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Rivalry Revelry
2006-06-08 21:03
by Mike Carminati

I know that I said I would look at the overall franchise-versus-franchise records, but I want to take one more look at the season-series records more closely first. I thought that looking at just those teams that competed for a title would be a bit more interesting and more to the point.

So here are the closest (in terms of average margin of victory) season series of all time involving two teams including at least one first-place or playoff team. I limited the games apart between the two to less than six games.

YearTeam 1PCT1POS1GB1Team 2PCT2POS2GB2Tot GTot Run Diff AvgRunDiff Team1 WTeam2 WGB Diff
1987Toronto Blue Jays.59322Detroit Tigers.605101320 1.54 672
1994Kansas City Royals.55734Chicago White Sox.593101016 1.60 734
1980New York Yankees.63610Baltimore Orioles.617231324 1.85 673
2005Philadelphia Phillies.54322Houston Astros.549211612 2.00 061
1980Los Angeles Dodgers.56421Houston Astros.571101941 2.16 1091
2003Houston Astros.53721Florida Marlins.562210613 2.17 514
2002Oakland Athletics.63610Anaheim Angels.611242045 2.25 1194
2003St. Louis Cardinals.52533Chicago Cubs.543101739 2.29 983
1980Philadelphia Phillies.56210Montreal Expos.556211842 2.33 991
1996Montreal Expos.54328Los Angeles Dodgers.556211228 2.33 392
1973Los Angeles Dodgers.59023.5Cincinnati Reds.611101843 2.39 7113.5
1985St. Louis Cardinals.62310New York Mets.605231845 2.50 1083
1974St. Louis Cardinals.53421.5Pittsburgh Pirates.543101845 2.50 1171.5
2001St. Louis Cardinals.57420San Francisco Giants.55622615 2.50 243
1978Texas Rangers.53725Kansas City Royals.568101538 2.53 875
1987St. Louis Cardinals.58610New York Mets.568231846 2.56 993
2002San Francisco Giants.59022.5Arizona Diamondbacks.605101949 2.58 1182.5
1985Toronto Blue Jays.61510New York Yankees.602221334 2.62 762
1995Houston Astros.52829Colorado Rockies.53521821 2.63 441
2004San Diego Padres.53736Houston Astros.568213616 2.67 425
1994Houston Astros.57420.5Cincinnati Reds.579101027 2.70 640.5
1979Pittsburgh Pirates.60510Montreal Expos.594221849 2.72 1172
1983Los Angeles Dodgers.56210Atlanta Braves.543231849 2.72 1173
1981St. Louis Cardinals.57810Montreal Expos.556221541 2.73 962
1972Oakland Athletics.60010Chicago White Sox.56525.51541 2.73 875.5
1990Toronto Blue Jays.53122Boston Red Sox.543101336 2.77 3102
1998New York Mets.543218Chicago Cubs.552212.5925 2.78 541.5

It's nice to find the '87 Blue Jays/Tigers at the top of the list, and I like seeing last year's Phils/Astros there as well, but there are not a lot of the usual rivalries on the list.

Now here are the worst season series of all time:

YearTeam 1PCT1POS1GB1Team 2PCT2POS2GB2Tot GTot Run Diff AvgRunDiff Team1 WTeam2 WGB Diff
1995New York Yankees.54927California Angels.538211263 5.25 571.5
1992Toronto Blue Jays.59310Milwaukee Brewers.568241368 5.23 584
2005New York Yankees.58610Boston Red Sox.586201999 5.21 1090
2000Toronto Blue Jays.51234.5New York Yankees.540101260 5.00 754.5
1978New York Yankees.61310Boston Red Sox.607211680 5.00 971
1995Texas Rangers.51434.5Seattle Mariners.545101364 4.92 3104.5
1988Detroit Tigers.54321Boston Red Sox.549101363 4.85 761
1998Texas Rangers.54310Anaheim Angels.525231258 4.83 753
1997New York Yankees.59322Baltimore Orioles.605101258 4.83 482
1982Milwaukee Brewers.58610Baltimore Orioles.580211466 4.71 4101
2000Cleveland Indians.55625Chicago White Sox.586101361 4.69 585
1986New York Yankees.55625.5Boston Red Sox.590101361 4.69 855.5
1979Kansas City Royals.52523California Angels.543101361 4.69 673
1981St. Louis Cardinals.57810Philadelphia Phillies.55132.51360 4.62 672.5
1988Toronto Blue Jays.53732Boston Red Sox.549101360 4.62 1122
2000New York Mets.58021Atlanta Braves.586101359 4.54 671
2004San Francisco Giants.56222Houston Astros.568213627 4.50 421
1989Toronto Blue Jays.54910Baltimore Orioles.537221358 4.46 672
2003Seattle Mariners.57423Oakland Athletics.593101984 4.42 1273
1995Seattle Mariners.54510California Angels.538211357 4.38 671
2000Seattle Mariners.56220.5Cleveland Indians.55625939 4.33 271
1997San Francisco Giants.55610Los Angeles Dodgers.543221251 4.25 662
2000New York Yankees.54010Boston Red Sox.52522.51355 4.23 762.5
2005Philadelphia Phillies.54322Atlanta Braves.556101980 4.21 1092

