Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finally Getting Around To Making A Point

There's a point I've been wanting to make about the 1876 Brown Stockings for awhile and I figure now is as good a time as any.

The Browns finished 45-19, six games back of Chicago, and never really made a race of it. After getting swept by Hartford in early June, they found themselves six games back and the race for the championship was over. But I think it's interesting how they found themselves out of the race so early.

If you break down their record, the Browns were 18-12 against clubs with winning records and 27-7 against clubs under .500. Chicago was 19-11 against clubs with winning records but a fantastic 33-3 against losing clubs. Chicago won the championship by beating up on the League's weak sisters.

I don't mean to imply that Chicago's championship is illegitimate. Good teams take care of business against bad teams. That's the way it is. However, almost all of Chicago's margin of victory in the championship race comes from the difference between their and St. Louis' record against losing clubs.

If you look at the schedule and at the games on a day-by-day basis, you can point out exactly how the Browns lost the championship:

-April 25 @ Cincinnati: 2-1, L

-April 27 @ Cincinnati: 5-2, L

-May 3 @ Louisville: 11-0, L

The opening road trip of the season was a disaster for the Brown Stockings. They lost three of four and quickly found themselves three games out of first. I think you can make the argument that the Browns lost the championship in the first week of the season by getting off to a poor start.

-May 8 vs. Chicago: 3-2, L

-May 20 @ Chicago: 6-3, L

The Browns split their first home and home against Chicago and again found themselves three games out of first. They really needed a sweep of the four games to make up for their horrible start.

-May 27 @ New York: 6-2, L

The McGeary Game.

With each of those six loses, the Browns lost ground in the standings. If they had won those games, they would have finished tied for first and claimed the championship based on having a winning record against Chicago. Four of those games were against losing clubs and one could say that they should have won them (throwing out the whole glorious uncertainty of baseball thing).

My point that I wanted to make is that regardless of how well the Browns played after the sweep in Hartford (and they went 33-10 from that point on), they lost the championship in the first month of the season. The main reason they never challenged for the championship in 1876 is because of their poor play against the weak sisters of the League in the first month of the season.


David Ball said...

The point is even clearer if you look at the record of Cincinnati, which was the League's eak sister among weak sisters. The Reds won those first two games against St. Louis to open their season, then proceeded to go 7-56 the rest of the year.

Cincinnati did beat the Athletics twice straight one other time, later in the season. Those two brief winning streaks constituted nearly half their wins all year. Calculating from simple probability on the basis of their .138 winning percentage for the entire season, the Reds' chance of sweeping a two-game series with anybody, much less one of the better teams in the league, was slightly less than one in fifty.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I have a post going up tomorrow about a possible reason for my they lost those games. I almost put it all in one post but decided to break it up. But those loses to Cincinnati were killers.