Monday, June 2, 2014

The Best World Series Ever!

What makes a great World Series? Well, it’s pretty subjective, isn’t it? 

I do know it’s got to be more than individual plays (Bill Mazeroski’s homer to win the ’60 Series against the Yankees, say), or individual performances (Don Larsen’s perfect game in ‘76), or individual games (the 12-inning Game 6 of the ‘75 Series between the Red Sox and Reds). It’s also probably more than a contest between arch rivals (Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers anyone?) or between David and Goliath (Mets over Orioles in ‘69). 

Maz and friends

So, what is it? Is there a more objective way to measure something like this? 

Well, the first thing we probably want to do is to limit it to just seven-game series. I mean, that’s as close and drawn-out as you’re gonna  get pretty much by definition, right? No use including shutouts, 4-1’s, or even 4-2’s. I mean, how competitive were those really if the challenger couldn’t even bring it down to the last game?

Beyond that, though, what else could we use? Well, I happened to have thought about that quite a bit, and here are my suggested criteria:
  • Run differential – The lower the run differential, the closer the games. (Make sure, though, that’s a total of the run differential for every game, not the total for the whole series.)
  • Lead changes – The more of these, the more drama and the more it seems like either team could win.
  • Extra innings – Every extra inning only ups the tension.
  • Walk-off victories – What could be more dramatic than those? 

So, here’s what I did:
  1. Take the 36 seven-game series
  2. Rank each one by the criteria above
  3. Give the number one team 1 point, the number two 2, and so on
  4. Add up those values for all of the rankings
  5. Lowest total wins

So, let me give you an example …  Let’s take the last seven-game series, the 2011 one between Texas and St. Louis.
  1. The run differential was 22. That comes in at number 14, so there’s 14 points.
  2. There were 6 lead changes, which also happens to rank 6th overall. So that’s 6 points.
  3. There was only one extra game, which went into the 10th. So that’s 2 extra innings, which just so happens to rank 9th (17 of the series didn’t have any extra innings). So that’s 9 more points.
  4. Finally, there was one walk-off victory, in that extra-inning game. Once again, there were 17 series without any walk-offs, so this number is pretty high – 6 in our case.
  5. Add ‘em all together, and you’ve got 35 points.

After doing the same for all the other seven-game series, the 2011 Series actually comes in sixth.  Who would have thunk it?

David Freese walk-off homer in Game 6

Here are the overall top 10:
Year Winner Loser Points
1975 Cinn Bos AL 13
1924 Wash NYG 22
1912 Bos AL NYG 33
1997 Fla Clev 34
2011 StL Tex 35
1991 Minn StL 37
2001 Ariz NYY 39
1964 StL NYY 39
1947 NYY Brkln 41
1952 NYY Brkln 41

You may not be surprised that the ’75 Series is the best. In fact, it ranked no lower than fourth in every category. Carlton Fisk’s homer in the bottom of the twelth in Game 6 is just gravy.

That ’24 Series might be something of a surprise however. Yes, it was a very long time ago (and who knew the Senators were ever even in a World Series). But this series was tops for run differential (13) and extra innings (6). What’s holding it back was lead changes – a mere three. 
Walter Johnson’s dramatic four-inning save in the 12-inning 
Game 7 may have made this one of the best WS games ever

I guess some other surprises would be the number of series from recent years and, consequently, the limited number of those from the “golden age” of baseball. It is good to see some Yankee versus Dodger classics made it though.

Some other highlights:
  • The 1991 Series had the most walk-offs, with 4
  • That series also tied for the most extra innings with the ’24 Series
  • Lead changes – a mere 2 – kept the ‘91 Series from finishing much higher
  • The 1958 Series, with Milwaukee beating the Yankees, had the most lead changes, with 8 (it came in 11th overall, just missing the top 10)

By the way, the least competitive 7-game series was in 1965, when the Dodgers beat the Twins. Somehow, they managed to do that without an extra-inning game or walk-off, and with a differential of 33 runs and only 1 lead change!

The Worst World Series Ever!

So, what was the most non-competitive series? Well, reverse-engineering this a little (and only looking at 4-0 series), it looks like it would be the 1989 Series, where the A’s pounded the Giants. No walk-offs, no extra innings, no lead changes (!?!?), and a differential of 18 runs.

Probably more memorable for the earthquake

A close second was 2007, where the Red Sox trounced the Cards. Once again, no walk-offs, no extra innings, just 1 lead change, and a differential of 19 runs.

Interestingly, the most competitive four-game series was in 2005, when the Chisox whomped the Astros. That one had 1 walk-off, 5 extra innings, 4 lead changes, and a run differential of only 6.