Foul Tip #1: The Unsweepables
Welcome to a new, infrequent (probably very infrequent) column looking at random facts sifted from the silt of MLB Pro. Today, we’re looking at The Sweep. A mostly arbitrary and ultimately irrelevant accolade, but an accolade nonetheless.
Of the 30 MLB teams, there are only two left standing through the first two months of the season who haven’t yet fallen victim to a sweep.
One is obviously the dominant Los Angeles Angels.
The other? The Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Angels boast an MLB-leading 40-16 record, and have only stooped as low as a two-game losing streak three times this season (Mariners, Rays, Braves) – all in May.
The Pirates on the other hand are in the throes of an entirely non-descript 25-29 season. It’s worth mentioning at this point that they’ve lost 3 games of a series twice, however both were four-game sets (Cincinnati, Atlanta). They’ve also lost three games in a row on two other occasions spread over two series (NYY-Cubs, NYM-DBacks). But technicalities be damned, they’ve never been swept!
For a fanbase who have little reason to be optimistic this season, the sweepless streak is something to keep them going.
Let’s break this down further:
Three-game sweeps: 3
Three-game series wins: 3
Three-game series losses: 8
Four-game series losses: 3
(Yup, they’ve lost every four-game series they’ve played 3-1)
Four-game sweeps: 2
Four-game series wins: 1
Three-game sweeps: 5
Three-game series wins: 4
Shared four-game series: 1
Three-game series losses: 3
Four-game series losses: 1
It’s easy to see, if it wasn’t obvious, which of these teams has accomplished the feat ‘the right way’. The Halos have only had one four-game series loss (and made up for this with a four-game sweep of both the Astros and, more impressively, Detroit). Their seven sweeps over the first two months is probably league-leading (researching that feels like real work), and the fact they’ve only lost four series all year (only one fewer than the Pirates have won) is impressive. Two of those were to Seattle and Tampa, which is nothing to be ashamed of. The 2-1 loss to the Royals was their only series dropped in April, and two of only six total GAMES lost that month.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh they’ve done most of their work by not-quite-losing, scraping a win together from somewhere to save the streak. Of the Pirates eight 1-2 series losses, four have seen them win the final game in the series (and three of those required a streak save situation for Dan Runzler. Are they worth more than regular saves?).
Special mention should be given here to the Dodgers series, whereby the Pirates lost the first two games by just one run each.
Further more, two of the three sweeps the Pirates recorded were in back-to-back series immediately following the firing of hitting coach Don Mattingly, so that likely had something to do with it, forcing the team to pull together and rally.
For the Pirates and Angels, June’s scheduling does not bode well for the continuation of these records. For the Pirates, the dreaded (by bad teams seeking to avoid a sweep) two-game set looms large. It’s in Baltimore starting Tuesday. Before that, they go to Citi Field for three games. At the end of the month, Tampa Bay come to town. CJ Wilson complete games can’t save them in all three series (although having said that, if the every-fifth-day schedule holds up and counts off-days as normal, he will go in both game threes against the Mets and Rays… is that an omen? A freaky coincidence? Meaningless? You decide).
The Angels don’t have it easy themselves, mind. Two separate sets against the Yankees, one in Detroit. Plus, while four-game sets are statistically less of a problem in this category, the Angels have to play Minnesota and the rival Dodgers. We probably shouldn’t expect either team to come out of June unscathed.
However, the Pirates under Jason Toms have never been known to pay any attention to what *should* happen. How far can the consistently inconsistent Buccos take this?
Of course, we all know that the first team to sweep the Pirates this season will actually be the Marlins, at PNC Park, in four games.