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Avoiding a long losing streak in a 60-game season

A look at losing streaks of 6+ games from 2017-19

Los Angeles Dodgers Summer Workouts Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Going into a 60-game MLB season is so very short that it seems like any sort of losing streak could prove fatal. But I wonder if that was actually true.

You don’t have to remind the LA Dodgers about starting slow. They’ve won the National League West seven years running, but in three of those seasons they weren’t in playoff position through the first 60 games.

“There’s been so much talk about that, and our guys are really in tune with things, appreciating that it is 60 games, that I haven’t had that conversation. I don’t think I need to overemphasize it. It’s right in our face, and we understand that,” manager Dave Roberts said last week. “Each guy knows how magnified each game is.”

A six-game losing streak is bad in any year, but especially in 2020 when it represents 10% of the season. I looked at the last three years thanks to the team streak finder and best n-game streaks on Stathead at Baseball-Reference, and found the best 60-game stretch that included each long losing streak.

From 2017-19 there were 144 losing streaks of six games or longer. Only a third of the teams won at least half their games in the best 60-game stretch that included the losing streak. Only 18 teams (one in eight) had that losing streak fall within a stretch of at least 33 wins in 60 games (the equivalent of at least 89 wins in 162 games).

Best 60-game stretches for teams with losing streaks

Losing streak Total streaks Avg. wins 30+ wins 33+ wins
Losing streak Total streaks Avg. wins 30+ wins 33+ wins
6 games 72 27.7 24 (33.3%) 8 (11.1%)
7 games 33 27.9 13 (39.3%) 5 (15.2%)
8 games 20 27.6 8 (40.0%) 4 (20.0%)
9 games 12 23.3 2 (16.7%) 0 (0%)
10 games 4 22.0 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
11 games 3 29.7 1 (33.3%) 1 (33.3%)
Totals 144 27.2 48 (33.3%) 18 (12.5%)
The best 60-game totals that included these losing streaks for each team

Most of these teams with long losing streaks were bad, including several with 100-loss seasons. But there were good to great teams, too. The Astros last year were 40-20 in a stretch that included a seven-game losing streak.

The Dodgers haven’t had their losing streaks hurt them much the last few years. They’ve had the longest losing streak of any team during this stretch — 11 games in a row near the end of 2017 — but even that streak was within a 60-game stretch that saw the Dodgers go 37-23, a 100-win pace over a full season. Their worst 60-game stretch that included that losing streak was 32-28.

LA’s two six-game losing streaks the last two seasons were included in stretches of 42-18 and 37-23. So they weren’t really hurt by them, not too much at least.

A benefit of a long season, for good teams, is that the cream usually rises to the top eventually. It might also rise in 60 games, but it’s probably best to avoid any long losing skids just to be sure.

“You just got to take it as we’re down, like we’re trying to chase somebody in our division from day one,” Kiké Hernandez said on a conference call Wednesday. “From day one, if we play like our head’s on fire, I think we’re going to be all right.

“We are very aware that when teams play us, their talent’s going to be elevated, every single game is going to be a meaningful game, so it’s going to make this season very exciting.”