I was watching an anime film called Mezzo Forte over the weekend, about the psychotic owner of a baseball team (and his even-worse daughter). After losing a game, the owner surprised his losing pitcher in the parking lot, and beat him to death with a baseball bat. Now, while I don't normally advocate violence as the solution to any problem (except for entertainment purposes, when I'm all for it. Link may be slightly NSFW), it strikes me that this might well have resolved the Huge Manatee issue very nicely. Hell, if Ken Kendrick had gone after Ortiz on the pitcher's mound, with a chainsaw, in front of a full Chase Field house, 40,000 cheering witnesses would probably have seen absolutely nothing at all. :-) I'm just sayin'...
So, the Suns' streak finally ended, after a record of something like 33-2 over the past couple of months, the second-best in NBA history. Hah! I'm less than impressed though, and let's put things into perspective here: the Diamondbacks' unbeaten streak is now approaching four months. Okay, the fact that they haven't played in almost four months, might just have something to do with it, but so what? I do admit, even though I hate basketball, to being impressed by the Suns. I mean, in nine years of Diamondbacks' franchise history, we have reached double-figures once, with a longest winning streak of 12. The Suns have had two of 15+ this season.
In terms of D-backs streaks, seven appears to be where about we run out of steam. We have won seven straight on twelve occasions - but in the eighth game which follows, our record is only 5-7. Here are the five times we've won it, and posted a streak of eight games or more.
May 4-13, 2000. Nine games. Starting with a win in Milwaukee in front of only 8,405, we then swept a six-game home stand against the Padres and Dodgers, before finishing with two victories in San Diego. Two wins each for Stottlemyre and Anderson, and the closest game during the streak was a 12-innings victory over the Dodgers.
May 25-June 3, 2001. Nine games. As in the last streak, San Diego were largely the victims, providing six wins, three on the road and three at home. We also swept the Giants in San Francisco, including the memorable 1-0, 18-innings marathon on May 29. Seven consecutive games of the nine were won by two runs or less.
Aug 10-19, 2001. Nine games. Our best streak outside the division, sweeping Atlanta in Turner Field, than coming home to clobber the Pirates and Cubs. Pitching was the key here, with every win going to our starter, and the D'backs conceded three runs or less in each game bar the last one, where we beat Chicago 13-6.
Aug 9-17, 2002. Eight games. Part of perhaps the most amazing streak of pitching in Arizona history: 13 straight contests allowing three runs or less, with a total of only 27 conceded in those games. Florida (road), and Cincinnati and Chicago (in Phoenix) were the victims: we had a 2-1 lead in the 8th inning of the ninth game, but Fetters, Myers and Mantei couldn't hold on.
June 18-13, 2003. Twelve games. All the more remarkable, because the rest of the year, the "Baby Backs" never won more than four in a row. Starting with two in Houston, we swept the Reds and Astros here, then Detroit on the road, before pipping the Rockies at Coors in twelve innings. Seven wins went to our bullpen, Eddie Oropesa and Stephen Randolph getting two each.
Since then, we haven't won more than seven in a row, which we did most recently last season, from April 30 to May 6. If we assume Arizona will be a .500 team this year (which is probably within five, almost certainly ten games, of the truth), what are the chances of various winning streaks? Fortunately, we have the Winning Streak Calculator, which gives us the following odds for lengthy runs during the course of next season:
8 games: 1 in 8.11
9 games: 1 in 15.74
10 games: 1 in 32.17
11 games: 1 in 67.52
12 games: 1 in 143.94
13 games: 1 in 310.20
14 games: 1 in 674.62
15 games: 1 in 1479.74
16 games: 1 in 3273.05
17 games: 1 in 7301.18
This suggests anything more than a seven-game streak would be unlikely, and only the most ardent fan would bet double-figures. I guess the good news is, the odds are the same for a losing streak of the same duration, so lengthy futility seems just as unlikely. And that ties in with recent performance too: the Diamondbacks haven't lost more than seven in a row since August 2004, though that season we had separate losing runs of eleven, fourteen and nine games. Yuk. Incidentally, the odds of an 84-win team like the Baby Backs posting a 12-game win streak, works out to about 1 in 97, so they were apparently the Lucky Backs as well.
It's kinda interesting, however, since studies have shown that "momentum" is, as they say, vastly over-rated. Well, actually, what they said was, "the Wald-Wolfowitz runs test for randomness produced only 5 team season observations out of 86 with significance levels less than .05." Which I think translates to "vastly over-rated". :-) There's also a chart here which looks at the winning records of teams before and after a given record over ten games. This seems to show little effect of a hot streak: for example, if a team goes 10-0, their win % in the five games after is .620, barely changed from the .610 for the five games before the streak.
What matters at the end of the day, is the number of wins in total, not whether they're attractively grouped or not. Streaks may be fun to ride while they last, but as the Cardinals can attest, the switch from cold to hot (or vice-versa) can occur at any time. Even if you crawl into the playoffs on your hands and knees, anything can happen. Especially if you have the reigning Cy Young winner and Randy Johnson in your rotation...