Saturday, October 29, 2011


The 2011 World Series -- which concluded with last night's rather unexciting St. Louis victory in Game 7, after the Cardinals' dramatic comeback Thursday night over Texas in Game 6 -- had many streak-relevant aspects.

One issue that probably occurred to many people is the apparent momentum that carried over from the Cards' Game-6 win to Game 7 (or perhaps the Rangers' demoralization that did the same). It is an easy enough matter to examine World Series that went seven games to see if the team that won Game 6 seemed to have an increased likelihood of also winning Game 7. This online compilation details the game-by-game sequences of winning and losing teams in each World Series, but runs only through 2004. However, it turns out that the only post-2004 Series to go seven games was this year's. Below, I list all World Series from roughly the last six decades that went seven games (it is admittedly an arbitrary cut-off, but I wanted to have a relatively large sample without the chart getting too long).

YearTeam That Won Game 6
Also Winning Game 7
Team That Lost Game 6
Winning Game 7
1952NY Yankees---
1955---Brooklyn Dodgers
1956---NY Yankees
1957---Milwaukee Braves
1958NY Yankees*---
1960---Pittsburgh Pirates
1962---NY Yankees
1964---St. Louis Cardinals
1965---LA Dodgers
1967---St. Louis Cardinals
1968Detroit Tigers*---
1971---Pittsburgh Pirates
1972---Oakland A's
1973Oakland A's---
1975---Cincinnati Reds
1979Pittsburgh Pirates*---
1982St. Louis Cardinals---
1985KC Royals*---
1986NY Mets---
1987Minnesota Twins---
1991Minnesota Twins---
1997---Florida Marlins
2001Arizona Diamondbacks---
2002Anaheim Angels---
2011St. Louis Cardinals---
*Won final 3 games in coming back from 1-3 deficit.

In total, there were 13 instances of the team that won Game 6 continuing on to win Game 7, and 12 of the team that lost Game 6 rebounding to win Game 7. Pretty even. However, nine of the last 10 times the World Series has gone seven games, the team that won Game 6 went on to win Game 7.

Among the instances of the Game-6 outcome appearing to carry over to Game 7, we have some of the most heartbreaking losses from the perspective of the team that failed to close out the series in six games:
  • The 1986 Boston Red Sox, seeking the franchise's first World Series title since 1918, failing to get one final out to finish off the New York Mets in Game 6, after leading 5-3 with two Mets out and no one on base in the bottom of the tenth. The Mets won in seven.
  • The 2002 San Francisco Giants, leading 5-0 at Anaheim in Game 6 as the Angels came up in the bottom of the seventh, giving up 3 in the seventh and 3 in the eighth to lose 6-5. The Angels won in seven.
  • This year's World Series, in which the Texas Rangers were "one strike, twice" away from closing out the Cardinals in Game 6. A listless Ranger squad then fell in Game 7 by a score of 6-2.

Of course, not all teams that have suffered a near-miss loss in trying to close out the World Series in six games have faltered in Game 7. The 1975 Cincinnati Reds, who squandered a three-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 6 and lost on Carlton Fisk's famous extra-inning homer, did manage to win Game 7.

Another factor to consider is home-field advantage. With the Cards' win last night, the home team has now won nine straight Game 7's.

Other instances of hotness and coldness from the World Series:
  • The Cards' Albert Pujols, who recorded what some consider the greatest offensive performance ever in a single World Series game, blasting three home runs and getting five hits overall in six at-bats during Game 3, went 1-for-19 in the remainder of his official AB's. He thus finished the Series 6-for-25 (he did get on base with six walks, though, five of them intentional).
  • The Game 6 and 7 losses were the first back-to-back defeats for Texas since getting swept three games by Boston on August 23-25. Each of the next 13 times the Rangers lost, they immediately won the next game. (The losses in question were: Aug. 27 to the Angels; Aug. 31 to Tampa Bay; Sept. 3 to Boston; Sept. 5 to Tampa Bay; Sept. 7 to Tampa Bay; Sept. 10 to Oakland; Sept. 16 to Seattle; Sept. 22 to Oakland; to Tampa Bay to begin the postseason; in Games 3 and 5 in the American League Championship Series against Detroit; and finally, in Games 1 and 3 against St. Louis.)
  • Josh Hamilton, the ailing Rangers slugger, ended a drought of 65 postseason at-bats without a homer in the 10th inning of Game 6, with a two-run shot. It looked like it might be enough to give Texas the series, but the Cards tied the game in their half of the inning and won in the 11th.   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Several streak-relevant developments occurred yesterday:

Texas Tech ended Oklahoma's home-field winning streak at 39 games, in college football.

Also in college football, East Carolina's Dominique Davis completed all 26 of his pass attempts in the first half against Navy, before throwing an incomplete pass to open the third quarter (play-by-play sheet). As noted in the linked Washington Post article, "Davis, a 6-foot-3 senior, completed his final 10 passes last week against Memphis, giving him 36 straight completed passes — eclipsing the season mark of 26 set by [California's Aaron] Rodgers in 2004."

The St. Louis Cardinals have now scored first in 10 straight postseason baseball games, the record for a single postseason (i.e., not allowing a team to combine games from different years' postseasons). Using the Cardinals' game-by-game playoff log, I've charted the innings in which St. Louis and its opponent scored their first runs in each given game (below, you may click on the chart to enlarge it). As can be seen, St. Louis has been scoring a lot in the first or second inning. The Cards will attempt to make it 11 straight games scoring first tonight, in Game 4 of the World Series at Texas.


[UPDATE: The Texas Rangers have scored first in Sunday night's Game 4, thus ending the Cardinals' streak of scoring first.]


