Thursday, August 26, 2010
How historic would an Angels pennant push be?
By now, very few people actually consider the Angels to be contenders. In fact, that crowd might be confined to the manager'soffice at Angel Stadium.
But let's say something crazy happens -- and the Angels do have a super-cushy schedule over the next three weeks before ending the season with seven games against the first-place Texas Rangers in the final lump of games -- how historic would it be?
The word might be "unprecedented."
The Angels themselves might have invented the kind of collapse it would take from Texas to make this thing a competition, but even 1995 wouldn't stack up to this kind of rally. How about other epic breakdowns? The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies spring to a lot of minds, because they were cruising as late as Sept. 17, but their lead was only 6.5 games at its peak.
The 1951 New York Giants are another famous example, since they coughed up a 12.5 game lead, but they enjoyed that back on Aug. 7.
Here's a good way to think about it. If the Angels win 24 of their final 34 games -- a streak that would be easily their best of the season -- Texas would have to go 15-21.
Imagining the last half of that scenario is easier than imagining the first part. Texas has shown signs of staggering at times, but the Angels have shown no signs of consistency. And remember, the Angels are in third place. So, even if Texas does collapse, the Oakland A's are more likely to be standing at the finish line when it's over.
Examining 1995 for signs of hope
The Angels were cruising into late August. They had a 66-41 record on Aug. 20, good for a 9.5 game lead on the second-place Rangers and a 12.5 game lead on third-place Seattle.
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Angels' chances of missing the playoffs were 8,000-to-1 at that point. The wild card existed in 1995, which means the Angels had to be passed by two teams -- and they were. The New York Yankees closed a 12-game deficit to overcome them for the wild card while they were ushering Seattle past them for the division title.
The Angels finished the season by going 12-26. In most seasons, even that kind of downward spiral wouldn't be as costly as it proved that year. The Mariners and Yankees each won two-thirds of their games.
Even as badly as they played in the final weeks, the Angels had a chance to brush it off. Most Angels fans over the age of 23 remember that one-game playoff game with the Mariners. They recall young Randy Johnson dominating the Angels, Rex Hudler and Mark Langston arguing in the dugout. That game was the perfect capper to the greatest collapse of all time. The Angels lost 9-1.