A few midseason turnarounds (recent)
Sometimes all it takes is a hair weave



LaRussa's boys were -10 to the leaders in late August.  But they went from +5 to +18 over the span of the last five weeks.  Key contributors:  Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday.  Granted, they're not Cruz and Cano, but a middle of the lineup is a huge advantage in a pennant race.



We've kicked this one around a bit.  Jeff Torborg was (reportedly) a dot-the-i's-and-cross-the-t's type; when the Marlins were 16-22, they replaced him with a guy wayyyyy too old to care about i's and t's (the 72-year-old Jack McKeon, of course).  But once the Marlins started enjoying the sport, it turned out they had a lot of good players.  Josh Beckett, Pudge, Mike Lowell, the rookie Miguel, etc.

This is a classic, kiddies.  Teams walk around so tight you couldn't pull a needle out of their lips with a tractor, and then they loosen up, sometimes they take off.



Without Edgar, the 1995 Mariners were nowhere near the playoff race, the wild card, the postseason, or Seattle.  But Dr. D well remembers the amazing news, deadline day July 31, that the Mariners had traded for a #2 pitcher (Andy Benes) and a leadoff hitter (Vince Coleman).  On August 3rd, they started winning, and never stopped.  They went from 43-46 to 79-66.



That ballclub was 31-42 before it finally managed its compression start.  Remember that huge trade they had nickered with the Red Sox?  The Sox cleaned house by sending over Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and others.  Naturally, at 31-42 the L.A. papers were yelling for Mattingly's head.

Yasiel Puig landed with a splash, and the Dodgers went on a ... wait for it ... 46-10 tear.

This one is also a classic.  RBI man goes bananas and ignites a smoldering roster.  Didn't work for Nelson Cruz in April, but still.  This is why you see this Cheney Carousel, you do realize.  GM's are well aware that a single impact performance can get a ballclub going.  It's the "cheapest," laziest way to push in to the pot:  reach down into AAA.  Not to call the M's, or Mark Trumbo, lazy.



We've groveled this one too many times.   But there's a pleasant moral to the story, because the Rockies' winning streak came late.  Very late.  They were right about .500 going into September, went 21-8 or something, and went to the World Series.


A few others, just for noodling's sake:

In 2014, the Orioles were 35-34 in the middle of June.  They finished +30 games over .500.

Also last year, the Royals started 29-32.  They ripped off a 10-game winning streak, but squandered that too, falling back to 48-50.   From there, they did good:  41-23 to finish the reg season and a glorious run through the playoffs.

Last year, the Orcs had an even more glorious turnaround.  That one started when, July 31?


A hobo can't eat from the community pot, unless he brings a potato to throw in.  Here is b-ref.com's "Standings On Any Date"-- all you have to do is open a second window with final standings, like this 2013 standings chart, set the "Standings On Date" to (say) July 1, 2013, and spot the playoff teams that had lousy records midseason.  You can also go to a given team's "Schedule and Results" to easily find their low point.

In 2013, for example, the Tiggers were 43-38 on July 1 but stormed to 93 wins.  I bet you can find tastier examples.

Cheap at twice the price,

Dr D





The existence of these turnaround precedents does give us hope that a turnaround is indeed possible for teams in the Mariners' position.

My problems in putting too much stock in that hope are:

(1) I imagine if you took the whole pool of teams in the Mariners' position, not just the ones that turned around their seasons, the percentages would significantly dim the spark of hope.

(2) If we look just at the Mariners, we do see the one example you pointed out. It gives hope that even this ill-fated franchise can have magical seasons (1995, 2001). But in those seasons we had Lou Piniella in the manager's seat. I do not argue that Lou Piniella is the only manager that ever CAN lead the M's into the playoffs. That would be a case of begging the whole question. But the fact remains that Sweet Lou IS the only manager that HAS ever led the M's into the playoffs. He left a frustrated man in part because as he later stated, "Howard Lincoln doesn't know HOW to win." However difficult it is to pin down, there does appear to be something in the brooding presence of Howard Lincoln that has mired in failure all attempts to build a team that actually reaches the playoffs, not to mention one that has success once there.

(3) We've been down this road of maintaining hope so many, many (did I say many?) times only to have it prove a false hope, it's like the boy who cried "Wolf!" Everyone knows theoretically there is hope. But the more it is invoked without it actually materializing it becomes harder and harder for people to actually respond to it. I have to admit that's the way that I feel these days. Of course, we all know how the "Wolf" story turned out, one day the wolf actually did show up. In the fable, it was a tragic calamity. For us it would be a delirious joy-- if we can live so long that the odds actually come into play, and if somehow the foggy influence of the Lincoln Monument is cleared.


I have done my fair share of complaining that the Mariners do not get calls behind the plate, so I'm not trying to get into that debate.

