Caution: Falling Wild Card Teams

As of last night’s games, the American League Wild Card standings are all tied up and the National League Wild Card standings are separated by a single game with two days remaining in the regular season.

This is exciting for baseball fans no matter the circumstances, but these particular close races were not always so.  The Red Sox are heading for an epic collapse that would easily rank as the 3rd worst collapse in the history of the game, or possibly even the absolute worst ever, according to Nate Silver of the New York Times.  He shows that not all streaks are created equal and the height of the Red Sox play earlier in the season is shocking when compared to the depths at which the team is finishing the season:

…the team with the worst finish to the season among those that had played .600 baseball beforehand was the 1969 Chicago Cubs. They started their year 84-53 but finished 8-17, turning a five-game lead over the New York Mets into an eight-game deficit… 

So even if the Red Sox win their final two games, they will still match the 1969 Cubs for late-season futility — the team that, prior to the Bartman Ball, had been most closely associated with the franchise’s alleged curse.

Take that, Mr. Goat. 

The full article is very interesting and I encourage folks to go over and read it to gather some appreciation for what is happening to the Red Sox right now, but I’m going to stick with the simple projections to give a big picture view of what is happening because while Boston is melting down in spectacular fashion, the Braves are also in the middle of an historic collapse of their own.

While Boston reached a high of 99.6% likelihood of making the playoffs on September 3rd (good for 3rd worst collapse by percentage), the Atlanta Braves reached a high of 98.3% likelihood of making the playoffs on September 8th.  If the Cardinals catch the Braves, the collapse would be the 6th worst in baseball history (before this year).


So if both of these races finish with the Red Sox and the Braves both missing the playoffs, the all-time collapse standings would be:

  1. 1995 California Angels – 99.9%
  2. 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers – 99.7%
  3. 2011 Boston Red Sox – 99.6%
  4. 2007 New York Mets – 99.5%
  5. 1934 New York Giants – 99.2%
  6. 1999 Cincinnati Reds – 98.4%
  7. 2011 Atlanta Braves – 98.3%
  8. 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers – 98.1%
  9. 2003 Seattle Mariners – 96.8%
  10. 1964 Philadelphia Phillies – 96.3%

Meanwhile the 1969 Cubs would come in 12th at 95.8%.  In fact, only one of the two collapses has to come to fruition to push the Cubs out of the top ten, so we have that to root for.

So is this the Year of the Choke?  No other year have TWO such high ranking choke jobs, but it is interesting to note that 2001 and 2007 both had THREE teams ranked in the top 50 all-time collapses.

In 2001, the Red Sox were at 87.6% (31st), the Cubs (MACK NEWTON!), 86.0% (37th), and Twins, 85.9% (38th). Then in 2007, the Mets were at 99.5% (3rd), the Padres, 92.8% (18th), and the Tigers, 88.7% (29th). So do three teams all choking away Top 50 leads outweigh two top ten collapses?  I don’t know, but it is interesting.  Especially considering I’ve never considered the 2001 Cubs to be chokers instead of just a bad baseball team that played over its head for awhile and then fell back to where it should be.

So these rankings certainly have flaws, and they were not all the product of the team disintegrating.  Some, like the 1951 Dodgers, were outplayed by teams that went out of their heads.  But these two teams falling off pretty steep cliffs at the same time sure is fun for those of us fans who know a little something about losing in spectacular fashion.

Boston… Atlanta… I just want to tell you both good luck, and we’re all counting on you.


About aisle424

I used to write lots of things about the Cubs. Now I sometimes write things about the Cubs.