The Red Sox and Yankees show up on this list a few of times, including the 1978 division rivals who ended up in a one-game playoff. It seems the typical rivalries that we usually think of.

Now. I want to look at the overall head-to-head records for all franchises to see which have played the tightest contests. Do the big rivalries (Yankees-Red Sox, Giants-Dodgers, etc.) actually play each other more evenly than just random matchups?

Here are the franchises who played the closest games in their overall head-to-head competition:

Franchise 1WFranchise 2WFirstLastTot GTot Run Diff AvgRunDiff
Philadelphia Phillies3Boston Red Sox11998199847 1.75
Milwaukee Grays1Atlanta Braves11187818781223 1.92
Texas Rangers3Los Angeles Dodgers11997199748 2.00
Washington Olympics1Boston Red Stockings418711871510 2.00
Toledo Blue Stockings5Richmond Virginians018841884511 2.20
St. Louis Cardinals3Richmond Virginians11884188449 2.25
Texas Rangers2San Francisco Giants21997199749 2.25
New York Mutuals5New Haven Elm Citys118751875614 2.33
Philadelphia Athletics5Milwaukee Brewers318911891819 2.38
Boston Reds6Baltimore Monumentals10188418841639 2.44
Chicago Whales23Baltimore Terrapins211914191544109 2.48
Detroit Tigers2Colorado Rockies420032003615 2.50
Oakland Athletics1Los Angeles Dodgers319971997410 2.50
Texas Rangers2San Diego Padres219971997410 2.50
Toledo Maumees3Baltimore Orioles318901890615 2.50
Troy Haymakers0Fort Wayne Kekiongas21871187125 2.50
Newark Pepper20Chicago Whales241914191544111 2.52
Syracuse Stars1Chicago Cubs818791879923 2.56
St. Louis Terriers25Brooklyn Tip-Tops201914191545117 2.60
Toledo Blue Stockings5Pittsburgh Pirates5188418841026 2.60

Pretty random, huh? Let's limit ourselves to just those potential rivals who have played at least, say, one hundred games against each other. Take two:

Franchise 1WFranchise 2WFirstLastTot GTot Run Diff AvgRunDiff
New York Mets233Los Angeles Dodgers289196220055221479 2.83
Los Angeles Dodgers60Florida Marlins5219932005112323 2.88
Washington Nationals306New York Mets310196920056161810 2.94
San Diego Padres171Chicago Cubs224196920053951166 2.95
San Francisco Giants67Florida Marlins4119932005108319 2.95
Pittsburgh Pirates66Milwaukee Brewers5619982005122361 2.96
Washington Nationals276Chicago Cubs250196920055261565 2.98
Houston Astros304Atlanta Braves354196220056581963 2.98
San Diego Padres203New York Mets200196920054031206 2.99
Milwaukee Brewers168Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim178196919973461037 3.00
Tampa Bay Devil Rays62Baltimore Orioles6919982005131394 3.01
Washington Nationals213San Diego Padres184196920053971197 3.02
St. Louis Cardinals234San Diego Padres163196920053971203 3.03
Los Angeles Dodgers363Houston Astros297196220056602000 3.03
Washington Nationals299Philadelphia Phillies317196920056161875 3.04
Philadelphia Phillies399New York Mets348196220057472286 3.06
San Diego Padres236Atlanta Braves301196920055371650 3.07
San Francisco Giants288New York Mets237196220055251614 3.07
Pittsburgh Pirates346New York Mets310196220056562017 3.07
New York Mets272Atlanta Braves328196220056001845 3.08
Washington Nationals264St. Louis Cardinals272196920055361654 3.09
Washington Nationals171Los Angeles Dodgers229196920054001236 3.09
San Diego Padres257Houston Astros285196920055421677 3.09
San Diego Padres295Los Angeles Dodgers323196920056181925 3.11
Chicago White Sox316Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim318196120056341980 3.12

Ah, those classic Marlins-Dodgers matchups! Hmmm. But perhaps my favorite is the classic Pirates-Brewers rivalry from the last seven seasons as each team tries to avoid the NL Central basement on an annual basis.

