Mediocrity comes in many forms. Last year, the Braves kinda sorta set a record for the most games alternating wins and losses. (Technically, they didn’t set the record because a suspended game in the middle, when completed, was counted as having occurred on the day the game started.)
But alternating wins and losses is only one kind of mediocrity. A somewhat more relaxed version is the failure to win or lose three in a row. And it is more relaxed. A team that alternates win as and losses for a whole season is never more than a game from 0.500. But it would be technically possible to win two out of every three for a whole season and win (or lose) 107 games. But people like to talk about momentum. And the way they talk about it is by looking at streaks. So if you never win three in a row, or lose three in a row, it’s hard to argue that momentum exists.
And while it seems like going a month without winning or losing three in a row would be common, it isn’t. The probability of a 0.500 team going 25 games without a three game streak is less than 1 percent. And the probability for teams either better or worse than 0.500 teams is even lower. (I spent three days writing and analyzing models of streakiness to come to this conclusion, and it’s the only math fact I’m going to share with you today. But I’ve got the details if anybody wants them.)
But with 30 teams and a six month season, that means there ought to be one or two teams every year that manage a streak-free month. And there are. But in a hundred years of playing, only one team has managed to start the season with 36 games without a streak: the 1959 Chicago Cubs, an otherwise forgettable 74-80-1 team.
And that record is now broken. The Braves will have a streak of at least 38 games without a three game streak (at least 40 if they win today) and they are within shouting distance of the alltime record: the 2015 Seattle Mariners went for close to two months (46 games) from June 6th to July 29th without a three game streak. They finished 76-86. Something to aspire to.