Finally, in National Hockey League action, L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has now recorded three straight shutouts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baseball's World Series, which begins tonight, features two very hot teams. It's not just the relative ease with which the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers dispatched their respective rivals in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but also how the Cardinals and Rangers ended the regular season.

At the conclusion of play on August 24, the Cards were only slightly above .500, with a record of 67-63, hardly suggestive of a team that would become the National League representative in the Fall Classic. However, the Cardinals got hot for roughly the last month of the season (winning 23 games and losing only 9, to finish 90-72) while their rivals for the last playoff spot, the Atlanta Braves, got cold over the same period of time (11-21, including 6 losses in their final 7 games) to finish 89-73.

The American League champion Rangers finished the season even hotter than the Cardinals, winning 14 of their final 16 regular-season games to finish 96-66. Texas really fattened up on the worst teams in its division, going 15-4 vs. Seattle and 13-6 vs. Oakland in the regular season. However, any concerns about whether the Rangers could win steadily against better opposition were allayed in the initial playoff rounds, as Texas defeated Tampa Bay 3 games to 1, and Detroit 4 to 2.

Although it's guaranteed to happen this year, teams finishing the regular season on fire usually don't win the World Series. According to a 2005 study:

In the 35 years from 1969 through 2004, the team with best overall winning percentage won the World Series only eight times. Let me emphasize: the team with the best regular-season record has won the World Series only 23% of the time...

How about the teams with the best September record? The answer is exactly the same: they won eight World Series, too. Same impact. In six of the eight examples, however, the team with the best September record was also the team with the best overall record. So there's a lot of overlap between the two groups.

In fact, in about half of the last 35 years (17, to be exact), the team with the best regular-season record was also the team with the best record in September. Of those 17 teams, six won the World Series. Even teams that were Good and had Momentum won it all only 35% of the time.


 This 2006 article elaborates on why late-season hotness or coldness is not necessarily indicative of postseason performance.

Friday, October 14, 2011

ESPN.com writes about the 37-game losing streak of Lock Haven University's football squad, the longest stretch of futility at any level of U.S. college football. Lock Haven plays at the Division II level, a cut below conferences such as the SEC, Big 10, and Pac 12, who play in Division I.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Texas Tech women's soccer streak of holding opponents scoreless ended tonight at 716 consecutive minutes, as the Red Raiders lost to Texas A&M, 2-0. Texas Tech came into the match not having allowed a goal in the last 670 minutes, as detailed previously. Tech goalie Victoria Esson (right) had been in net for 593 of those minutes.

With a record crowd (including your Hot Hand correspondent) in attendance in Lubbock, the Aggies' Kelley Monogue scored roughly a minute into the second half (i.e., the 46-minute mark) to end the streak (see scoreboard photo below). As also seen on the scoreboard, A&M's streak-breaking goal was also its first shot on goal (S.O.G.) for the evening, so Texas Tech's defense until that time had really stymied the Aggie offense.

The Red Raiders' shutout streak thus ended at 716 minutes, whereas Esson's personal scoreless streak expired after 639 minutes.

Monogue added another goal at the 86-minute mark to produce the final 2-0 margin.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Texas Tech women's soccer team, with starting goalie Victoria Esson and her back-ups, has now gone seven straight games without allowing a goal (full disclosure: I'm on the faculty at Texas Tech). Regulation time for soccer is 90 minutes, but twice 20 minutes of overtime have been tacked on, bringing the total number of shutout minutes to 670. Based on the Red Raiders' game-by-game log, here's how the streak has unfolded.

Date
Opponent
Score
Esson (min.)
Substitute (min.)
Sept 11
Toledo
3-0
45
Braziel 45
Sept 16
Ariz. St.*
5-0
90
---
Sept 18
Arizona*
0-0
110
---
Sept 23
Missouri
1-0
90
---
Sept 25
N. Arizona
5-0
58
Kaufman 32
Sept 30
@Baylor
0-0
110
---
Oct 2
@Oklahoma
2-0
90
---

*Arizona tournament at Tucson.


According to the NCAA Division I women's soccer record book, the record for consecutive scoreless minutes by a goalie is 1,669:25 -- that's sixteen-hundred and change -- by Anne Sherow of North Carolina, spanning segments of the 1987 and 1988 seasons. That same record book lists 22 stretches of 700 or more minutes by individual goalies.

Esson has not allowed a score in the last 593 minutes she has played. If, hypothetically, she continued to shut out opponents and brought her personal total of consecutive scoreless minutes above 700, I'm not sure if she would make the list in the NCAA record book, because she was not the netminder for all of her team's minutes during that time. Still, I think you can see the magnitude of what Esson and her Red Raider teammates (don't forget those defense players!) are in the process of accomplishing.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Revisiting the depths of cold hitting in baseball -- the record for non-pitchers' consecutive official at-bats without a hit -- we had Milwaukee's Craig Counsell registering a 0-for-45 slump earlier this season. There was debate at the time over whether Bill Bergen in 1909 had gone hitless in 45 or 46 straight at-bats and thus whether or not Counsell had earned a share of the record.

Upon further review, it turned out that Bergen's streak length was indeed 45 hitless at-bats. The confusion appeared to stem from whether Bergen's number of at-bats in a particular game was 2 or 3, with the number being fuzzy in a photocopied box score. Additional sources of data made it "pretty certain" to a historical analyst that the number was really 2 and thus the overall hitless streak was 45 AB.

Well, as I learned from a SABR electronic newsletter the other day, the Dodgers' Eugenio Velez just finished the 2011 season on a 0-for-46 slump, breaking the prior record. And he can still extend the streak next year!