So what are the worst rivalries? Again, most of the worst are from the nineteenth century. Barring those:

Franchise 1WFranchise 2WFirstLastTot GTot Run Diff AvgRunDiff
Colorado Rockies59Arizona Diamondbacks7319982005132539 4.08
San Diego Padres96Colorado Rockies9719932005193774 4.01
Tampa Bay Devil Rays42New York Yankees8819982005130521 4.01
Washington Nationals50Colorado Rockies5819932005108426 3.94
Colorado Rockies54Cincinnati Reds6319932005117453 3.87
Colorado Rockies41Atlanta Braves7519932005116446 3.84
Colorado Rockies57Chicago Cubs6119932005118453 3.84
San Francisco Giants114Colorado Rockies7919932005193740 3.83
Pittsburgh Pirates59Colorado Rockies5719932005116440 3.79
Florida Marlins56Chicago Cubs5919932005115433 3.77
Seattle Mariners190Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim211197720054011500 3.74
Milwaukee Brewers63Cincinnati Reds6119982005124463 3.73
Kansas City Royals244Detroit Tigers218196920054621704 3.69
Tampa Bay Devil Rays44Boston Red Sox8819982005132483 3.66
Toronto Blue Jays159Minnesota Twins138197720052971080 3.64
St. Louis Cardinals58Colorado Rockies6219932005120436 3.63
Seattle Mariners179Minnesota Twins165197720053441249 3.63
Seattle Mariners142Detroit Tigers167197720053091115 3.61
Florida Marlins83Atlanta Braves11019932005193692 3.59
Oakland Athletics267Kansas City Royals218196920054851738 3.58
Houston Astros58Colorado Rockies5519932005113404 3.58
Toronto Blue Jays174New York Yankees218197720053921400 3.57
Florida Marlins59Colorado Rockies5919932005118421 3.57
Oakland Athletics864Cleveland Indians9941901200518586620 3.56

Not surprisingly a lot of Rockie combos top the list. Then there's Tampa Bay-Yankees—poor Lou Piniella.

So where does this leave us? Are there any real rivalries?

I offer that there rivalries of the moment, two teams that are close in talent and happen to be competing for the same goal. Maybe the 1987 Tigers/Blue Jays was the greatest rivalry of all time because they were both so good and they were competing for the title in the same division. Their rivalry is pretty much dead now because they are in separate divisions and both teams have had some poor to mediocre seasons the last bunch of years.

By the way, the Red Sox beat the Yankees by six runs tonight, 9-3. I feel redeemed. Familiarity might breed contempt but it does not ensure a potent on-field rivalry.

2006-06-09 16:35:15
1.   Underbruin
Mike, a question - do you feel that margin of victory is more important than a season series that ends up with the two teams winning/losing a similar number of games against each other?

For example, which is the better playoff series: a series that ends in 4 games, all of which are 1-run games? Or a 7-game series that has a few blowouts split between the two teams?

I ask because I note the example used of the 2005 Red Sox/Yankees series, which is the 'worst' of the Boston/New York season rivalries in game differential. However, the teams won 9 and 10 games, respectively. Or the '78 series, which saw the teams win 7 and 9 games.

Compare that to the 2005 Phillies/Astros series, which is qutie high on the 'best' list - the Astros won all 6 meetings between the teams, even though the average run-differential was only 2. I submit that in the eyes of many, the season series between the 2005 Yankees/Red Sox was a better one than that between the 2005 Phillies/Astros, because of the better distribution of won games.

I did a bit of math and calculated the average difference in head-to-head win/loss records, and the 'best series' group (table 1) had an average differential of 2.48, while the 'worst series' group (table 2) had an average differential of 2.67. That's not a particularly large differential, especially considering how big the margin of victories were for the 'worst series' group and how small those margins were for those in the 'best series' group.

What I can't figure is how the Expos/Nats v. the Mets hasn't become a classic 'rivalry.' One of the lowest average run differentials of the post-1800s, and out of a 616-game history the two have won almost the same number of games (310-306 in favor of the Mets). :-)

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