To win 96 games (the number that won the AL East in 2010) the Red Sox must play .621 ball the rest of the way. For a full 162 game season, that percentage projects out to 100-62.
So the Sox basically have to play as a 100 win team to match last year’s standard for the East.
Anyone who wants to write off this streak as just part of the course of a season, who would downplay it’s significance, is not living in the real world. I am tired of being told it is of little importance. It is quite possibly (though not certainly) an unmitigated disaster.
41 replies on “The Math”
dude, they can still win man…come on…what’s with the gloom and doom?…who’s their competition, the yankees?…with their aging offense, the rangeless one at short, starting pitching with nothing but questions after cc?…ok, i’m not living in the real world, but unless these red sox repeat the level of suckitude from the first 6 games through a more significant part of the season, then i’m not buying the angst and hand-wringing…they’ve only lost 4 more games than the yankees with what, 156 to go?….sheesh
Yup, four back of the Yankees with 156 games to go. Chicken Little might be the thing to do in Red Sox Nation, but it only belong on talk radio. And their not exactly a bastion of level-headed thinking.
It’s not Chicken Little to think that this 0-6 start has and will have a big impact on the season. It just isn’t. How about the Yankees spot the Sox six in the loss column next year if it doesn’t really matter?
Look, a more level-headed analysis is here:
and it corroborates exactly what my major point has been, that the Sox’ win expectancy has taken a big hit, a measurable and potentially season-altering hit. I am really sick (though appreciative) of the “don’t worry” sentiments coming from many people. But that doesn’t change the fact that that kind of stuff is really just platitudinous. It’s welcome, and it’s generous, but it means less than than the six games the Sox have spotted everyone else, by a large margin.
“It just isn’t. How about the Yankees spot the Sox six in the loss column next year if it doesn’t really matter?”
You must have missed this part from Cameron:
“While we shouldn’t get carried away with the doom and gloom…”
The Sox aren’t in great shape, but like I said yesterday they’re a team that has broken historical trends before. And while Cameron’s post talks about the Yankees, they have a much bigger room for error for the wild card. Who’s going to beat them out there, if it came to that?
“While we shouldn’t get carried away with the doom and gloom…”
Believe me, I am trying. I am watching the games, and will continue to do so. I still have hopes, but those hopes have taken a hit. And for good, statistical reasons. I just wish there were more acknowledgment of this (and Cameron does this nicely), and less of the genteel pats on the back we’re getting.
Like it has been said before, I think this site brings out the best in the rivalry – two sets of fans backing each other up despite the history. I am proud of that as a founder of this site. But at some point it starts to seem a bit saccharine.
This Opening Week has been the worst I can remember in at least 15 years.
I’m with you, SF – the Panic Button has been uncovered, and unless there is a winning series against the Yanks this weekend, there is real trouble ahead. We are looking up at three teams all 4 or 4.5 games up on us. I fervently hope for an upswing, but am already prepared to watch this “bridge” season. I suppose throwing money at the roster to disarm critics for the LFC purchase was not as swell as it seemed.
I’m with SF on this one, look at last year, didn’t they pretty much blow April and then matched the Yanks the rest of the season? They were 11-12 at the end of April 2010 and the Yanks were 15-7. The Sox won 78 the rest of the way and the Yanks won 80. The Rays were 17-6 and won 79 the rest of the way. If the Sox went 13-10 they would have been in the hunt at the end for not only the WC but the East crown. Don’t tell me April doesn’t mean anything over the course of the season, every game counts in the East.
Crawford seems to be pressing, as does the other big hitters. Gonzalez seems like he can handle it, but the question is what has to be going through those two new player minds coming back to open Fenway, against the Yanks for that matter, tomorrow??? To me, it seems like Crawford is really pressing to make sure he makes a good impression since he he know what some Boston fans can be like, heck he has seen it up close and personal when the Rays played in Boston AND when they played in Tampa since there were usually many, many Boston fans there as well.
