October 4, 2005
BASEBALL: Cleveland Collapse
Working backward from Baseball Prospectus' daily odds of each team making the playoffs (a calculation that appears to take in things like the standings, schedule strength, and games remaining at home), Clay Davenport rates the collapse of the 2005 Indians as the eighth-worst of all time, given that at as of Sunday, September 25, Cleveland rated as having a 96.5% chance of making the playoffs, slightly higher than the best odds held at any point by the 1964 Phillies. Davenport rates the seven biggest collapses, by odds of making the playoffs as of August 1 or later:
1. 1995 Angels (99.9%)
2. 1951 Dodgers (99.7%)
3. 1934 Giants (98.8%)
4. 1993 Giants (98.1%)
5. 1969 Cubs (98.0%)
6. 1942 Dodgers (96.9%)
7. 1983 Braves (96.6%)
8. 2005 Indians (96.5%)
Amazingly, there are no Red Sox teams on this list, whereas the Dodgers and Giants take a beating. A few of these teams, notably the 1993 Giants and 1942 Dodgers, are more noted for how well the team that caught them played. The 1983 Braves mainly unraveled because of the loss for the season of Bob Horner, who'd been integral to the team building a big lead in the NL West.
You can see the 1983 Braves' collapse - which brought to a gruesome close the one brief moment between 1969 and 1991 when the Braves were a contender - by viewing their batting stats through and after August 10, and their pitching stats through and after August 10. You can see that the other major culprit on the offensive side was Chris Chambliss (who dropped off from .290/.521/.377 to .248/.358/.333). On the pitching staff, Pascual Perez dropped from 13-3, 3.02 ERA to 2-5, 4.41, Pete Falcone from 8-1, 2.96 to 1-3, 6.23, Steve Bedrosian from 7-5, 2.84 and 16 saves to 2-5, 5.74 and 3 saves. Phil Niekro also pitched poorly down the stretch, leading to his release after 20 years as a Brave. Of course, the panic trade for Len Barker, completed after the season with Brett Butler and Brook Jacoby, didn't help. Joe Torre was fired a year later.
The '95 Angels were the ones who really stood out in my mind for the astonishing size and rapidity of their collapse, so I'm not surprised they finished on top. I believe that, like the '78 Sox and a few other collapsees, they actually rallied to force a playoff (which they lost, of couse).
As an Indians fan all I can say is ouch.
I've got to think the 2005 Orioles should be on that list. Talk about your all time implosions....
After I read the first sentence I knew the '69 Cubs would be featured. Stupid black cat...
Having lived in Cleveland through the Browns - Broncos fiascos, the Cavs vs. Jordan games and the two Tribe World Series of the 90's, this could have been expected.
What's worse, this Tribe team is really talented, and the future collapses will inevitably occur later in the season (playoffs) and be much harder for Cleveland fans to stomach.
Brace yourselves, it's going to get worse!
As a Sox fan what I would say to the comment about this year's Orioles would be that that was a team living on borrowed time. Brian Roberts was playing WAY over his head and you knew that had to stop, you were also getting above average contributions from guys that were either old or not really as good as they were playing, you knew Sammy would suck at some point and that Tejada was not going to drive in 250 runs. Their staff, while talented, walks an incredible amount of hitters which always gets you at some point. The extent of the collapse was sort of shocking but I don't think anyone thought that was a team that was going to be around at game 150.
Interestingly, the Indians collapse probably prevented this year's White Sox from making an appearence on the list.
Also interestingly, Cubs & Angels each collapsed in year one of an expanded playoff system. I have no idea what that means (probably nothing), but I still find it interesting.
I still think the Phillies' collapse of 1964 is the gold standard. And as every Mets fan knows, if the Mets had won that third game on Sunday, the last day of the season, and swept the Cardinals, there would have been a three-way playoff.
The '83 Braves collapse was foreshadowed in 1982, when the Braves were 10.5 games ahead of the 3rd place Dodgers on July 28, 1/2 game behind the Dodgers on August 10, and 4 games behind the Dodgers on August 18. (The Dodgers swept two 4-game series from the Braves in that stretch). The Braves did end up in 1st plave by 2 games, but still ...