However, IF Felix or Elias had rec'd a mystery strike in the first inning when they were in trouble, the results may have been different. Unfortunately though, the Mariners are still not getting calls, and then they are going against teams that are just plain getting lucky. If there wasn't the wild pitch / past ball, the infield would not have been pulled in... and the back breaking pop up would have been caught by Miller versus the bloop hit... or IF Ackley would have actually decided to charge the single, he may have been able to gun Springer at 3rd, versus that demoralizing 1st to 3rd on a single to left. There have been plenty of other examples too like balls going off of gloves, or balls hitting walls that if a foot or two shorter were outs, and etc...

Yes, hustle and preparedness can aid the luck factor, but teams do just get lucky sometimes.


It just so happens that bad luck has carried on unabated for several years more than a decade. If indeed, as I've long suspected but cannot prove, a thumb is being placed on the scales by MLB umpires, a team has to be able to overcome that. It's really hard for me to view this season in isolation from the history of this franchise. Are we saying that we've faced some systematic bad luck that has lasted ten plus years? And if so, are we then saying that it is bound to turn around this time?


I'm sorry for starting this umpire talk, but I would really like to hear the so-called experts everywhere explain why Cano is getting so many mystery strikes called against him... just like Ackley has his whole career, and Franklin was getting while he was here, and like Seth Smith rec'd leading off yesterday and etc.... and then explain why Felix and Elias did not get calls when the game was just starting to get out of hand.



I'm in your corner on that one, TR.

Many fans of many teams passionately believe that their home nine is unfairly treated by MLB umpires. Combine that with all the data available these days, and I cannot fathom how we have not seen numerous public studies on the questsion.

We have recorded data for actual pitch locations. We have recorded data for actual ball strike calls correlating to those actual pitch locations. For each pitch, for each call, we have the umpire identified along with the pitcher, the batter, the opposing teams, and the game context. Any student of statistics given access to this data clearly is able to design a study that would reveal any systematic abuse. Now I don't frequent sophisticated statistical sites, but you can bet there would have been enough chatter about such a study that I would become aware of it.

Matt would know why this situation exists, I assume, having been employed in the past by an MLB team as a statistician. He may not be free to comment, I don't know.

I DO know it would be in MLB's interest to suppress any such discussion if unfair treatment is present, though I have no way of knowing if there is any active effort on their part to actually suppress it. The same motivation exists for MLB umpires. Conversely, if the data shows that there is no such treatment, wouldn't MLB be falling all over itself to quickly publicize that fact?

This goes along with the complete of serious public discussion of automating strike zones (apart from on fan forums like this), which I find equally puzzling.

I suppose I'm as susceptible to conspiracy theories as the next guy, but this ought not to be even an arena for such theories. It ought to be so easily demonstrable.


I've seen no study that HAS, as you say it, "sussed" and published their findings. Is straight catcher data sufficient? I don't know. Zunino's rating is just one side of the picture, and not the specific one I'm interested in. In my book it would take a full statistical study that included not just M's catcher data, but opposing team catchers' data to get any sort of true picture. That's just me, a layman talking.

My whole point is, given the fan interest in such things, why has NOBODY I've ever seen published data addressing the specific question. Somebody could become famous (you would think) if they published a well-regarded study. Why not?


that IF someone studied and analyzed the data properly and concluded their was no such umpire bias against certain teams, then that would settle the question, wouldn't it? Then why not settle it rather than leave things to where someone can vaguely point to some statistic that does not really settle the question?


the more Zunino's pitch-framing skills are very much less relevant than we would like for the question at hand. They have nothing at all to do with how Mariners hitters are treated by umpires in general, other than to suggest how those same umpires treat other teams when the M's are pitching. That has some value, at least when compared to how the Mariners are treated. But I think you need to get more granular than that. You would need to isolate high leverage situations. You might even need to isolate particular, high-leverage players.

Cano would be a perfect example. He spent his first year in Seattle getting pitches called for the most part like he was used to as a Yankee, he rarely showed displeasure with an occasional bad call, he rarely showed any displeasure with the umps at all. This year he has become a frustrated, anxious hitter, constantly demonstrating his displeasure with the constant flow of bad calls he's getting. If you haven't noticed that, you simply haven't been watching the games. Now we could attribute this to a number of different factors. It may not be bad calls at all, theoretically. He may just not be seeing the ball as well as in the past. But if you watch the games, you know that he is indeed getting a constant flow of bad calls, way more than last year.

So what is behind this phenomenon? It is this kind of thing that generates the question. Let's see a comparison for Cano between last year and this year of actual pitch location to calls. Let's see the percentages of pitches that were clearly balls but called strikes. Let's isolate it to crucial pitches in the at bat. Let's get granular.

This is the kind of study sabermetricians ought to feast on. Where's the beef?

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