Putting the Braves’ start in historical context

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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 ? ? ?

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.