You may have noticed some chemistry between a couple of MLB teams lately. A little somethin’ somethin’. You know. They’re trying to hide it but we ain’t blind; every time you see one of ’em, there’s the other, doin’ the same thing, just across the way in the other league.
Yep. The Braves and the Twins have something going on.
You probably noticed that the Twins and Braves both started 0-9. I’m not going to lie; there being another team matching Atlanta’s comprehensively garbage start to the season helped me cope a little.
But that’s not it. You probably also have noticed that both teams have now gone on a 3-game winning streak. That’s just uncanny.
Let me accentuate the impression I hope to make here with some historical colorings, courtesy of Baseball Reference’s Play Index (which you should subscribe to), and my weak-ass Excel skills.
Since 1871, only 21 teams have started 0-9. That’s over the course of 145 seasons. That’s a lot of opportunities for teams to really go belly up for 9 games. It speaks to the mathematical marvel that is baseball. Even in the early days of the organized game, when there was less parity than we have now, it was very unlikely to lose 9 games in a row. The ball is just about bound to bounce your way more often than that.
I need to choose an average number of teams per season from 1871 to 2016, but it’s not readily available to me. I’m going with 18, which I think is conservative. This gives us an estimate of 2610 chances for teams to start 0-9, and 21 occurrences of it. Using these numbers, we uncover a historical frequency of 0.008 for teams earning this dubious accolade. Of course, not all teams are equally suited to start 0-9 in the first place. The Braves were quite likely to sport a poor record in the first half. But the fact that it’s happened so few times… well, that speaks for itself.
Now, this article is about the weird tear in space time that allowed the Twins to become the AL dimension’s version of the Braves (poor chaps, they never had a chance). So how rare is it for not one but two teams to start 0-9 during the same season?
It’s happened 5 times. Using our arbitrary but probably not-too-far-off estimate of 2610 team seasons above, we end up with a frequency of 0.0019. We’re talking nearly unprecedented stuff. But let’s go further.
Is there precedent for 2 teams starting this epically bad together, and then continuing their synchronicity for 3 or more games? No. No there is not.
Here’s the closest thing, though. I don’t want to hype it up, but this ending up being quite an entertaining little nugget. I hope you’ll agree.
In 1875, the New Haven Elm Citys (yep, that’s right), and, get this, the WASHINGTON NATIONALS, both marched bravely forth to an 0-11 record. Washington finally relented and won game 12. Ahhhhh. That’s pretty satisfying that it was a Washington Nationals team. But that’s really not the good part.
If you peruse the same message boards and Braves-y internet groups as I, then you have probably gotten a depressing chuckle recently out of someone cracking wise that “the Braves and Twins are set to play this summer, so one of them will definitely get a win eventually.” It’s a funny observation.
It must have been an even funnier reality in 1875, when the Nationals finally got their first win by sweeping a two game series against their former bedmates in loss-accumulation, none other than the New Haven Elm Citys. They literally played out our funny joke; two teams staggered to an 0-11 start, while the rest of the league snickered “can’t wait to see those heavy weights go at it,” and only then could one of them get a W. Too bad it was the Nationals, given New Haven’s clearly superior name.
So, wrapping up here, the Braves and Twins mutually hold a strange record that I have spent my free time uncovering, for the joy of a precious few. In sum: out of the 21 teams in baseball’s 145 year recorded history that have blundered to 0-9, the 2016 Braves and Twins represent one of only 5 pairs of teams to pull this off together in one season. Of those 5 pairs, they are the ONLY duo to then continue to match each others W/L patterns for 3 or more games.
Just in case you’re bad at sharing, Braves fans, I’ll leave you with one more fun fact. There have been only 2 pairs of teams in baseball to start the same season 0-9 together since 1900. The Braves were part of both. They shared an 0-10 start with the Orioles back in 1988.
Is that cool? I’m not sure. Let’s just hope the Braves and Twins keep this magical wormhole set to the “both of us stay on a winning streak” setting for a while.