Curses Don’t Exist. Or Do They?

By Davin Wilson

Curses don’t exist, right?

Can all of us reasonable and rational adults agree on this?

Hexes, hocus-pocuses, conjurations and sorceries are all superstitions we left back in the Dark Ages. Right?

This particularly pertains to the sports world where the belief in hobgoblins, abracadabras and hexes is alive and well. No, a sports team stuck in the middle of a prolonged championship drought is not cursed. Sure, the organization might be unlucky, but not the victim of some disgruntled player or fan sticking pins in a team mascot doll.

Right?

Try telling that to sports fans. Mention the name Dave Keon to Toronto Maple Leafs supporters and watch the hardest hockey goon break down in tears. Tell Sacramento Kings fans they “need more cowbell” and peep the reaction. Bring up Lasagna to Tottenham Hotspur aficionados and you might just catch a beat down from a soccer hooligan.

Why is it we believe a sports team could be cursed? After all, the Boston Red Sox have completely obliterated the “Curse of the Bambino” by winning the World Series three times in the 2000s, and the Cleveland Cavaliers put to rest the “Curse of Ted Stepien” this year by winning the organization’s first NBA title.

And most importantly of all, the Chicago Cubs rattling off three consecutive wins, including two at Progressive Field, to knock off the Cleveland Indians in the 113th edition of the World Series to cut the head off the “Curse of the Billy Goat.”

Maybe our belief in sports curses is due to the mantra “Every dog has its day.” The view every team, no matter how bad the players or management, should be able to luck into a championship at least once.

Whatever the reason, the belief in sports curses is alive and well. This article will attempt to prove or disprove the validity of curses. Since there are too many instances to go around, 54 – according to a 2004 article from ESPN’S Page 2 – I will place the focus squarely on the Cleveland Indians, and the “Curse of Chief Wahoo.”

Cleveland and the Curse of Chief Wahoo

This section will compare Cleveland’s on-base and slugging percentage along with Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched from the 2016 World Series with those of the Chicago Cubs.

Indians’ 2016 World Series On-Base Percentage vs. Cubs

Cleveland posted a .316 on-base percentage throughout the seven games of the 2016 World Series. The Indians finished with a total of 55 hits, 27 runs and 24 walks over the course of the series. Cleveland stranded 49 base runners and batted .250 with runners in scoring position.

Coincidentally, Chicago finished the World Series with a .316 on-base percentage. The Cubbies slapped 61 hits, drove in 27 runs and walked 22 times in the seven-game series. Chicago left 56 runners on base and posted a .241 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Now that we’ve gotten through all the stats, let’s start our tallies:

  • Both teams posted the same on-base percentage (Tie)
  • The Cubs outhit the Indians (Chicago)
  • Cleveland had more runners reach base on walks (Cleveland)
  • Both teams scored equal amounts of runs (Tie)
  • The Tribe stranded less base runners (Cleveland)
  • Cleveland hit better with runners in scoring position (Cleveland)

Cleveland finished the first round of analysis with an overall record of three wins, one loss and two ties on its way to winning the first round.

Next up is slugging percentage.

Cleveland’s 2016 World Series Slugging Percentage vs. Chicago’s

The Indians posted a .459 slugging percentage over the course of the series. Cleveland smacked 55 hits, including 30 singles, 14 doubles, zero triples and eight home runs in 196 at-bats.

Meanwhile, the Cubbies recorded a .454 slugging percentage on their way to pounding out 61 hits, including 41 singles, 10 doubles, two triples and eight home runs in 218 plate appearances.

  • Cleveland recorded the higher slugging percentage (Cleveland)
  • The Cubs outhit the Tribe (Chicago)
  • Chicago slapped a higher number of singles (Chicago)
  • Cleveland banged out more doubles (Cleveland)
  • The Cubbies recorded more triples (Chicago)
  • Each team hit the same number of home runs (Tie)

Chicago takes Round 2 by a final score of three wins, two losses and a tie.

Now onto Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched.

The Tribe’s 2016 World Series WHIP vs. Cubs

Cleveland’s pitching staff posted a 1.32 WHIP over the course of the 2016 World Series. The Tribe surrendered 61 hits and 22 walks in 63 innings pitched.

