With the Phils facing off against the Dodgers tomorrow just after the shofar is blownI hope they don't fill up on noshI have to think that the Phils' significantly better, though still somewhat modest, record has to weigh in on the final outcome of the series.
Keep in mind that the Dodgers with an 84-78 record would be the third worst team to reach the World Series behind the '73 Mets (82-79) and '06 Cards (83-78). The 92-70 would just be tied for 16th worst (better than the '80 and '83 teams, mind you). Even so, the Phils are 8 wins better than the Dodgers.
So the question is whether being 8 games better than your opponent in a playoff series really matters.
To answer this, I looked at all such playoff series. I found that teams that were 8 or more wins better than their opponents won the series 58 times and lost the series 32 times for an overall series winning percentage of .644.
That's a pretty good winning percentage, but maybe it makes no difference if the team is one game better than their opponent or eight. So I ran the numbers for the series in which fewer than 8 games separated the two opponents. The results were that in this case the teams with the better record won 68 times, the team with the worse record won 79, and 11 times the teams had the same number of wins. So when the teams are close, apparently, having a slightly superior regular-season is no advantage and may even be a disadvantage.
Now, you might say this can be explained by World Series opponents who have may have similar records but have wildly divergent talent given the, by and large, non-interlocking records. That is, you could have a team with a great record in a weak league that loses to a team with a so-so record from a tough league.
If we remove these series, looking at series in which one opponent was 8 wins better than the other, we find the "better" team won 33 times and the "worse" team won 15 times for a .688 winning percentage. Looking at the series where teams were within 8 wins of each other, the "better" team won 40 times, the "worse" team 43 times, and seven times the two teams had the same number of wins. That's a .482 winning percentage.
So I have to think that the Phils being eight wins better than the Dodgers has some significance. It's not the be-all end-all, but how many Kirk Gibson moments does this team have up its sleeves, or maybe more significantly, how many Joe Carter moments do the Phils have up theirs?