Stress Free October

Thank you, Arizona!

It was great to start the stress-free playoffs this weekend. With Arizona sweeping the Cubs out of the way (look at what all that off-season spending did for them–three more wins than the ’06 Cardinals and a first round exit. Spending money isn’t the panacea some Cardinal fans think it is.), I could enjoy the finale of the Colorado/Philadelphia series without wondering which team could beat the Cubs. That was a thrilling game, and the Rockies are on a serious roll. That roll has to come to an end sometime, but hopefully not terribly soon, as it is VEB’s adopted team for the post-season.

It was nice to watch the AL yesterday as well. I didn’t see much of the Sox sweep, but their win really had my house rooting for the Indians last night. Of course, the wife would have been anyway, but we were both intrigued by the possibility of four sweeps in the first round, which would have been a record. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to pass, but I did some digging on the number of playoff games.

Year ALDS NLDS ALCS NLCS WS Total
1995 8 7 6 4 6 31
1996 8 6 5 7 6 32
1997 9 6 6 6 7 34
1998 7 7 6 6 4 30
1999 8 8 5 6 4 31
2000 8 7 6 5 5 31
2001 10 8 5 5 7 35
2002 9 8 5 5 7 34
2003 9 9 7 7 6 38
2004 7 9 7 7 4 34
2005 8 7 5 6 4 30
2006 7 7 4 7 5 30

Bold–lowest number of games for that series/total.  Stats taken from Baseball-Reference.com.

So 30 games is the fewest postseason matchups that have ever been played, which has happened three times. The six games played in the NL this year ties the low (obviously couldn’t be any lower!) set in ’96 and ’97. Interestingly, there has never been a time where there have been two sweeps in the AL. Perhaps that is due to the fact that usually a fairly strong team (NYY or Bos) is the wildcard.  An Indians win tonight would tie the lowest ALDS number of games and set a new record for fewest games in the LDS combined at 13 (curently 14 three times).

While I was looking that up, I figured I’d check something else that struck me this weekend.  With Arizona and Colorado, both Western Division teams, matching up in the NLDS, I wondered how much past history mattered in these type of situations.  You’d think it’d be a good series since the two teams have faced each other so much this year, with Colorado holding a 10-8 advantage.

Since the wild-card came into being in 1995, there have been 8 times where the NLDS competitors have come from the same division.  Four of these are from the AL, all but one Yanks vs. Sox.  And two of these are pretty memorable for Cardinal fans as well.

*1996 ALCS, New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles.   Otherwise known as “Jeffery Maier’s fifteen minutes.”  The Yankees owned the Orioles in the regular season, sporting a 10-3 advantage in head-to-head play.  Baltimore fans still contend that if Maier hadn’t given Derek Jeter a home run by interfering, the series may have gone a different way.  As it was, the regular season was predictive of the postseason, as New York won 4-1.

*1997 NLCS, Atlanta Braves vs. Florida Marlins.   Perhaps remembered more for Eric Gregg’s wide strike zone to Livan Hernandez than for anything else, but the Marlins did own a 8-4 regular season lead on the Braves, and made that stand up with a 4-2 NLCS win.

*1999 ALCS, New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox had won more than their share against the Yankees in the regular season, being victorious in 8 of 12.  However, this is pre-2004, where the Sox were still under the Yanks’ post-season thumb.  They lost the series 4-1.

*1999 NLCS, Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets.   The regular season was all Atlanta, 9-3.  The postseason was a little more dramatic, but the same results as Atlanta wins in 6.

*2003 ALCS, New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox.   The second of three times that these two teams would meet.  A narrow season-series win by the Bronx Bombers (10-9) was very indicative of the postseason, as Grady Little left in Pedro in Game 7, the Yankees rallied and finally won on a home run by Aaron Boone.

*2004 ALCS, New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox.   The Sox had won the season series 11-8, but as shown in ’99, that didn’t necessarily mean anything in the playoffs.  And, indeed, it looked like another typical New York/Boston postseason matchup when the Yanks got up to a 3-0 lead and were head in Game 4.  After that, though, it seems as destiny has taken a hand, as the Sox rally to win the series in 7 games and head on to their first title since 1918.

*2004 NLCS, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros.  Houston led the season series 10-8.  And they led the NLCS 3-2, suggesting that they might be able to match their regular season success.  But a walk-off HR from Jim Edmonds in Game 6 and Jeff Suppan outdueling Roger Clemens in Game 7, and the Cardinals were off to the World Series.

*2005 NLCS, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros.  In the reverse of the prior year, St. Louis owned an 11-5 regular season edge on the ‘Stros.   However, even Albert Pujols’s dramatic home run off Brad Lidge couldn’t keep Houston from returning the 2004 favor and taking the series in 6 games.

So, let’s look at this.  The teams that owned a regular season edge won five times out of eight.  There was really no correlation between regular-season dominance and post-season success.  So, as the stockbrokers like to say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.  I don’t expect the Rockies or D-Backs will concern themselves too much with records, but those games will be watched and rewatched until they meet up on Thursday.

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