So after the 0-9 data twirl (thanks to Forman et fils), we got curious about something a bit more subtle...determining whether the point in the season when "intense losing" over a somewhat longer period would make any difference in a team's ability to make the post-season.
And that led us to toss together a salad of data around 12 game units. We wanted to get to the point where teams would start making the playoffs...and we figured (correctly) that no team starting the year 0-12 had done so. These five teams (plus the team that had a tie game in the bunch and went "only" 0-11...) were all uniformly horrible...no one remotely near .500.
Of the 26 teams that started the year 1-11 (heck, let's throw in the three more who, again, had a tie and went 1-10) only one team got to .500--the 1973 St. Louis Cardinals.
So we figured it might come down to the 2-10 teams. And this turned out to be true. Two teams actually made it to the post-season after a 2-10 start: the 1951 New York Giants and the 2001 Oakland A's. In fact, 27% of the 30 teams that started 2-10 since 1901 have wound up with a .500 or better WPCT at the close of the year.
But what about at other points during the year? Are there any teams that limp into the post-season by posting a 2-10 record over the final dozen contests in a year? We took a look--and discovered that the answer is no. Only six of 43 teams since 1901 that finished their year 2-10 (in either a 154-game or 162-game schedule) managed to play .500 or better at season's end (14%) and none of them made it into the post-season.
Finally, we took a slice from the middle of the season...games 77-88. Teams that floundered over that 12-game stretch were less likely to get to the post-season than teams with a late-season swoon...only 5 of 73 teams, or just 7%. The full date is at the chart at right.
So the moral of the story seems to be: if you are going to swoon, swoon early. That's the only way to stage a recovery, and have a shot at the post-season.