Sunday, July 4, 2010

Going Forth From the Fourth

     The Fourth of July is a traditional milestone in the baseball season. The good teams and the bad teams have been sorting themselves out, and the pennant races are taking shape. As we mark the Fourth this year, it appears more than likely that the Cubs will not be active participants in a pennant race, but rather will be observing from a safe distance. It remains to be seen whether the White Sox will sustain their recent success for the long haul, but they at least have given themselves a shot. The Sox are 41-38 (.519), in third place, two games behind Detroit and Minnesota, who are in a virtual tie for first place.
     How does the Sox' current situation compare to previous seasons that ended with the South Siders at the top of the standings? Over the years, nine White Sox teams have finished in first place. One, the 1917 world champions, had an almost identical winning percentage before July 4 and thereafter. Five teams improved significantly in the latter part of the season--most notably, the 1983 Sox, who played almost .700 ball from July 4 onward (this club also overcame the largest deficit on July 4, four and a half games out, of any Sox club that has finished first). The three most recent Sox division champs each occupied first place on July 4 and also ended the season there--despite playing markedly worse from the Fourth to the finish line.
     The following list shows where the Sox' previous first-place finishers stood on the morning of July 4, and how they did the rest of the way.

Before: Won 36, Lost 30 (.545), 4th place, 4 games out
After: Won 57, Lost 28 (.671), finished 3 games ahead
Won World Series over Cubs, 4 games to 2

Before: Won 45, Lost 24 (.652), 1st place, 2 games ahead
After: Won 55, Lost 30 (.647), finished 8 games ahead
Won World Series over New York Giants, 4 games to 2

Before: Won 37, Lost 24 (.607), 2nd place, 1.5 games out
After: Won 51, Lost 28 (.646), finished 3.5 games ahead
Lost World Series to Cincinnati Reds, 5 games to 3

Before: Won 41, Lost 34 (.547), 2nd place, 1 game out
After: Won 53, Lost 26 (.671), finished 5 games ahead
Lost World Series to Los Angeles Dodgers, 4 games to 2

Before: Won 39, Lost 37 (.513), 3rd place, 4.5 games out
After: Won 60, Lost 26 (.698), finished 20 games ahead
Lost A.L. Championship Series to Baltimore Orioles, 3 games to 1

Before: Won 40, Lost 38 (.513), tied for 1st place
After: Won 54, Lost 30 (.643), finished 8 games ahead
Lost A.L. Championship Series to Toronto Blue Jays, 4 games to 2

Before: Won 53, Lost 29 (.646), 1st place, 11 games ahead
After: Won 42, Lost 38 (.525), finished 5 games ahead
Lost A.L. Division Series to Seattle Mariners, 3 games to 0

Before: Won 54, Lost 26 (.675), 1st place, 8 games ahead
After: Won 45, Lost 37 (.549), finished 6 games ahead
Won World Series over Houston Astros, 4 games to 0

Before: Won 49, Lost 37 (.570), 1st place, 1.5 games ahead
After: Won 40, Lost 37 (.519), finished 1 game ahead
Lost A.L. Division Series to Tampa Bay Rays, 3 games to 1

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