different Senators teams that managed to have these streaks--the 1958 version went on to become the Twins and the 1964 became the Rangers.

These are the teams with the most consecutive one-run games:

The Twins made it twice, which must be a source of pride to them. The 2001 Tigers were not a good team--actually, they would be even worse in 2002 when they won only 55 games, but if you look at that roster, be sure you haven't eaten recently. It's hard to believe that the folks of Kansas City showed up to see the Royals play after what had passed as baseball (and the Yankees farm system) that had been the Athletics, but even Bill James went to those games. Of course, the Royals proved that good baseball will draw teams in any city.

I'll end the futility with teams that had the most games of scoring two or fewer runs:

How about that, there's the aforementioned 2002 Tigers. As a lifelong Cubs fan, I've never had any use for the Cardinals, which is probably one reason why I consider Lou Brock (and Bill Mazeroski) as the worst Hall of Fame selections in modern times (honorable mention to Andre Dawson and Jim Rice). This Cardinals team is not a bad team on paper, featuring a young Keith Hernandez
and Garry Templeton and halfway-decent pitching, but they weren't the team they would become in the 80s.

Now, some offensive juggernauts--these are the teams with the most consecutive games of scoring 10 or more runs:
Obviously, this is a bygone era, a relic of pre-draft days when the differences between the best teams and the worst were greater than today. The main reason I'm writing these posts is because of those 1929 Giants, who did manage to score 10 or more runs in a six-game stretch. What this chart DOESN'T show is that every single one of those games was played against the Phillies, and every single one of those games was AT Philadelphia. In addition, the Giants won these games at the tail-end of a 25-game road streak. There's other delicious tidbits buried here, but this will be revisited under team pitching streaks, so I'll save them for then.

The 2006 Braves were the team to break the playoff streak and clearly had some offensive firepower, but generally underperformed--they played six games below their Pythagorean Win total and had simply reached the end of a 15-year line of excellence.

These are the teams with home runs in the most consecutive games:

This one is just as much a product of modern times as the prior was of the past--other than some token entries, they're very recent. The park effect for the Rockies is frequently commented upon, but less mentioned is the Rangers park effect--it's not as dramatic as the Rockies, but it's right up there. In 2002, the Rockies had a three-year park effect of 115 (which is ridiculous), but the Rangers had a 106. One factor in park effect is the players who actually hit in that park, and the Rangers had some big hitters that year in Alex Rodriguez (57), Rafael Palmeiro (43 at the age of 37) and five other players in double digits, but had woeful pitching. Even in the midst of one of the greatest offensive eras in baseball history, bad pitching was an albatross that teams couldn't overcome.

On the opposite end of the scale, these are the teams with the most games with no home runs:
The 1979 Astros were not a bad team--they finished 89-76 and would make the playoffs the next year. NOT ONE PLAYER on that team hit in double digits in home runs--the team leader was Jose Cruz with 9 (on an odd note, pitcher J.R. Richard also had two home runs). As a team they hit 49 home runs, which is easily the lowest total in the modern era (not including the strike-shortened 1981 season). Words can't express the dampening effects that the Astrodome had on power figures--Baseball-Reference has a neat feature that allows for individual player's and team's statistics to be normalized to a league average, and if the 1979 Astros had just been average, they would have hit 64 home runs. Players like Jim Wynn, Joe Morgan, Cesar Cedeno, Bob Watson and others were simply robbed of power, which is how the Astros ended up on the top of this table. The 1955 Orioles were the first season in Baltimore, meaning they were essentially still the 1954 St. Louis Browns, who along with the Athletics and Senators effectively turned the AL into a 5-team race (at best) in most years.

The strikeout has become much more prevalent in the intervening years, and it began right around 1950 and is discussed elsewhere in a different post. This chart shows teams with the most games of 10 or more strikeouts:
In the modern era, I'm not sure this even means anything, but the attitude that a strikeout is just another out is beginning to wane. To the extent that the three-outcome hitter (homer, walk, strikeout) truly existed (other than Adam Dunn) will be for future researchers to determine--candidates like Mark Reynolds, Jack Cust and others in the high strikeout-high home run category are pretty much on their way out of baseball, and the ones that are left will NOT be signing big contracts in the future. In the White Sox game on Sunday, May 26th, 2013, Adam Dunn came up in the bottom of the 8th with the Sox ahead 5-3 over the Marlins and Alex Rios on 2nd with one out. Dunn struck out looking, not even advancing the runner, and this has been a disturbing trend for him going back to around 2010--prior to that, he was right around the league average in moving runners when they were in scoring position, but a strikeout won't do that. The cost of a Dunn strikeout is supposed to be counterbalanced by his home runs (and he had one yesterday for two of the Sox five runs), but teams don't appear to be willing to make that tradeoff anymore, and certainly won't pay big money for it.

When I post next on streaks, it will be on individual pitching performances. Be sure to follow me on Twitter in order to be alerted to when I post new material.

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