Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals

Putting the Braves’ start in historical context


Baseball has been around for a long, long time. But only 31 teams have ever started a season 11-1 or 12-0 in their first 12 games. The Braves became the 31st this afternoon with a 9-0 win over the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals, wrapping up a series sweep. They have now won nine consecutive games.

Only four other teams have accomplished the feat since 2000: the 2002 Cleveland Indians, the 2003 Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants, and the 2009 Florida Marlins. Coincidentally, of those four teams, only the Giants reached the post-season. In fact, the other three won 87 games or fewer. A hot start is no guarantee of long-term success.

Ten of the 31 teams accomplished the feat in the 19th century and an additional three occurred prior to the end of the Dead Ball Era. Since 1988, only six teams joined the club. So, we’re talking about a feat that happens in the contemporary era about once every four years.

The list:

Team Year W-L Tot W-L Rnk Postseason
BOS 1872 11-1 39-8 1 NA Pennant
BOS 1874 12-0 52-18 1 NA Pennant
HAR 1875 12-0 54-28 3
BOS 1875 12-0 71-8 1 NA Pennant
CHC 1879 11-1 46-33 4
CHC 1880 11-1 67-17 1 NL Pennant
PHA 1883 11-1 66-32 1 AA Pennant
SLM 1884 12-0 94-19 1 UA Pennant
NYG 1884 12-0 62-50 4
DTN 1887 11-1 79-45 1 WS Champ
DET 1911 11-1 89-65 2
PHI 1915 11-1 90-62 1 NL Pennant
NYG 1918 11-1 71-53 2
NYG 1938 11-1 83-67 3
BRO 1940 11-1 88-65 2
BRO 1955 11-1 98-55 1 WS Champ
PIT 1962 11-1 93-68 4
CLE 1966 11-1 81-81 5
BAL 1966 11-1 97-63 1 WS Champ
CHC 1969 11-1 92-70 2
CIN 1980 11-1 89-73 3
OAK 1981 11-1 64-45 1 Division Champ
ATL 1982 12-0 89-73 1 Division Champ
DET 1984 11-1 104-58 1 WS Champ
MIL 1987 12-0 91-71 3
ATL 1994 11-1 68-46 2
CLE 2002 11-1 74-88 3
SFG 2003 11-1 100-61 1 Division Champ
KCR 2003 11-1 83-79 3
FLA 2009 11-1 87-75 2
ATL 2013 11-1 ? ? ?

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.