Putting the Braves’ start in historical context

25 Comments

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 ? ? ?

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.