The question I have had over the first 6 games (loses) is who is the leader on this team. The Yanks have Jeter and Posada, who do these newly built Sox have??? Is Youk ready to step up and lead this team? How about the young pitchers, not sure they are ready. Pedoria doesn’t seem like a leader type. Papi, maybe, but he hasn’t shown those qualities. I don’t know what goes on in the locker room, but who do the other Sox fans on the site see as the 2011 Sox leader…or does there really need to be one?
“Red Sox must play .621”
And? They are the Red Sox and that’s not an unattainable goal. This is (on paper) the best team this division has seen in quite some time. Sure it has its warts, but far less than most teams that we’ve seen in recent history. At any moment this team will awaken from its slumber and this 0-6 will be a distant memory. It ain’t how you start, it’s how you finish. If they didn’t have the horses (a la the Rays) I’d say pack it in, but this team is stacked from front to back and back to front. You most certainly do have every right to be discouraged and even feel the way you do but I don’t buy the “time to panic” thing going on here. Not that your feelings aren’t genuine, just that I don’t think 0-6 means jack sh*t come October with a team this good. Trust me I’d love to say HA HA you suck, but that’s just not realistic.
On the positive note (really, really trying to stay positive here) is if the Sox and Rays get swept this weekend, someone will have to get a win next week ;)
John, as Cameron says it lowers their win expectancy. So it makes it that much harder to succeed. That’s not insignificant.
The Sox are not doomed to miss they playoffs. Nobody is giving up, certainly not the players. Mediots calling for players or manager’s heads are antagonistic and mindless morons. The Sox can still “succeed” and make the post-season.
But they have made their own job harder, statistically and measurably harder. To argue otherwise it to ignore these first six games as they count towards the Sox’ overall record. They do not indicate that the Sox suck, or that they are going to suck the entire season. All they do is make everything quite a bit harder for this very good team.
“But at some point it starts to seem a bit saccharine. ”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m really happy and as I’ll be at the Sunday game, I’m hoping the Yankees are looking at sweeping them into 0-9.
I also think there was a bit too much hype to this Sox team. They’re better than last year, but not by more than a few games. 100 wins was crazy talk.
Still, who is legit competition for the wild card, if they lose out on the division?
The mathematical aspect of all this is more your line of expertise (well you and Paul) but even with that said SF there are other factors that balance that out right? Follow me here: The Sox were projected at 95-99 wins give or take right? Maybe more…The Rays were also thought to be better than they were so there might be some offset there? If it was simply a race for 100 (+/-) and all the teams in the division were living up to or exceeding expectations or all equal for that matter I’d say yup you guys are behind the 8 ball, but if you factor in the rest of the division there has to be some wiggle room to the point where these 6 games in the end don’t mean as much as they seem. Again, I am the between the lines guy so if that’s confusing forgive me, but it makes sense in my head at least!
“This is (on paper) the best team this division has seen in quite some time. Sure it has its warts, but far less than most teams that we’ve seen in recent history.”
Whoa! I was pretty impressed by the 2009 Yanks on paper and on the field, John. Weren’t you?
I get it SF. It is inarguable that they hve dug a big hole – the biggest you possibly can after playing only 6 games.
But they’re 5 games out of 1st place and 4 games (not 6) behind the Yankees in the loss column. We’ve all seen teams closer bigger gaps in the last month of a season let alone in the last 5.5 months. That’s all I’m saying and I say it frankly more as a defense against the fauning over this team that I expect should they overcome that deficit than I am to make you or anyone else feel better. I just don’t see is at insurmountable, requiring a miracle, or whatever.
But if I were in your shoes I’d be depressed for sure. And having not watched a single Sox game or even highlight, I take your and others’ word for it that the Sox starting pitching may be a bigger flaw than was previously thought by most analysts.
And I also don’t agree with the implications of James’ question re: who else will win the WC. This is a tough division and both Toronot and Baltimore are not going to be doormats. Baltimore was already .500 vs. Boston last year and they came into this year looking to bebetter stronger (and so far they’ve looked it). Even if they would not finish ahead of Boston or NY, both teams will I think take their toll on the Yanks and Sox.
