By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — It’s been a few days since the Cleveland Indians’ American League record 22-game winning streak came to an end last week. It’s the second-longest in MLB history behind the 1916 New York Giants’ 26-game win streak.
But to really appreciate what the Central Division champions were able to accomplish, let’s take a peek at these interesting numbers they put up according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
— They outscored their opponents 69-14 in the first three innings during their win streak, outscoring their opponents by 2.5 runs in the first three innings, the best differential in the majors over that span.
— They used 18 different pitchers during the win streak. Over that span 15 pitchers had a sub-3.00 ERA, 13 had a sub-2.00 ERA and seven did not allow a run (34 combined appearances).
— They hit a MLB-high 41 home runs during the win streak, the most by any team during any win streak in MLB history. Cleveland also had more home runs than runs allowed (37) in this stretch.
To really put the streak into perspective, when it began on August 24, Cleveland had the third best record in the American League. Since then, they’ve been in a battle with the Houston Astros for the AL’s best record.
So the obvious question is are they the prohibitive favorites to win the World Series?
Consider the fact that several teams like the Yankees (15-8 in April), the aforementioned Astros (22-7 in May), and the Dodgers (21-7 in June) have had similar hot streaks this year, one could say that Cleveland is just the current model of MLB’s “it team”.
However, this is the same squad that blew a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series. Throw in their agonizing 10-inning Game Seven loss to the Cubs and you have the continuing angst of not winning a World Series since 1948 fueling their rabid fanbase.
Now if they’d just retire that offensive Chief Wahoo logo. But I digress.
Historically speaking, long winning streaks have gotten mixed reviews over the years regarding how they translate into winning a World Series title. Today, we’ll take a look at the five longest winning streaks — not including Cleveland — in modern MLB history.
1916 NEW YORK GIANTS (27-game unbeaten streak)
Record: 86-77 (missed postseason)
Noteworthy: Despite having the legendary John McGraw at the helm, the Giants finished fourth in the National League (seven games behind the then Brooklyn Robins). They won 26 games and tied once between September 7 to 30. Earlier in the season, the Giants had a 17-game winning streak. Despite the winning streaks, no Giant pitcher won 20 games (Pol Perritt won 18 and Rube Benton added 16). Ironically, the Giants traded future Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson to the Cincinnati Reds for another Hall of Famer, Edd Roush, on July 20. The aging hurler — who was immediately named the team’s manager — appeared in only one game as a pitcher for the Reds. Mathewson defeated Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown 10-8 on September 4. Mathewson would retire after the season and managed the Reds for the entire 1917 season and the first 118 games of 1918, compiling a total record of 164-176.
1935 CHICAGO CUBS (21 straight)
Record: 100-54 (lost to Detroit in the World Series)
Noteworthy: Charlie Grimm’s squad won their 14th National League pennant in team history while also winning 100 games for the first time in 25 years. Ironically, this was the last Cub team to win 100 before last year’s World Series title team. Their streak began on September 4 with Chicago sitting 2.5 games out of first place. They would not lose again until September 28, propelling them to the pennant. The streak also tied the franchise and the then major league record set in 1880 when they were known as the Chicago White Stockings. The Cubs would win Game One of the World Series but eventually fell to the Tigers in six games. Detroit won despite losing Hall of Fame first baseman Hank Greenberg in Game Two (broken wrist) after a home plate collision with another Hall of Famer, catcher Gabby Hartnett.
2002 OAKLAND ATHLETICS (20 straight)
Record: 103-59 (lost to Minnesota in American League Division Series)
Noteworthy: The team featured in the book and movie “Moneyball”, Art Howe’s squad steamrolled their way to an AL West division crown and the best record in the majors. Their then AL record win streak began on August 13 behind Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito’s 5-4 win over Toronto. Many of Oakland’s win were by narrow margins as closer Billy Koch recorded either a win or save in 12 of the 20 wins. The record-breaking 20th win was a game that saw the A’s erase an 11-0 deficit against the Royals to win 12-11. Scott Hatteberg’s ninth-inning homer off reliever Jason Grimsley is still one of the most memorable moments in franchise history. The streak ended on September 5 in a 6-0 shutout against Minnesota. Ironically, it was also the Twins that ended Oakland’s season as they defeated them in the ALDS in five games. Minnesota fell to the eventual World Series champion Anaheim Angels (99-63), the team that finished second — four games behind — to the A’s in the AL West.
1906 CHICAGO WHITE SOX (19 straight)
Record: 93-58 (won the World Series in six games over the Cubs)
Noteworthy: Famously known as the “Hitless Wonders”, Fielder Jones’ team won the pennant despite posting the lowest team batting average (.230) in the league. Sitting in fourth place, 7.5 games behind the defending champion Philadelphia A’s, the Chisox went on a 19-game winning streak that drove them into first place. On the year, Chicago led the AL in walks, hit batters, and sacrifice flies. The pitching staff was led by Frank Owen (22-13) and Nick Altrock (20-13). The Chisox led the league in 32 shutouts and their 2.13 ERA was second in the league. They would upset the heavily favored Cubs to win their first World Series crown. At the time, the Cubs had posted the highest regular-season win total (116-36) and winning percentage (.763) in the majors since the advent of the 154-game season. After splitting the first four games, the White Sox exploded for 26 hits in the last two games. They hit only .198 as a team in winning the series, just bettering the .196 average produced by the Cubs.
1947 NEW YORK YANKEES (19 straight)
Record: 97-57 (won the World Series in seven games over Brooklyn)
Noteworthy: Under the stewardship of Bucky Harris, the Bronx Bombers would finish 12 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers to win their 15th pennant and 11th World Series. Sitting atop the AL on June 29 with a 3.5 game lead on the Boston Red Sox, New York embarked on their 19-game winning streak that all but put the race out of reach. The usual suspects, i.e. Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Allie Reynolds, and others, were a huge part of a Yankee team that was trying to reach the World Series for the first time in four years. Despite a 55-22 home mark, most of the wins during the streak were achieved on the road and included six doubleheader sweeps. They would go on to play the Dodgers in a Series which featured several memorable moments including Cookie Lavagetto’s walk-off double in Game Four and Al Gionfriddo’s famous catch that robbed DiMaggio of a potential home run in Game Six. It was also the first Series to use six umpires in their games.