Did you know? Only two teams have begun the season 0-5 and made the playoffs! It's, like, math and stuff!

Okay, let's put this into some context. Going back to 1974, 68% of World Series teams had at least one five-game losing streak. If we look at all playoff teams, that number creeps up to 70 percent. (Counterintuitively enough, if you only look at World Series winners, the percentage goes up to 75%. Ah, the joys of small sample sizes.)

If you keep going down the line:

  • 39% of all playoff teams have had a losing streak of at least six games,
  • 20% of all playoff teams have had a losing streak of at least seven games,
  • 9% of all playoff teams have had a losing streak of at least seven games.

The longest losing streak ever sustained by a playoff team over that timespan? The '82 Atlanta Braves lost 11 games in a row and still made it to the playoffs.

It's just that normally these sorts of streaks happen in the middle of the season, where they're a lot harder to notice. But the timing of the streaks (or even the order of the wins and losses at all) doesn't affect whether or not a team makes the playoffs, only the number of wins and losses do. Teams that have started 0-5 have dug themselves a hole, sure, but a perfectly manageable one. There's no reason for Red Sox or Rays fans to give up hope just yet. (Astros fans… there are probably plenty of reasons to give up hope just yet, but you knew about most of those before the season started.)

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thank you!
"It's, like, math and stuff!" is my new favorite response to nonsense, displacing, "It's brain science".
Rocket surgery.
I made the mistake of trying to explain the Baysean nature of examining the Red Sox playoff odds to some of my friends. That didn't go well. Of course, if all we knew about the Sox is that they're 0-5 we could feel pretty good about writing them. But of teams that have this much talent and started 0-5 (or experienced a 5 game losing streak), how did they fare on the season? The playoff odds report seems to paint a good picture.
Given that the Red Sox' five-game winning streak is from the beginning of the current season to now, dismissing factoids based on that as "Fun with Selective Endpoints" seems like a misplaced criticism. The problem is (1) too small a sample size and (2) ignoring all other available information about the team when comparing it to other teams that started 0-5.
No Michael, I don't agree, I think that is *exactly* a selective endpoint. A five-game losing streak to begin the season means nothing more or less than a five-game losing streak at any other time in the season, it's just more noticeable. Trying to make a big deal of it based on how teams starting 0-5 have fared is cherry-picking. That said, as a Jays fan, I am confident that the AL East has started as it means to go on.
There are some semantics here (as always), but there IS something important about the losing streak being these five games. Well, not *these* five games, but a specific five games. It could be August 12th through 16th, too. A team that goes 0-5 over those specific five games has a very good chance of having another 0-5 stretch at some other time. If we widen our scope to include teams that go 0-5 at any point in the season, we're including a bunch of teams for which that's their only five game losing streak. On average, these teams will have fewer stretches of five game losses, and fewer losses total. For example, take a .500 team (where you flip a coin for every game). If they start 0-5, we'd expect them to win 78.5 games (50% of the 157 left.) If, on the other hand, we simulate out 10,000 seasons for this .500 team, all the seasons in which they have a five game losing streak average about 80.5 wins.
Thank you for posting this. Timing of the streak does matter.
The 1983 Orioles had two separate 7-game losing streaks.
It certainly doesn't mean anything, but the historical context is interesting. As many of my Sox friends reminded me this morning, with much glee, "Once upon a time, no MLB team had ever won a 7-game playoff series when they were down 3-0 after 3 games." I think they're just pleased that they start the season 0-6 and then get to play the Yanks. Bad timing for the Yanks.
Is the third bullet point supposed to read "9% of all playoff teams have had a losing streak of at least EIGHT games"? I'm assuming this is an editing mistake and I know these things happen, but there's been an alarming increase in their frequency over recent weeks and it's not particular to any particular author on the site. One can only wonder if it's due to the effective departure of Christina, but it's certainly not a promising trend.