Cresting Waves in Baseball History

From June 1 to the All-Star Break, the Braves were 36-14.  Yesterday, cliff aptly asked: “Has the wave crested?”  And a second question presents itself: if it has, is that enough?

I looked at the whole Retrosheet database for teams that had a 50 game period with a record of 36-14 or better.  There are 198 such teams.  That’s just a little bit over two a year, on average.  Many of those teams had much better than a 36-14 run at some point, which means they had multiple overlapping 36-14 runs.  The best run over 50 games was the 2017 Dodgers, who went 43-7 over one stretch.

If we look at these teams in aggregate, it is a pretty awesome bunch of teams.  They averaged over 96 wins, which is even more impressive given that a fair number of them played 154 game seasons.  They won 43 World Series, which would be an amazing statistic until I told you that only 17 have come after 1969 and only 10 have come in the Wild Card era. 

But now let’s cut down the list to teams that never had a 50 game streak better than 36-14, consistent with the “crested wave” hypothesis. How have these teams done?  First, we’ve cut the list more than in half: there are 76 teams that managed a 36-14 run at some point in the season without ever doing better than that over any 50 game stretch.

These are all still good teams.  They averaged 93 wins over the whole season.  11 of them won the World Series, although only 2 won it all in the Wild Card era: the 1995 Braves and the 2007 Red Sox.

But there are some downsides.  14 of these teams played below 0.500 outside their hot streak.  30 of them missed the playoffs altogether, but the vast majority of those came before the Wild Card era.  Since then, only 8 have had a 36-14 streak and failed to at least make the playoffs, most recently the 2019 proto-Guardians.

But the good news is that for most of these teams, a really hot streak is enough to pull them over the playoff finish line.  But maybe not, so let’s keep the wave rolling… a little ten game win streak would do nicely, particularly with the Mets looming. Even at that point, it’s really hard to win a World Series, though, because that’s a crapshoot.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

17 thoughts on “Cresting Waves in Baseball History”

  1. We’re 3-3 post-All-Star game. The Mets are 3-2. Relax, we’ll be fine.

    With the extra wild-card spot, I’d be shocked if we weren’t in the post-season. Even if we play .500 ball the rest of the way, it’s a 90-win club. (Of course, we’ll have a better idea of what we have roster-wise after next Tuesday.)

    However… and I know this is obvious, but beating out the Mets & winning the division would put the Braves in an enviable position.

    Not only would they earn a 1st-round playoff bye, they would most probably play an NL Central Division team in the 2nd round… meanwhile, the Dodgers very probably would wait for the winner of a Mets/Padres best-of-3.

    If the Braves take the 1st WC, instead, they’d get that best-of-3 with SD, and then take on LAD.

    In the new format, Seed #1 plays winner of #4/#5, while Seed #2 plays winner of #3/#6. I’d rather see them re-seed after the first round, like the NHL — if #6 wins the best-of-3, for example, their reward is playing #1 — but I guess MLB wants to guarantee that the #1 seed plays a WC team in the 2nd round.

    Anyway, we’ll be playing in the post-season… I just hope it starts for us later in October.

  2. @3 That’s Tarnok, Shuster, and Alexander.

    The Tigers have Skubal. The Snakes have Bumgarner. The Fish have bullpen arms. The Yanks have Hicks and Gallo. Please let it not be Gallo.

  3. I think Kirby Yates could be a boost .. his only issue is he is slow to the plate ….basestealers will be licking chops …..

  4. Gallo is really bad as a Yankee, but he’s a really good baseball player. If we could pick him up cheap I’d be happy as heck. Lots of people fail in New York.

  5. @4 I thought Tarnok was promoted to Gwinnett.

    @6@7 I’d rather have Gallo than Cano. How about Gallo and Andujar? Can Andujar play 2nd?

  6. “ What the reigning champs are eyeing at the deadline: Rival execs report that the Braves are looking for a right-handed hitter to effectively replace Adam Duvall on their roster. Some of the possible options: Ian Happ (a switch-hitter who is hitting .346 vs. lefties), Ramon Laureano, hitting .262 vs. lefties and Rob Refsnyder, who is mashing .422 against lefties in 50 plate appearances this year. — Buster Olney”

    Anyone else feel like a kid on Christmas morning, waiting to see what we get at the deadline?

  7. @ 10,

    More like waiting to go to Grandma’s to eat and wondering if it will be neckbones, rutabagas, and a blackberry pie with 50% of the standard amount of sugar.

    I am beginning to wonder if AA pulled off timing 2 “dead cat bounces” exactly: Soler and Rosario. But if he thought that was the dead cat bounce of Rosario, then he sure shouldn’t have reupped Rosario.

  8. If we were to get Gallo and he had a dead cat bounce for us, would you say that we got the “peak-o de Gallo”?


  9. @12 ROFLOL!

    More on Happ from behind ESPN+’s paywall:

    “ Schoenfield: This is more from the files of “It makes too much sense not to happen,” but with Adam Duvall out for the year and Eddie Rosario still struggling (16 strikeouts and no walks since his return from eye surgery), the Atlanta Braves really could use a left fielder. Happ is under team control for another season, so the Cubs don’t have to trade him — but they are also still deep into their rebuild and Happ should net a nice return. He’s also a good fit for the Braves as a switch-hitter in a lineup that features just two lefties in Matt Olson and rookie Michael Harris II.”

  10. I trust AA to do what is best for the Braves, even if doing that best means doing nothing. Happ would be wonderful, but so would Soto. I’m not holding my breath for either.

    Thanks for the education, Jonathan.

  11. #12 – 😂 😃 😄

    I know a lot of folks are analyzing Acuna right now, both here at BJ – – and plenty of other places. The AJC just did a piece on his struggles yesterday.

    Do you think Acuna feels more pressure to perform after the Braves won it all last year without him? I didn’t watch much of the All-Star game, but I did watch him in the HR Derby…and his body language was so interesting to observe. There on the biggest stage, he sure didn’t look very comfortable.

    (not a psychologist; but I did stay in a Holiday Inn last night)

  12. Regarding Acuna, it might just be one of those things. Juan Soto was hitting .224 at the end of June, in about as many AB as Ronald has now. It happens.

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