Streaks, be they winning or losing, can really capture the imagination of baseball fans. Maybe it is because the season is so long and the opportunity to have a stretch of good or bad luck is possible multiple times. Nevertheless when a team starts a season in spectacularly fashion fans tend to take note, and a fast start, especially by a talented team; well that just fuels the excitement.
Today the Atlanta Braves look streaky good at 10 and 1 and it appears the Braves are for real. This is nothing new to the Braves organization as they have been very good before. In 1982 they were streaky good.
In that year the Atlanta Braves began the season 13-0 setting a major league record for starting a season undefeated. In fact it came close to being 14 straight wins, but the Cincinnati Reds held on for a 2 to 1 victory to end the Braves remarkable start. However despite that great start the Braves were beaten by the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
In 1987 the Milwaukee Brewers matched the Braves record for getting out of the starting gate quickly. They also had 13 straight wins of their own including a no-hitter during the streak before bowing to the White Sox on April 21, the same date the Braves streak ended five years earlier. The Brewers finished in third place of the American League East that year.
In 1981 the Oakland A’s gave the 1982 Braves something to shoot for by winning their first 11 games to start the season, and new manager Billy Martin a brand name known as, “Billy Ball.” The A’s went on and won 17 of their first 18 games of that strike shortened season, but lost to the Yankees in the American League Championship.
The 1970 Cincinnati Reds (The Big Red Machine) didn’t win their first 11 or even their first 13 games, but they did go 23-7 to start the season, a fantastic start to any season. By October they were in the World Series with the Baltimore Orioles, where they promptly lost to the team beaten by the “Miracle Mets” just the year before.
Other teams of the past have been streaky good, granted maybe not at the outset of a regular season, but certainly during the course of a year. Take the Chicago Cubs (Yeah the Cubs!) of 1906; they won 116 games in a scheduled 154 game season while losing only 36. That record held up until the 2001 Seattle Mariners (Yeah the Mariners of all teams!) tied it in a 162 game schedule.
The 06 Cubbies had a stretch where they went either 36-3 or 37-3 from late July into September, and at one point 50-6! Oh they also had the best winning percentage of any modern era team at .763. Prior to 1900 the 1884 St. Louis Maroons had a .832 winning percentage while the Chicago White Sox had winning percentages of .788 in 1876, .798 in 1880, and .777 in 1885. Oh did I mention that the Chicago White Sox beat the 1906 Cubs in the World Series that year? So much for most wins in a season huh.
Other teams have gone 35-5 over the years like the 1912 New York Giants, 1914 Philadelphia Athletics, 1936 New York Giants, and the 1977 Kansas City Royals. Oh by the way, all the above teams also failed to win the World Series.
The Mets had a 21-4 mark in 1986, before Bill Buckner and the Red Sox gave the Mets another miracle.
Wait; there was one team who not only had a great start, 35-5 in fact, but also had a fabulous season where they steamrolled everyone in their path, and then went on to beat the San Diego Padres (Uh-huh the seldom good Padres) in the 1984 World Series. Yep the Sparky Anderson led Detroit Tigers were that team.
Perhaps this year’s Braves will go wire to wire like the 1984 Tigers did. Then again they might play like the Braves team of 1982. That team was streaky all year long, and not just good streaks either. After they won those 13 straight they proceeded to lose 5 in a row, and later in the season 11 in a row! That could be enough to give Atlanta pause for thought in the streaks; whoops I mean weeks to come.