On Monday night the Indians start a series against the Tigers at Cleveland's Progressive Field having won 18 consecutive games. It’s now the second-longest winning streak of the Expansion Era (post-1960), and it's tied for the fourth-longest in the majors since 1900. The full list—which does not include the 1916 Giants (26 wins without a loss) or the 1906 White Sox (19) because both teams had ties in the middle of their streaks—is as follows:
1935 Cubs: 21
2002 Athletics: 20
1947 Yankees: 19
1904 Giants: 18
1953 Yankees: 18
2017 Indians: 18
Not all winning streaks are created equal, of course. Below is an attempt to quantify which of these streaks was the toughest, by a variety of metrics:
If the Indians are to pass the 1935 Cubs, they will do so during the seven games they have remaining in Cleveland on this homestand. Only by getting to 22 straight wins, however, would the Indians even have reached a 50-50 split in home games vs. road games during their streak:
Say what you will about the Cubs' long history of bad luck, but in 1935, the schedule-makers smiled upon them. Their streak began on the third game of a 20-game September homestand and extended three games into a five-game, season-ending road trip. The 1953 Yankees, on the other hand, contained the bulk of their streak within a 14-game road trip through Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland, then dropped one to the Browns upon returning to Yankee Stadium. The 1904 Giants had it comparatively easy as well; one of their road games was in Brooklyn’s Washington Park, roughly 12 miles away, and after another game against the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds, they embarked upon a four-game trip to Boston.
Speaking of schedule-makers, the 2002 A's got off light, as they're the only team not to have played at least one doubleheader during their run. The majority of the 1947 Yankees' streak—13 wins (the streak started in the nightcap of a doubleheader)—came in twinbills. This year's Indians and the 1935 Cubs both played two doubleheaders within their streaks. Cleveland's were played on Aug. 30 in New York and Sept. 1 in Detroit. The 1904 Giants and the '53 Yankees both played just one doubleheader apiece during their streaks.
The Indians' run-differential of +89 is the second-best among these six teams, trailing only the 1904 Giants (+95), but they rank first in the category of Pythagorean winning percentage, which is a calculation based on how many runs a team scores and allows:
Margin Of Victory
Which streaks produced the biggest gains in the standings relative to the competition?
Note that only the streaks of the 1935 Cubs and the 2002 A's carried those respective teams into first place—both were in third place prior—instead of widening their leads. In both cases, those winning streaks came late in the season and helped those clubs reach the postseason (the Cubs lost the World Series to the Yankees while the A's fell in the Division Series to the Twins).
As might be expected, teams that are dominant enough to be on these lists probably weren't going to be challenged very often. Just 17 of the games involved in all of these streaks combined have been decided by one-run, and extra-inning or walk-off games have been even more scarce:
So how would we rank these streaks in order of Most Impressive to Least Impressive? The 1953 Yankees had the toughest schedule by home/road split, the 1904 Giants made the biggest gain in the standings and had the largest margin of victory, this year's Indians have the best Pythagorean winning percentage and the 2002 A's had to survive the most close calls. And, of course, the 1935 Cubs have the lead in the most obvious category: longest winning streak.
That leaves the 1947 Yankees as the only team without the lead in a superlative from our breakdown. But here's the only one that really matters: they won the World Series, joining their '53 successors as the only clubs on this list to do so.