So Boston has a hell of a lot of work to do and if they don’t start doing it in this upcoming series vs. the Yankees it’s just going to get all the more daunting for sure. Panic time? If our places were reversed I’m sure I would be there so I’m not going to suggest you shouldn’t. But from where I’m sitting I think it would be idiotic to count the Sox out of anything because they are 4 games back of my team on April 7.
sorry for the multiple typos there…
i guess i’d be slightly less offended if you said our condolences were patronizing rather than “platitudinous” sf… ;) but i get your point, and i’ll try to knock it off ….i already said in other comments that i would be really bummed if the yankees had an 0-6 start, so my feelings are more of empathy than sympathy…cameron does seem to give the proper perspective here…the sox have dug themselves a large hole…it’s in their favor that the lion’s share of games are left to be played, but they have “frittered away” their margin for error…and they are a very talented team, just not playing like it right now…very good teams can go on a run very quickly and do amazing things…1978 yankees…it would take a major meltdown of more than these 6 games for the sox not to at least get the wild card…we all know what can happen in the tournament when a wild card sneaks into the party, especially one that’s this good…
So maybe the Sox don’t get to 95 wins. The good news for them is that the Rays look even worse, and that a recovery for them is far less likely given that this stretch actually exposes real weaknesses on their team. Their offense played WAY over their heads last year (seriously, 800 runs with a .736 team OPS? Not repeatable) and they lost their best offensive player in the offseason. They’re in big trouble.
What weaknesses have the Sox exposed? A nothing offense? That won’t last. Maybe Beckett and Dice-K won’t rebound. Maybe Lackey really is just on the decline. And that will take some work on Theo’s part in years to come, because that could be a big long-term problem. But for this year, it’s okay. The Rays are weak, and the rest of the competition for the wildcard is poor (seriously, where is it? One out of Minnesota/Detroit/White Sox? Come on). And hey, the Yankees aren’t exactly a superteam this year either. It looks to me like this is the best kind of year for the Sox to begin 0-6.
All you need to do if you have a deep bullpen, dynamite offense and an ace pitcher is make the postseason. Even if you give all the rest of the things away, you have to admit the Sox still have that.
We’re not trying to platitudinize (not a real word, I know) you, we’re being realistic Yankee fans. Like John said we would be in your exact same position if our teams’ positions were reversed. But let the Sox have a homestand and see where they are at the end of May first. You don’t give up on a marathon if you trip and bruise your knee out of the gate. You just have to keep pace with your expectations from there and hope your opposition bruises their knees a bit too.
very good teams can go on a run very quickly and do amazing things…1978 yankees
This is sort of the point: one has to reference an historic and now-legendary feat in order to show that “things are possible”. Instead of a garden variety pennant race with ebbs and flow, we are already, before APRIL 10th, saying things like “the 1978 Yankees beat the odds!”.
That is not heartening, sorry to say.
And nobody is giving up. We aren’t going away. But we aren’t happy, and we aren’t nearly so optimistic. That’s what happens when you effectively tell the other teams in competition with you that you are willing to play a season that is six games shorter than theirs, with all other things being equal.
This is an odd world, in which i agree strongly with the Yankee fans and disagree even more strongly with (most of) the Sox fans.
“The math” is significantly flawed in one major respect. The Red Sox will indeed have to win at a 100-game pace from here on out to reach the magic 95-96-win plateau. Of course, a lot of projections had this club as a 98-win team, so that doesn’t scare me quite so much.
The biggest problem with this kind of analysis, and I mentioned this on Fangraphs, is that projections for the Sox to win x games all factored in the posibility that the Sox would lose. If you don’t think a club is ever going to have a wretched six-game stretch (whether that’s 0-6, 1-5 or 2-4, it doesn’t make much difference), then you need to be projecting them for well over 100 wins. Since no one (other than NESN, and that obviously wasn’t a projection) actually did that, the projections already accounted for a stretch like this. We can’t simply count six losses against the Sox on the one hand and then dismiss them to look at the rest of the season on the other. Well, we can, but it’s not particularly helpful.
