[Edit.: We’re pleased to post this article by Tony Liao, graduate student at Cornell University and loyal member of the Nation.]
Fans of the movie ‘Old School’ will undoubtedly recognize the quote, where a drunken Frank the Tank (Will Ferrell) tries to convince everyone at a party to go streaking through the quad. Half a mile into his booze-hazed run, he’s spotted by his wife and her girlfriends, only to turn around and see that no one is behind him.
After watching the Reds win a thriller in 15 innings, I said to myself (for the umpteenth time this year), “well maybe that’s the game that kicks off a winning streak.” That is always what we hope for as fans. We look at the Reds record (21-24), and think, ‘hey if we can reel off four, five, maybe even six games in a row, we’re back above .500 and in striking distance of 1st place.’ We’re not hoping for one of those crazy streaks, like the Oakland A’s run (20) in Moneyball, but just a solid week where the team plays well, gets some breaks, and ends 9th innings with ‘This one belongs to the Reds!’
Of course, you know what happened after the 15-inning miraculous defense win, the Reds got blown out the next day with their ace Johnny Cueto on the mound. Baseball is funny that way. It has a mantra that warns against optimism (“Momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher”). But fans still hold out hope for a streak, and I think I can say for everyone that Redleg Nation could really use one.
The question remains, can the Reds go streaking? How often do they go streaking? What is the significance, if any, of these streaks?
I decided to check it out, so I went back a few season to see (reminisce) about the days where the Reds actually strung a few wins together.
In 2010, the Reds had three 5-game streaks (April 25-30, May 8-12, June 21-26), a 7-game streak (Aug 13-20).
In 2011, the Reds opened the season with a 5 game win streak (March 31-April 6) – remember that glorious sweep over the Brewers started by Hernandez’s walkoff? Well that team only had one more 5-game streak in them (May 13-17), and didn’t put together another streak for the rest of the season.
In 2012, the Reds had two 5-game streaks (July 31-Aug 4, Aug 10-15), three 6 game streaks (May 19-24, June 12-17, July 6-15), one 10-game streak (July 19-29), which amazingly happened without Joey Votto.
In 2013, the Reds liked them some modest streaks, and had 5 separate 4-game streaks (April 15-18, July 22-25, Aug 12-15, Sept 5-8, and Sept 16-20), one 5-game streak (May 20-25), and one 6-game streak (May 10-16).
Which brings us to 2014. If you can’t seem to put your finger on when they last went streaking, that’s because they haven’t. The longest winning streak the Reds have put together is three games in a row (April 22-24 v PIT), but came out of that stretch to get swept by the Braves in a 3-game series to give that right back.
So we come out of this with good news and bad news. The good news is of course that contrary to popular belief (or collective memory), Reds teams of previous years have been able to reel off a lot of these streaks and it also reminds us how good those 2012 and 2010 teams actually were.
The bad news is that in those years, by this date in May, those teams all already had a couple winning streaks of 4, 5, 6 games. And the other bad news is that the team needs these streaks — 2012 demonstrates that good teams need winning streaks to create a lead in the division:
- In 2012, the Reds first six game winning streak (May 19 to 24) took them from 1.5 games back to half a game up.
- Their second six game win streak (June 12 to 17) stretched their lead from one game to four games.
- Their third six game win streak (July 6 to 15) didn’t stretch their lead; they held onto their 1 game lead.
- Despite these three streaks, the Reds were only half a game up on July 19. Even after a 10-game winning streak (Juy 19 to July 29), the Reds were only up three games.
- The Reds lost their next game, but proceeded to win five more (July 31 to August 4; that makes 15 wins in 16 games): Reds +5.5.
- The following week the Reds put together a five game win streak (August 10 to August 15) stretched the lead from 3.5 to 7. Finally the divsion appeared safe.
The 2014 edition has shown no real ability to go streaking. In the years that the Reds have made the playoffs, they’ve had multiple streaks of 5 or more. In the year they had the fewest streaks (two 5-gamers in 2011), the Reds missed the playoffs.
I’m still hopeful for this season, what with key players (Latos, Votto, Bruce, Cingrani) coming back from injuries, but pretty soon, the Reds will have to start streaking if they’re going to make it. I really hope that the next time they win a clutch game, when we think ‘hey that’ll get the streak started,’ it turns out to be true.
Otherwise, this whole season will feel like we’re Frank the Tank, encouraging the team to go streaking, only to look back and see that the Reds aren’t following us.