Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sneaking into the Series

For 60-some years, the World Series meant the team with the best record in the NL faced the team with the best record in the AL. That all changed in 1969, though, with the advent of the playoffs.

Now, the playoffs made a ton of sense. Whatever sport you’re talking about, they certainly are engaging. And with 12 teams in each league in 1969, that was certainly going to be a pretty boring second half for those teams at the bottom.

That said, you do have to wonder how well the playoff format treated those teams that – traditionally speaking – should have been the ones in the Series. So, let’s check out the record and see how they did.

Single Playoff

From 1969 through 1993, there was only one round of playoffs, with the winner of the Eastern Division playing the winner of the Western Division.

Overall, the AL did okay, with the team with the better record winning two-thirds of the time. The NL, though, was a crapshoot, with the team with the better record winning only 54% of the time.

Some of the, er, lowlights of this era included:
  • 1972 – first team that shouldn’t have made it (CIN instead of PGH)
  • 1973 – first time both teams shouldn’t have made it (OAK/NYM vs. BAL/CIN)
  • 1970-74 – BAL should have won 4 of these, replacing OAK for 2 (and as the dominant team of the early ‘70s as well)
  • 1975 – OAK should have made it instead of BOS. Goodbye Fisk’s dramatic home run. Goodbye best World Series ever.
  • 1980 – HOU would have gotten in their first Series (facing the Yankees)
  • 1983 – White Sox would have made it (but would they have beat the Dodgers?)
  • 1984 – Cubs would have made it
  • 1989 – Cubs again
  • 1990-1991 – Pirates would have made both of these

Not gonna happen

Overall, the Phillies made out like bandits, getting in 3 Series they really shouldn’t have been in. They should have at least, though, gotten in the ’77 Series. So, who knows, maybe that was the year they would have erased their particular curse, instead of in 1980.

On the losing side, the Pirates should have arguably been in 5 World Series, instead of just the two in ’71 and ’79. Who knows, maybe Barry Bonds might actually have shone in one of those.
I don’t think so

Multiple Playoffs and Wild Card

Starting in 1995, MLB went to two rounds of playoffs – three division winners and one wild card. With 14 teams in each league, this made a ton of sense. Plus, I love that some team who may have happened to have had a better record than everyone except the leader of their own division finally got their chance too. That is, however, gonna make the chances of the team with the best record overall take a major hit, right?

Sure enough, this new format drops the winning percentage in the AL under .500, to 40%. And that in the NL would be even worse, with teams with the best winning percentage making the Series only a quarter of the time. In fact, that number would be even worse than the wild card teams, who would make it one-third of the time.

Further lowlights of that era include:
  • 1992-99 – ATL should have been in 7 straight Series, instead of just 4!
  • 2000 – no subway Series, with the White Sox facing the Giants instead
  • 2001 – SEA should have made it, and would have played HOU!
  • 2002 – the first all-wild-card Series would never have happened, with NYY or OAK playing ATL (instead of ANA vs. SF)
  • 2004 – NYY would have replaced BOS. So, no comeback from 0-3, no pennant, no bloody sock, no curse lifted, no ‘Now I can die in peace” …
  • 2006 – the real subway series, with NYY and NYM instead of DET and STL
  • 2010-11 – TEX would get in neither of these, losing out to TB and NYY

Not so fast!

Winners? It’s a tie. SF gets the boobie prize by getting in legitimately once, and through the back door 3 times. DET, FLA, and TEX all got in twice illegitimately (and never legitimately).

Losers? ATL takes the cake. They got in legitimately 3 times, but should have gotten in 4 more. In fact, they should have been in the Series 8 times over a span of 11 years (1992-2003). Not quite the 1921 to 1964 Yankees, but still …


Play-In Game

Don’t even get me started with this one.