Winning streaks are so in right now. The Braves have won 13 games in a row and pushed their insane August-division lead to 15.5 games in the NL East. That looks like a typo even though I know it’s a fact. The Tigers, for their part, have won 11 straight baseball games and are 6 games up on the very solid Cleveland Indians. Winning is exciting and doing it a bunch of times in a row is compelling and interesting.
We’ll leave aside the Braves and focus on the Tigers because, well, this is a Tigers site. Let’s establish some basics. The Tigers record for consecutive wins is 14. The AL record is 20 by the 2002 A’s. The MLB record is 21 from the 1935 Cubs. The Tigers are currently at 11.
What are the odds they get to the record(s)?
Let’s start with the team record because that’s the one we can really dig into because we know the pitching matchups. The Tigers have one game against the Indians (108 wRC+) and then three against the Yankees (81 wRC+). The Indians have a good offense and the Yankees have a bad one. That was easy. Let’s take a look at the matchups:
- Scherzer at McAllister (3.47 ERA, 3.81 FIP)
- Porcello at Nova (3.08 ERA, 2.97 FIP)
- Sanchez at Hughes (4.87 ERA, 4.67 FIP)
- Verlander at Pettitte (4.71 ERA, 3.90 FIP)
McAllister has been successful at preventing runs and his peripherals generally support that. Nova’s been pitching well across the board. Hughes has had some trouble and he’s a mess at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte’s pitched better than his ERA, but he has to pitch in front of that defense so when we’re talking about team wins and losses the runs matter even if they aren’t Pettitte’s fault.
So what can we infer from the pitching matchups and offensive numbers that we can incorporate into our expectations? Not too much. Most individual baseball games are unpredictable. McAllister is tough matchup, Nova is pitching well. Hughes gives up homers in a small park and Pettitte is left handed. All in all that’s pretty balanced. Nothing on the page tells me the Tigers are especially favored in any of the games.
So what are the odds. Let’s use a simple formula. The Tigers have won 59.8% of their games. Indians at 54.4%. Yankees at 50.4%. These numbers are based on playing the whole league and not other reasonable good clubs. So I’ll undersell the Tigers’ advantage. Let’s say they have a 52% chance of winning any individual game against another team.
If we give them a 52% chance and assume that winning one game doesn’t change the likelihood of winning the next game, the Tigers have a 7.3% chance of winning the next four games.
But under those same conditions the odds of winning 11 in a row up to this point is a staggering 0.075%. The odds of a 15 game streak is 0.006%. Basically, they’ve done the hard part! When this thing started they had a less than a 6/100,000 chance of winning 15 straight games. Now it’s up to 7/100!
They’ve won with great pitching and big contributions from the bottom of the order and the bullpen. It’s unlikely they’ll win 4 more games before they lose and set the team record, but the odds are way better now than they were two weeks ago. 7 in 100, as an old Econ professor use to say, is not like walking outside and getting hit by an asteroid. Sometimes it does happen.
The Tigers are playing excellent baseball but they still have a ways to go to set the record, even if they’ve made it pretty easy on themselves comparatively. Just for fun, the odds of setting the AL and MLB record are pretty fun to consider.
The Tigers have a 0.14% chance of setting the AL record and a 0.075% chance of setting the MLB record starting today. The odds of winning 21 and 22 games in a row starting from zero at odds of 52% for each game comes out to 0.0001% and 0.00006%. Also known as 1 in million or 6 in 10 million.
Even if you assumed the team was a true .600 win percentage team, winning 22 straight games would still only happen 0.0013% of the time. It’s really hard to win a bunch of games in a row. Even if you were a .800 true talent team, you would still only win 22 games in a row 0.7% of the time. Essentially what I’m tell you is that if a team who finished 130-32 played repeatedly in some sort of weird experiment, they would only win 22 consecutive games about 1% of the time.
This is a fun streak. Hold your breath, because we’re getting close to some impressive history and another division title.