Results tagged ‘ 1947 Yankees ’

The significance of winning streaks

cano_250.jpgLET’S TRY THIS AGAIN, 1947 STYLE
A couple of data bits got dropped in yesterday’s entry on Robinson Cano. I’m going to put them in here a bit differently and hope they make it past my normally reliable interlocutors. First, the top ten batters in percentage of runners driven in:

NAME     ROB     %
Joey Votto     118     .237
Joe Mauer     124     .234
Todd Helton     190     .232
Hanley Ramirez     197     .218
Albert Pujols     216     .218
Prince Fielder     249     .217
Bobby Abreu     185     .216
Jarrod Saltalamacchia     100     .210
Evan Longoria     225     .209
Brad Hawpe     206     .209

Next, the batters with the highest percentage of double plays per double play situation:

NAME     DP SIT     DP     DP%
Yadier Molina     41     12     26.8
Mike Lowell     58     15     25.9
Jose Guillen     45     11     24.4
Geovany Soto     50     13     24
Fernando Tatis     42     13     23.8
Chase Headley     47     12     23.4
Austin Kearns     48     11     22.9
Delmon Young     44     10     22.7
Magglio Ordonez     53     14     22.6
Bill Hall     45     10     22.2
Robinson Cano     50     11     22

And now you don’t have to look it up. You also don’t have to look up the fact that, after yesterday’s break for a left-handed pitcher, Cano is back batting fifth again today. As I said in yesterday’s entry, this isn’t the end of the world–lineup variations are vastly overrated, and the Yankees are currently seven for their last seven games. That said, the argument about the batting order is worth having, because although these differences may not be writ large, they can still show up in all kinds of small ways. The Yankees have played 19 one-run games and are 10-9 in those contests. There are more close games coming, and if the Yankees are going to put those in the win column they’ll need every extra run they can get.

The current win streak is a good thing, but shouldn’t be overrated–you’re never as good as you look when you’re winning. At exactly this time 62 years ago, the Yankees reeled off the greatest winning streak in team history to that point, and maybe since then. On June 29, 1947, the Yankees lost the first game of a doubleheader to the Washington Senators. At that moment they were 39-26. That’s a pretty good record, good for a 92-win pace then and a 97-win pace now. In either era, it might be good enough to get you postseason spot in a down year for your league or division, but you’re not dominating, not doing an impression of the 1927 or 1998 Yankees.

The Yankees took the second game of that twin bill, and didn’t look back again for almost three weeks. They won 19 straight games. They swept five series and took both ends of six doubleheaders. They outscored their opponents 119-41. They finally lost a game on July 18, when they were shut out by a good Tigers right-hander named Fred Hutchinson. Thanks to the streak, the race was for all intents over. The Yankees were up by 11.5 games. There were 70 games to go, but the Yankees weren’t going to play that lead back. That fall they won a famous, hotly contested World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was the one famous for Bill Bevens’ wild, not-quite no-hit start in Game 4.

Here’s the relevance to the 2009 Yankees: The 1947 team managed to toss the coin 19 times and have it come up heads over and over again. Before the streak they were a .600 team. During the streak, they were, obviously, a 1.000 team. What kind of team were they after the streak? The answer is that they went 39-31. That’s a .550 pace, the equivalent of 89 wins in a 162-game schedule, 85 wins in a 154-game schedule. It’s the same pace as the current Rays, Tigers, Angels, and Giants are on now–a pace good enough to lead one of the softer divisions, but not good enough, for say, the American League East of 2009. Despite the 19-game streak, overall, the 1947 Yankees were just a pretty good edition of the team. Some underlying weaknesses started causing problems the next season, they lost a close race, and fired the manager–but that’s another story.

The point is that a club can never take anything for granted when it’s trying to win, including interpreting a winning streak as meaning that you’re doing everything correctly. The ’47 Yankees didn’t, dealing for starting pitcher Bobo Newsom in the midst of the streak when an injury sidelined rookie righty Spec Shea. You can choose to look upon the discussion of the batting order as a kind of niggling cavil, but I figure that a team that wants to win a championship, that is behind the Red Sox and has yet to win a game against same, would want to pick up every extra hit, walk, and run that it can. The current winning streak is a great thing, but as the 1947 team shows, perfection isn’t perpetual, and can be followed by play that is merely above average. And above average might not win anything this year. Shuffling the batting order isn’t about disrespecting the present, but trying to optimize the club for the future.