Streaks in sports are looked at a lot, just Google hot hand baseball, basketball, etc. There is a lot out there on whether or not players can actually get into a groove or if it is completely luck-based. I want to look at team streaks though, not that this hasn’t been done before, and see which teams are the streakiest so far of 2014 to see which teams might have a run in them as they are chasing the playoffs.
To measure this I wanted to treat all games as part of a streak, so each game was given a value. A loss is defined as -1 and a second loss in a row would then become -2 and so on until the team won which would then be given a value of 1 with additional wins adding on top of that until a loss occurred. If you then just look at the standard deviations of each team by this measure it should be easy to see who has been the most streaky. One of the expectations of this measure would be that this would lead toward higher values for teams farther away from .500 as you have to have to string together wins (losses) to diverge significantly above (below) that mark, but those teams also don’t tend to have long losing (winning streaks) so their one-directional streakiness keeps them from being at the top of the list.
Streakiest (St.Dev.) Least Streaky (St.Dev.)
Tampa Bay (3.14) LA Dodgers (1.62)
Boston (2.89) Baltimore (1.89)
Kansas City (2.76) St. Louis (1.89)
Detroit (2.75) Pittsburgh (1.91)
Atlanta (2.70) Arizona (1.97)
*data through games on Sunday, July 27th
Streakiness, or lack thereof, does not make you a good or bad team. Detroit and Atlanta are streaky and good, Boston is streaky and bad, and Tampa and KC are streaky and near .500 on the season. On the not streaky side Arizona and the Dodgers are on extreme opposites of the spectrum. Just to make sure the measure didn’t bias a lot as you moved away from .500 in either direction I modified it by taking the standard deviation as a percent of the greater of wins or losses. The top 5 still included Tampa Bay, Boston, KC, and Detroit in a slightly different order with Atlanta falling to 6th and being replaced by Miami. The low end behaved similarly, so I will stick with the first measure as it looks like there is no bias toward good or bad teams.
One of the other things I wondered was whether or not streaky teams had high volatility in their runs scored or given up. Looking at both standard deviation of runs scored and allowed, and then those as a percentage of average runs scored/allowed it does not look like this is the case. The correlations for volatility in runs scored or allowed with streakiness are low, so I took it a step farther and looked only at teams that have high relative volatility in both runs scored and runs allowed. This group has an average streakiness rank of 11.3 versus and expectation of 15.5, so maybe there is something there, but it is not even close to convincing. I am going to need a lot more than one partial season of data to see what makes a team streaky.
As we head into pennant chase season this idea of streakiness may make things more interesting. For instance, Kansas City and Detroit are atop the AL Central and streaky, which could make that race a lot more fun to watch as the standings are likely to vacillate more than most, especially since Cleveland has been relatively streaky as well. On the other hand, the Dodgers might be harder to make up ground on as they consistently avoid long streaks. Tampa Bay and Baltimore are on opposite ends of the spectrum with Baltimore hoping the Rays will fall back into the negative streaks after gaining a lot of ground recently. They of course have an average streakiness Yankee team and a little bit streaky Blue Jays team to worry about as well.
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