* - I am very annoyed, because I cannot find that article now.
I know that doesn't seem possible -- how could a team's W-L record in the first three games of a 162-game schedule be predictive of anything? (Could we do that with a player's stats? Over the last few seasons, the AL leader in plate appearances has had roughly 740 PA. The equivalent of 3:162 to 740 PA is 14 trips to the plate.)
Nevertheless, the data leads us in that direction. Beyond The Box Score says that of the 163 teams since 1900 that began a season 0-3, only seven made it to the World Series (4.29%). Twenty-eight teams finished in first or second place (17%). (Note, however, that for roughly two-thirds of the years under consideration (70 of 111), only one team from each eight-team league (10-team leagues for most of the 1960s) made the playoffs.)
Those seven pennant-winning teams:
1914 Athletics 99-53 Lost World Series 1914 Braves 94-59 Won World Series 1941 Dodgers 100-54 Lost World Series 1973 Athletics 94-68 Won World Series 1983 Phillies 90-72 Lost World Series 1985 Cardinals 101-61 Lost World Series 1998 Yankees 114-48 Won World SeriesSince 1900, 44 of the 166 teams that won their first three games -- as the Orioles (now 4-0) have done this season -- played in the World Series (28%) and 76 finished in first or second place (48%).
Another factoid making the round yesterday was that of the 80 teams to have qualified for the playoffs in the last 10 years, only three (3.75%) began the year by losing their first three games. By contrast, two-thirds of all playoff teams from 2000-2010 started the year 3-0 or 2-1.
I added up the teams since divisional play began in 1969, and counted 13 of 220 playoff teams (5.9%) began the season 0-3:
1969 Twins - Lost ALCS 1973 Athletics - Won World Series 1979 Reds - Lost NLCS 1983 White Sox - Lost ALCS 1983 Phillies - Lost World Series 1985 Cardinals - Lost World Series 1995 Reds - Lost NLCS 1996 Cleveland - Lost ALDS 1998 Yankees - Won World Series 1999 Diamondbacks - Lost NLDS 2001 Cardinals - Lost NLDS 2003 Atlanta - Lost NLDS 2007 Phillies - Lost NLDSAs long as the 1998 Yankees are being used as a reference point, I'll note that they had bad little patches in every month: April (1-4 to start the season), May (2-3), June (1-4), July (1-4), August (2-6), and September (4-8).
The 2001 Mariners went 4-7 in mid-June and 0-4 in mid-September on their way to a 116-46 finish. ... The 1906 Cubs had a 116-36 record -- and went 3-5 in mid-April (which left them with a 6-6 record, in 5th place in the NL) and 2-4 in mid-July.
And if you think isolating four or five games in the middle of a long season is silly ... well, that's my point.
The Red Sox still have a very good chance of finishing first or second in the East. Little losing streaks happen. It's up to you how much you want to worry about them.