It’s better to win than to lose. If the Red Sox don’t start winning, then I agree this season will be toast. Where I disagree strongly with SF here is that there is no reason to believe the Sox won’t start winning. A lot. As Cameron said in the excerpt I quoted yesterday, six games is not enough time to reassess our evaluations on anybody, including the starting pitching.
Or let me put it this way. If the Yankees started off 0-6, would you be considering their season “quite possibly an unmitigated disaster”? I know I wouldn’t.
I’m with SF on this one, look at last year, didn’t they pretty much blow April and then matched the Yanks the rest of the season? They were 11-12 at the end of April 2010 and the Yanks were 15-7. The Sox won 78 the rest of the way and the Yanks won 80.
Last year, they climbed to within one game of first place and were then struck by a plague of injuries. I cited 2010 in my post yesterday morning to support my position. The horrible April was far less detrimental to the Red Sox’ ultimate position than the catastrophic injury situation in June and July.
Having a bad start like this makes the margin for error smaller, I’ll grant you. I’ve never said otherwise. But the 2010 Sox are a prime example of how meaningless a bad April truly is. Less than two months later, the Sox were in the lead for the wild card.
Where I disagree strongly with SF here is that there is no reason to believe the Sox won’t start winning. A lot.
Paul, I have never said that the Sox won’t start winning. Not once. I have, in strong words for sure, said that this is a huge detriment to their chances, and quite possibly a killer. We won’t know for a while. But we do know this is not what teams do: spot other teams a six game headstart effectively.
If the Yankees started 0-6 I would be thrilled. I would be very excited that they gave the Sox the opportunity to make the task at hand measurably easier.
But I have not once said the Sox won’t start winning. In all these posts I have not yet revised my own assessment of the team, as others have done. I only believe that the Sox have hurt themselves mathematically, and measurably so.
To put it all another way, if the Sox sweep or win the series this weekend, especially with lighting up the Yankee pitching, there won’t be many still writing their eulogy. The Sox sweep and they’re one game back. They win two and they’re three games back. More if being mad of this because of the zero in their win column. It’s fun and all, but it won’t last much longer. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hughes get lit up today. His fastball is wanting and he’s going into a hitter’s paradise. If the Sox bust out big, who here would be surprised?
The only way I can interpret this set of thoughts…
I am tired of being told it is of little importance. It is quite possibly (though not certainly) an unmitigated disaster.
…is if this streak is somehow quantifiably different than any other six-game losing streak the Sox have seen in their history (like the ones they had during 100-win seasons in 1912 and 1946, for example). The only way for it to be quantifiably different — and worthy of “unmitigated disaster” language, however qualified, is if it is reflective of the team’s true talent, and therefore indicative of the Sox’ inability to win consistently going forward.
“The only way for it to be quantifiably different — and worthy of “unmitigated disaster” language, however qualified, is if it is reflective of the team’s true talent, and therefore indicative of the Sox’ inability to win consistently going forward.”
I don’t know what the number would be, but there is one, say 10 games(?) which would be an unmitigated disaster and not necessarily reflective of the team’s true talent. I hate to throw out the idea of bad luck especially since it appears the Sox have deserved all their losses this year, but there are flukey periods that can sink a team’s season. A six game stint doesn’t seem enough, although the projections, for mathematical reasons, have shifted the win total down three games.
I agree, Nick. I’ve been trying to think of what that total could be…
The 1979 Orioles started the season 3-2, then lost six straight en route to a 102-win season.
The 2001 Oakland A’s started the season 2-10, including a seven-game losing streak, en route to a 102-win season.
I’m not sure where the point is at which it is legitimately problematic. I don’t think it’s much beyond this. You don’t see World Series teams with losing streaks much beyond six or seven games.
SG notes at RLYW that a Sox sweep of the Yankees this weekend essentially restores the preseason balance. That alone tells me it’s way too early to panic. Not that I think the Sox will sweep, but if it takes that little to do it right now, then there’s plenty of time and plenty of ways for the Sox to make up that ground.
