Winning streaks can be tough acts to follow
Continued success, turnarounds don't necessarily come after hot stretches
At the end of last month, the Angels seemed to finally be turning a corner and putting a dismal start behind them for the second straight season.
They had rattled off eight straight victories from May 18-26, bearing a striking resemblance to their late May 2012 run when they won eight consecutive games from May 22-29 as they started to slowly turn things around.
Unfortunately, just as they seemed to finally be cruising along this season, it happened. After winning eight straight, the Halos split a four-game set with the rival Dodgers before suffering a huge setback in a four-game sweep at the hands of the last-place Astros.
"A switch flipped off," manager Mike Scioscia said.
His club is not alone in, however, as it -- whatever it is -- has happened to nearly every team that has gone on a lengthy winning streak this season.
In the six instances in which a team has won at least eight consecutive games this season, five have gone on to post a losing record in the 10 games following the streak. The lone team to avoid such a letdown was the Braves, who posted a 6-4 record following an eight-game win streak from May 17-25.
The Angels weren't nearly as lucky. Instead of using their eight-game run as a turning point in their disappointing season, they went on to lose seven of their next 10 and are just 5-11 overall since the streak ended.
"You still have a lot of games left. Obviously you didn't think we'd catch another tough break like this, but it happens, man," Halos slugger Albert Pujols said. "That's part of the game."
In the Angels' case, it certainly wasn't a matter of complacency. Even in matching the third-longest winning streak in the Majors this season, the Halos only got themselves to within four games of reaching the .500 mark and never closed the gap on the division-leading Rangers to less than nine games during the run.
Though the Angels will say they ran into hot pitching, one way or another, their bats simply cooled off. They went from averaging a blistering 7.34 runs per game and never scoring less than five in any one contest during the eight-game winning streak to putting up just 2.75 per game and scoring five or more just once over their next eight.
The Braves, who were fortunate enough to avoid a letdown only in their second such winning streak, suffered a similar fate following their 10-game run in early April. Atlanta raced out to a 12-2 start behind 10 straight victories, while averaging 5.2 runs per game during the streak.
In the immediate aftermath of the double-digit streak, the Braves were shut out twice and tallied just nine total runs while losing four of their next five games.
"It doesn't matter how good your lineup is," Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla said at the time. "Everybody is going to have their ups and downs. When they're hot, they're going to cool off a little bit. We just kind of hit a little cold spell."
It could be that simple -- teams are just bound to cool off sooner or later. Players obviously deny the suggestion that seeing a lengthy winning streak come to an end brings with it a deflating feeling that carries over into future games. Yet, for a reason players and managers alike can't seem to pinpoint, the numbers certainly there tends to be a letdown -- to some extent -- following long winning streaks.
In the six instances this season, those clubs have combined for just a 22-38 record in the 10 games immediately following their respective streaks. Last season, teams with winning streaks of eight games or longer went on to post a 48-48 mark over the following 10 games (Tampa Bay's eight-game streak ended with just six games remaining in the regular season) and, in 2011, teams went just 48-51 in those situations.
Every winning streak has to come to an end, and even the hottest teams eventually come crashing back to earth, but at the same time, teams know that winning just six of the 10 games in the wake of a significant winning streak could go a long way in the standings come the end of the season.
"That's the frustrating thing about our season so far is that we really haven't been consistent," Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson said. "If we were 6-4 out of every 10 games, obviously throughout the course of the whole year, that'd be very good. But the [downside] of having a somewhat streaky offense is it's going to go in a funk every once in awhile."
For Scioscia's club, it may soon be lights out if the Halos can't find a way to once again flip that "switch."