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The Best of Series?
2004-11-02 13:19
by Mike Carminati

The Worst of Series: Parts I and II

So we've already taken a look at the most lopsided playoff series in postseason history. Now, what about the closest series? Anecdotally, people talk about 1967, 1975, or 1986 when the Red Sox just fell short. Or they mention Maz's homer and the 1960 Series. Or you'll hear about Jack Morris and the 1-0 ten-inning, seventh-game shutout in 1991. Or the D-Backs comeback against Mariano Rivera in 2001. Students of the game will mention Snodgrass's muff in 1912 or Pete Alexander and 1926 or the bad hop over Fred Lindstrom in 1924. There's the Dodgers finally edging the Yankees in 1955. And there are others 1972 A's vs. Reds, 2002 Angels vs. Giants, 1997 Marlins vs. Indians, 1940 Reds vs. Tigers, 1979 Pirates vs. Orioles, 1964 Cards vs. Yanks, etc.

However, a lot of these anecdotes center on game seven. There's even a website for them. However, if you look at the rest of the series, you'll get a much different series. Consider the Maz Series of 1960. The Yankees won games by scores of 16-to-3, 10-to-nothing, and 12-0. The Pirates never won a game by more than three runs. So you have an extremely close, four-game sweep by the Pirates intermingled with a three-game ransacking of the Pirate at the hands of the Yanks.

I decided to run the data from the previous study to determine which was the closest playoff series based on how closely the teams competed in certain offensive and defensive criteria. (For batting I used runs per game, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. For pitching: ERA, WHIP, strikeout-to-walk ratio, strikeouts per nine innings, and home runs per nine innings. I also threw in unearned run average, the difference between runs and earned runs per nine innings, for some measure of defensive play.)

Here are the closest World Series based on those criteria:

YrWinnerLoserWLTAvg Rank
1982St. Louis CardinalsMilwaukee Brewers43037.273
1975Cincinnati RedsBoston Red Sox43037.455
1977New York YankeesLos Angeles Dodgers42038.909
1972Oakland AthleticsCincinnati Reds43043.545
1925Pittsburgh PiratesWashington Senators43046.000
1997Florida MarlinsCleveland Indians43049.000
1924Washington SenatorsNew York Giants43054.455
1968Detroit TigersSt. Louis Cardinals43056.364
1943New York YankeesSt. Louis Cardinals41058.000
1962New York YankeesSan Francisco Giants43058.273
2002Anaheim AngelsSan Francisco Giants43061.364
1890Brooklyn BridegroomsLouisville Colonels33162.636
1959Los Angeles DodgersChicago White Sox42063.364
1991Minnesota TwinsAtlanta Braves43063.909
1957Milwaukee BravesNew York Yankees43064.000
1967St. Louis CardinalsBoston Red Sox43064.727
1918Boston Red SoxChicago Cubs42064.909
1909Pittsburgh PiratesDetroit Tigers43065.273
1948Cleveland IndiansBoston Braves42066.364
1940Cincinnati RedsDetroit Tigers43067.818
1906Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs42068.091
1953New York YankeesBrooklyn Dodgers42068.182
1974Oakland AthleticsLos Angeles Dodgers41068.364
1986New York MetsBoston Red Sox43068.455
1946St. Louis CardinalsBoston Red Sox43068.909
1955Brooklyn DodgersNew York Yankees43068.909
1887Detroit WolverinesSt. Louis Browns105069.364
1917Chicago White SoxNew York Giants42069.818
1964St. Louis CardinalsNew York Yankees43070.727
1981Los Angeles DodgersNew York Yankees42071.000

I'm not entirely please with those results. A number of the more famous close series do show up near the top (1975, 1972, 1925, 1997, 1924, 2002, 19911926 just missed the list). However, the 1982 Series, which came in number one, featured a 10-0 game one and a 13-1 game six shellacking by the Cards. But the teams were remarkably close in batting ratios: Cards .273/.328/.412, Brewers .269/.323/.399.

The problem with the approach is that it measures the stats across the entire series. So let's say team A shuts out team B 10-0 in game 1 and then loses game 2 by the same score. Chances are that the teams will have very similar stats. Runs per game will certainly be identical. However, clearly neither of the games was close.

What's needed is a way to weigh the overall series stats with the per-game performance. However, all the data that I have is based on series-specific stats, and even I don't have enough free time to divide it by game. So, for now, this will have to suffice.

Anyway, here are the results in the other playoff rounds. There are some good ones there as well:

YrRoundWinnerLoserWLTAvg Rank
2002ALDSMinnesota TwinsOakland Athletics32046.545
1996ALDSNew York YankeesTexas Rangers31050.364
2001ALDSNew York YankeesOakland Athletics32056.091
1973ALCSOakland AthleticsBaltimore Orioles32056.818
1978ALCSNew York YankeesKansas City Royals31057.636
2000NLDSNew York MetsSan Francisco Giants31059.091
1995ALDSSeattle MarinersNew York Yankees32060.727
1992NLCSAtlanta BravesPittsburgh Pirates43062.000
1986ALCSBoston Red SoxCalifornia Angels43062.636
1982ALCSMilwaukee BrewersCalifornia Angels32064.273
1998ALDSCleveland IndiansBoston Red Sox31064.818
1981NLCSLos Angeles DodgersMontreal Expos32066.818
1987NLCSSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants43067.455
1980NLCSPhiladelphia PhilliesHouston Astros32069.818
1998NLCSSan Diego PadresAtlanta Braves42070.091
2003ALDSBoston Red SoxOakland Athletics32070.182
2003NLDSFlorida MarlinsSan Francisco Giants31070.727
1991NLCSAtlanta BravesPittsburgh Pirates43071.000
1977ALCSNew York YankeesKansas City Royals32071.091
1981NEDIVMontreal ExposPhiladelphia Phillies32073.000

I remember many of those series fondly, especially the two Phils ones.

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