0-9 would certainly put a damper on things. It would also be a new way for the Yankees to twist the knife. But even for the most apocalyptic Sox fans, who stops checking the boxscores all season long?
We were so busy with Cliff Lee and the Rotations, one storyline missed this Winter is how dominant the Yankee offense could be. Remember, they scored 854 runs last year with 300 at-bats from Cervelli and the subpar year from the Captain. They still won 95 games and with only 2.5 starters. If the Yankees get hot, they could run away from the field and early. Their lineup has exactly zero holes if Jeter is getting on base.
Let’s play some baseball already!
Scientifically speaking, is there any difference between a first six-game losing streak in games 1-6 versus a first six-game losing streak in games 102-107?
If there is NO difference whatsoever then I am probably wrong. Are there any statisticians who can tell me what the timing of this streak means? If it means nothing in a vacuum then I can begin to see the light. Of course, baseball is not a vacuum, and there are circumstances and situations that are impacted by such a streak. Like, say, coming home to open a season with an angry fan base and the Yankees on your doorstep with the chance to push you to 0-7, then 0-8…
There is no difference. I tried to express this point in another thread but failed miserably. The Corcoran piece is flawed in this regard. Someone proved this with a simple B-R search on Baseball Think Factory on a thread there. I’ll try to find it.
For me finding two examples over 32 seasons of teams who overcame dreadful starts is just not inspiring. While it means there is certain precedent for something like a successful season to occur, it is actually sobering to me.
“We were so busy with Cliff Lee and the Rotations, one storyline missed this Winter is how dominant the Yankee offense could be.”
I don’t think anyone here missed that point at all. Problem is offense goes in cycles and good pitching is usually pretty steady.
SF I certainly hope you’re right! But I’ll bet you a beer you’re laughing about all this come October :)
This is likely beyond me, but games aren’t coin flips. So I understand that if six flips result in six heads, that the next flip is still 50-50. Baseball games aren’t coinflips. So if teams statistically encounter five or six game losing streaks, say twice, over a 162 game season, wouldn’t that imply that a six game losing streak right at the outset increases the chances of exceeding that typical number? Or am I just being thick-headed in not understanding something?
I am inquiring about something that is probably unfindable without serious research: when is the highest incidence of losing streaks? And would earlier losing streaks increase the probability of more losing streaks (independent of team talent)? Is there any correlation between teams that have losing streaks early in the season having MORE losing streaks (say, 4+ games)? I have no idea how to find this out expediently.
I ask this because I am interested in dispelling my own (possible) misconceptions.
Is there any correlation between teams that have losing streaks early in the season having MORE losing streaks (say, 4+ games)? I have no idea how to find this out expediently.
I would say yes, but that’s because really crappy teams who are more likely to have a lot of losing streaks are therefore more likely to have one at the beginning of the season.
That’s where the problem of historical comparisons comes in: It’s extremely rare for a team with the talent the 2011 Red Sox have to have a start this poor. It’s not rare for them to have a stretch of games this poor, but to have it at the beginning of the season is. That there are examples at all of teams getting off to starts this poor and doing major damage in the regular and postseasons is encouraging to me, rather than sobering, because it indicates to me that there is little if any difference between having a streak like this in the first six games as opposed to the middle six games.
“This is likely beyond me, but games aren’t coin flips. So I understand that if six flips result in six heads, that the next flip is still 50-50. Baseball games aren’t coinflips. So if teams statistically encounter five or six game losing streaks, say twice, over a 162 game season, wouldn’t that imply that a six game losing streak right at the outset increases the chances of exceeding that typical number? Or am I just being thick-headed in not understanding something?
I am inquiring about something that is probably unfindable without serious research: when is the highest incidence of losing streaks? And would earlier losing streaks increase the probability of more losing streaks (independent of team talent)? Is there any correlation between teams that have losing streaks early in the season having MORE losing streaks (say, 4+ games)? I have no idea how to find this out expediently”
There is probably a much stronger correlation between true talent level and incidence of losing streaks. That said, it seems like common sense that having a losing streak earlier in the season gives a team more time to have more during the rest of the season. But true talent probably is a better reflection of the chances of these losing streaks actually happening.
