Cliff Corcoran does some research on teams that have started seasons with zero wins after the first five games. I'm a little surprised about what he finds:
In major league history, which dates to 1871, 110 teams have started a season 0-5. Just two of those 110 went on to make the postseason, less than two percent. Those two teams were the 1974 Pirates and 1995 Reds, both of whom actually started their seasons 0-6. Thirty-nine teams extended their season-opening losing streaks to seven games. Only one of those clubs finished as high as third place.
It's not the length of the streak itself. In 2010 alone, all six division winners had five-game losing streaks at some point during the season. The NL Central Champion Reds had two, the eventual American League pennant winning Rangers had an additional six-game losing streak, the eventual world champion Giants had an additional seven-game losing streak, and the NL wild card Braves had a nine-game losing streak. It's not the early deficit in the standings, either. Last year's Giants erased a five-game deficit in the NL West over a 10-day stretch in late August and early September.
Rather, what's significant is the timing. That seems counterintuitive. No five-game losing streak should be easier to compensate for than one made so early in the season. Perhaps it is because teams tend to start their seasons at full strength, thus making an inability to win one of their first five games of the season so revealing. A five-game losing streak mid-season can have an obvious cause. Perhaps a rotation ace is on the disabled list, the lineup is in a slump, or the players are simply beaten up and worn down from the long, hard slog of that 162-game season. At the start of the season, however, arms and legs should be fresh and everyone ought to be present and accounted for.
Corcoran goes on further to demonstrate that one of those two teams, the 1974 Pirates, benefitted from playing in a weak division. Pittsburgh actually played poorly for most of the season and got in the postseason with an 88-74 record.
One thing Corcoran doesn't address is the recent change to the wildcard system. It's easier to make the postseason these days. It would be interesting to see how many of those 0-5 teams reached high 80's, low 90's win totals–the range of wins that usually gets a wildcard team into the postseason.
Regardless, maybe I owe SF an apology for telling him he was engaging in hyperbole when he claimed that the Yanks could effectively end* the Sox's season in April. But my instincts tell me next week the conversation will have changed.
*Just as long as he acknowledges that what he means by an end of the Sox season is them not reaching the postseason. How very Yankee Fan of him. You've become what you hate! ha ha ha (evil laugh fades, then returns) ha ha ha….(wheezing)…