Saturday, June 25, 2022


How many "blown lead" losses are there in a season? And how should we calculate this stat? These are questions come up when we start looking at the internal patterns of winning and losing, separate from (and sometimes at odds with) sabermetric theories of how teams win.

The above would seem to be a digression from our primary task at hand, but hopefully it will come into focus as we look at the events in one of our two featured games for June 25, 1962--the one between the Braves and the Dodgers, in which LA took an early 4-0 lead, only to squander it, falling behind in the seventh when Milwaukee scored three times to overtake them. (As you might expect, Hank Aaron was in the thick of both Braves rallies, homering off "teenage monster" Joe Moeller in the sixth to cut the Dodgers' lead in half, then singling in the go-ahead run in the seventh off Ron Perranoski.) Final score: Braves 6, Dodgers 4--despite five hits from Tommy Davis.

When the Dodgers relinquished a lead and lost in this game, it marked the eleventh time they had done so to date in the 1962 season (as can be seen in the table at right). The great Retrosheet researcher Tom Ruane studied "blown leads/come from behind losses" about ten years ago, and concluded that when these events are defined strictly in the later innings (seventh inning on), they constitute about 14-16% of all games. 

As you can see, our definition is more expansive than Tom's, in that it includes innings much earlier in the game. Our definition does exclude one-run leads until the fourth inning, but we'll include instances in the third inning (as shown) if the lead is three runs or more and the team that blows the lead never regains it. Tom's approach to the matter would include only six of the games we're listing here.

We hope this area of research will get revisited by those folks with robust databases and formidable skills in manipulating them, but for now we'll press forward with our approach. Those eleven blown lead losses, as we've defined them, represent 14% of the games played by the Dodgers to this point of the '62 season (through June 25). This, of course, does not capture the Dodgers' "come from behind wins," which we'll capture a bit later on. (Another analyst, Roger Weber, estimated from 2006 data that "comeback wins"--which are also "blown lead losses"--constitute around 30% of all games. The question that he didn't answer--and that Tom Ruane hovered around but did not nail down in his 2012 presentation--is if there is any correlation between this type of game and winning in general. A greater anatomization of these games is required before we'll have the answer to that question. 

Last note on this before moving on--note that in these eleven "blown lead losses," the eventual run differential between the teams rarely produces a one-run game. Only two of these Dodger "blown lead losses" are one-run games; three are two-run games; and seven are three-run games. Naturally we need a complete inventory of these games and their final results in order to anatomize how these games fit into the overall context of wins/losses. It's still an area requiring a good bit more study; we'll do what we can here within the world of 1962, but the talents of "data magnates" such as the folks at Retrosheet will be needed to go deeper into this.

Just for the heck of it, here are the Giants' "blown lead losses" thus far in 1962 (above at left). Note that five of them occurred during their "June swoon" (their 4-12 stretch from June 6 to June 22). Three of them were one-run games; two were two-run games; two were four-run games; and one turned into a rout. 

In their 6/25 contest--a Monday day game at Candlestick--the Giants and Reds traded runs in the second inning, but Cincy's young flamethrower Jim Maloney battled with his control, and a leadoff walk set up a crucial rally in the third when Willie Mays caught Maloney napping and stole third base, putting himself in position to score on Orlando Cepeda's sacrifice fly. (Maloney would benefit from the strike zone change in 1963, winning 23 for the Reds that year and becoming one of the NL's dominant hurlers for the rest of the decade.)

SF added an insurance run in the eighth thanks to a throwing error by Reds' SS Chico Cardenas, but Billy O'Dell, back in the groove after a rough patch, didn't need it, slicing through the heart of the Reds' order in the ninth to finish off a nifty five-hit complete game, improving his record to 8-6 and boosting the Giants to within a half-game of their rivals down south. Final score: Giants 3, Reds 1.