Maybe the comparison should be between first place teams and second place (or even third place) teams (or make the study between first place teams and any teams that finish within some striking distance to first), to see if there is any historical correlation between the incidence/duration of losing streaks and final standings position. Eliminate the bottom-dwellers and find out if teams that are in the top tier have any significant difference in losing streakiness. I wonder what this might tell us.
That said, it seems like common sense that having a losing streak earlier in the season gives a team more time to have more during the rest of the season.
Absolutely. This is what I mean when I say the margin for error is smaller. They have more time in which to fail. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that it makes the team’s job harder to start out this way. But looking at it from a bird’s-eye view, any team is extremely likely to have a poor stretch like this. Perhaps I’m looking at it from the wrong perspective, but to me the Sox are simply fulfilling that likelihood earlier rather than later.
Doing some math here.
Assuming the quality of opponents of Sox has played is average, and Sox is a 62% win team, then out of those 6 games, they were expected to win ~3.72 games.
So basically they underperformed by 3.72 wins. If they were projected to win 100 in the season, they should be projected to win 96.28 the rest of the way.
This does some handwaving math (assumes every game is a biased coin flip).
Now, assuming the games are independent events (games don’t carry over — which they do, for example, AGon getting injured, etc), there are two things which might be confusing people.
Let’s say preseason Sox was expected to win 100 games, then Sox is still expected to win 100 games, as yes, these streaks happen, even if not at beginning of season.
However, the Sox is no longer expected to win 100 games the rest of the season as of today.
Alright, hahaha, I’m totally not explaining it right, but basically, one is saying:
Win Expectation of the Sox = 100 (factors in possible 6 game losing streaks, even ones at the beginning)
Win Expectation of the Sox given the Sox loses the first 6 = less than 100
The second is a conditional probability, and can also be calculated preseason — it’s simply the probability of Sox losing the first 6 (presumably small) which was previously factored in.
Also, as for starting a losing streak, you are as likely any day (that’s not in the middle of a streak) to start a streak.
So basically, if you know you’re having a 6 game losing streak, this can happen any of the 162 – 6 + 1 games. Of course, maybe by rare, you mean maybe less glaring? So a 6 game losing streak say, first 10 games of the season, vs after 30 games, then yes, it is rare because there are 10 games vs 130 games to start the streak (where it might not be as noticeable, or deemed season-ending).
So basically, lar, if I understand you correctly, SF and I are talking past each other, looking at different sides of the win expectancy coin?
How about you guys just start winning so we could stop talking about Math! I hate Math! Baseball Math is so simple, 3 outs, 3 strikes, 4 balls, etc…that’s they way I like my Math, not all these %’s and probabilities!
Re: hating math, I spent two hours two days ago doing math I hadn’t done in years, attempting to calculate kick velocities for pigskin players.
Basically, I guess the “common sense” (as much as math can be) works here:
Would you bet on the Sox winning 100 games knowing that there’s a possibility (and a likely possibility at that [in general, not a knock on the Sox]) that they might have a 6 game losing streak?
Sure (assuming you believe that the Sox is a 62% team)
Would you bet on the Sox winning 100 games _now_ that the Sox lost their first 6?
Maybe, but obviously with less certainty than before. (or you believe they are a 64% team)
So in a sense, it sounds like the cheap way out to say you’re both right, through different interpretations.
By the way, I just did a back of the envelop math and for a 62% team, assuming independent events (coin toss), there’s a ~47% probability that there is a 6 game losing streak in a 162 game season. Just an estimate that overestimates it a little bit (I can explain it if anyone asks), but let’s say 40%. That’s close to every other season, which makes sense, as people say, winning teams often have these streaks and go to the playoff.
If you do the math for say, the first 10 games of the season though, it’s ~3%, so it is rare indeed. (This is starting a streak)