In caveat, the Cubs’ pitching staff recorded a 1.25 WHIP in seven games, while allowing 55 hits and 24 walks in 63 innings thrown.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown:

  • Chicago posted a lower WHIP (Chicago)
  • The Cubs pitching staff allowed less hits (Chicago)
  • Cleveland issued less walks than Chicago (Cleveland)

The Cubs take the final round with two wins and a loss.

In Conclusion

Both teams finished in a tie with both sides posting 6-6-3 records. In the end, however, Cleveland’s massive collapse – similar to the one it suffered in the 1997 World Series against the Marlins – including two losses at Progressive Field, makes me inclined to say the “Curse of Chief Wahoo” was in full effect during the Series.

Scientific Method

I would be remiss, though, to not feature a control in this experiment. The same statistics will be examined from the ’48 World Series when Cleveland defeated the Boston Braves 4-2 to win their last championship.

Cleveland’s 1948 World Series OBP compared to Boston’s

Cleveland posted a paltry .250 on-base percentage in the six-game series. The Indians picked up 38 hits and walked 12 times on their way to scoring 17 runs. Additionally, Cleveland left 34 runners stranded and batted .256 with runners in scoring position.

Boston, on the other hand, recorded a .291 on-base percentage in the Series. The Braves slapped out 44 hits and walked 16 times on their way to posting 16 runs. Boston left 34 runners on base and hit .250 with runners in scoring position.

Time for your favorite part: the tallies.

  • Boston recorded a higher OBP (Boston)
  • The Braves outhit the Indians (Boston)
  • Boston walked more (Boston)
  • Cleveland posted more runs (Cleveland)
  • Both teams left the same amount of runners on base (Tie)
  • Cleveland hit better with runners in scoring position (Cleveland)

Round 1 goes to Boston by a score of three wins, two losses and a tie.

Let’s move onto slugging percentage.

The Indians’ 1948 World Series SLP compared to Boston’s

Cleveland finished the ’48 Series with a .320 slugging percentage. The Indians recorded 38 hits, including 27 singles, seven doubles and four home runs in 178 at-bats.

On the other hand, Boston recorded a .339 slugging percentage on its way to slapping out 44 hits, including 36 singles, five doubles and three home runs in 171 at-bats.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown:

  • Boston finished with a higher slugging percentage (Boston)
  • The Braves outhit the Indians (Boston)
  • Boston picked up more singles (Boston)
  • Cleveland banged out more doubles (Cleveland)
  • Neither team picked up triples (Tie)
  • The Tribe finished with more home runs (Cleveland)

Once again, Boston emerges from Round 2 victorious, posting a 3-2-1 record.

Now onto the last category. Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched.

Cleveland’s 1948 World Series WHIP vs. Boston’s

The Tribe finished the six-game series with a 1.11 WHIP. Cleveland’s pitching staff surrendered 59 hits and walked 16 in 53 innings pitched.

The Bravos posted an astounding 0.96 WHIP, allowing 38 hits, 12 walks in 52 innings pitched.

Let’s take a look at the tallies:

  • Braves finished with a lower WHIP (Boston)
  • Boston surrendered less hits (Boston)
  • The Braves walked fewer batters (Boston)

Boston completes a three-category sweep.

In conclusion

Cleveland finished with four wins, nine losses and two ties. Meanwhile, Boston wins the statistical comparison with nine wins, four losses and two ties.

Now let’s compare the statistics from the 2016 and 1948 Cleveland World Series teams to gauge the accuracy of the “Curse of Chief Wahoo” a bit closer. The following table lists the Tribe’s on-base percentage from both ’48 and ’16.

Cleveland 1948 World Series OBP .250
Cleveland 2016 World Series OBP .316

Next, we’ll take a look at the slugging percentages.

Cleveland 1948 World Series SLP .320
Cleveland 2016 World Series SLP .459

Lastly, we’ll take a look at Cleveland’s WHIP from the ’48 World Series to see how it stacks up against the Indians’ 2016 pitching staff’s numbers.

Cleveland 1948 World Series WHIP 1.11
Cleveland 2016 World Series WHIP 1.32

The numbers from the tables above show the Indians performed better statistically speaking in the ’48 World Series in all but one of the featured categories.

This fact, coupled with the Indians massive collapse in the 2016 World Series, leads me to believe in the “Curse of Chief Wahoo.”

However, the return of Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Andrew Miller and Carlos Santana, make me believe the 2017 Cleveland Indians team have the talent to win the World Series next season. So cheer up Cleveland fans, things are looking good for next year!

 

 

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