History In The Making?
There are few disputes about which teams are the best teams and the worst teams of all times, so long as you aren’t that particular about the rankings within those teams. Wins pretty much answer the question: good teams have a lot and bad teams have few. At the margins, you can argue that some teams were really lucky or unlucky and modify the metrics, but the Parcells Theorem (‘You are what your record says you are’) admits few exceptions.
But determining the most mediocre teams of all time is not quite so easy. You can start with the teams who finished within one game of .500. (You wouldn’t want to eliminate a team just because it played an odd number of games.) In the Retrosheet Era, this leaves us with 83 teams.
But a really mediocre team should not just be mediocre for the season, it should be mediocre at finer-grained intervals. Tfloyd asked last week whether any team had gone through a full season without having an 8-2 or better stretch or a stretch 2-8 or worse. Ignoring last year’s abbreviated season, the answer is no. So even the most mediocre teams manage to go 8-2 or 2-8 at least once a season: everyone does, though the Braves have not yet done so this season.
So let’s look at monthly records. For simplicity, I’ve put any March games in April and any October games in September. The height of mediocrity would be to not only be .500 by season, but .500 by month as well. It will come as no surprise, perhaps, that no team has yet achieved that level of perfection in mediocrity. But we can rank teams by the lowest divergence in monthly winning percentage: the highest winning percentage less the lowest. The most mediocre team turns out to be the 1975 San Francisco Giants — they finished 80-81, and their record by month was
That is one mediocre team, no? You can look at their roster and it pretty much screams, “Meh.” They were never more than 3 games over .500 or more than 7 games under. Their best month, May, had a winning percentage of 54% and their worst month, June, came in at 45%, for a difference of only 9% from best to worst.
But let’s look at your 2021 Hammers:
July isn’t quite done, and August and September could be anything, but there is a chance to make history here. The Braves best complete month is May (52%) and the worst is April (46%) for a difference of only 6%. Add to that the fact that the Braves have had no 10 game stretches with 2 or fewer or 8 or more wins, and this has a chance to be the most mediocre team of all time. Even the 1975 Giants managed to put together a seven game winning streak in May and an eight game losing streak in September. A really mediocre team wouldn’t allow either one to happen.
One other record which the Braves haven’t reached yet belongs to the 1974 Phillies. From a win over the Braves on June 3 through a loss to the Mets on June 20th, the Phillies alternated Win-Loss for 16 straight games. DG asked last night, and that’s the record. After today, the Braves are at 13. For the season, those Phillies finished 80-82.
And yes…. 1974-1975 was clearly, at least up until now, the most mediocre period for almost anything. “Love Will Keep Us Together” was the number one song for a month. I rest my case.
I missed the first four innings, so if Chip said anything particularly stupid then, he gets a free pass. To be fair, if had his most brilliant four innings of broadcasting, I apologize. But of course the fifth, almost every fifth, would be incomplete without mentioning the win rule for a starting pitcher. Still-dead-to-me-but-nonetheless-recently-successful Drew Smyly had a four run lead going to the bottom of the fifth. Chip dutifully intoned his knowledge of the rules and two batters later Smyly was removed from the game. Chip “understood.” Exactly what’s to understand is unclear… Even to the extent that wins are still a thing (and they aren’t) the only time one ought to let personal considerations trump team considerations are when the team is eliminated. But for God’s sake, Chip! If you have an argument about why wins are important for a starting pitcher, make it. Such a case would have to show that pitcher fame, or pay, or anything, are more closely related to wins than to other metrics…. and they aren’t. PLEASE STOP. NO ONE CARES. Just ask yourself: who leads the NL or AL in wins? Is there any argument that either of them is the best pitcher in baseball? Charlie Morton is two off the lead: if he somehow ends up with the most wins, would you argue that he was anywhere near the best pitcher in baseball? deGrom has a chance to finish the season with more WAR than Wins. No starting-only pitcher has even come close to this. (Actually Tylor Megill might possibly do it as well, though in many fewer starts.)
MLB briefly (1980-1988) had a stat: the Game Winning RBI, sort of intended to parallel the win — ascribing a win to an offensive player. They gave it up because it was stupid. The win, whatever its merits when starting pitchers routinely went seven innings is clearly more idiotic now than the GWRBI was in 1988. It would be nice if MLB retired it like the GWRBI, but mentioning it every blessed fifth inning in which a starting pitcher is still in is: (a) wrongheaded; (b) emptyheaded; and (c) boring.
In another minor criticism, Chip and Jeffy praised La Gran Calabaza for hitting the ball hard in an extended at bat against Edwin Diaz for the last out of the game. It was an exciting at bat. But the time to praise him for a tough at-bat is long, long past. And they didn’t mention, either today or at the time, that his prowess at the plate had to have been at least a minor factor in getting Almonte thrown out at the plate the play before. At some point, rooting for a guy has to confront some hard truths.
The Rubber Game of A Five Game Rubber, Which Isn’t A Thing
Austin Riley continued his assault on Mets pitching, an assault that would have been oh-so-much-better with a mere flyout sac fly in the 8th last night. Chipper had Shea — it appears Riley has CitiField. Almonte and Swanson homered as well.
As I said, a 5-1 Braves lead lasted two batters into the 4th, when a single and a homer put the outcome at risk.
In a somewhat interesting decision, Martin’s leverage index was lowered by being called on to get two outs with nobody on and a two run lead. After Chavez got out of that inning, Matzek then pitched two innings. It’s almost as if they decided the way they were managing the bullpen wasn’t working and they thought they’d try something else. Well, they gave the other method 100 games to try it out.
La Gran Calabaza got his strikeout appearance out of the way in the 6th. Again: good leverage management. I’m baffled. Maybe they’ve finally decided to start taking the season seriously.
Luke pitched the 8th, flawlessly. That left The Fresh Prince for the 9th in his traditional spot with a three run lead. (Obligatory Chip mention of the save qualification rule.) The leadoff double by Villar and line drive caught by Pederson off Drury suggests that maybe this spot could get some rethinking as well.
But Smith held on. The last two batters were the forgotten Marx Brothers: Nido and Nimmo. In a joke of a season, always close with a joke.