The 2015 playoffs have been full of firsts. It will be the first year that the World Series will feature two expansion-era teams. Rookies shattered the rookie playoff home run record before the end of the Division Series. David Murphy has been insane and now we wait in anticipation to see who will face the New York Mets (!) and their daunting pitching staff on October 27.
The Mets will have six days off between the end of the NLCS and the start of the World Series, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals finish their series on Friday or Saturday depending on results. Either way, the Blue Jays/Royals series will play at least two more games than the Mets. Does that make a difference?
There’s a slight advantage to playing more games in the previous series…
Let me take you down memory lane… (Rockies fans, I promise it’s relevant.)
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Sitting in fourth place in the NL West on September 16, 2007 at 77-72, the Rockies looked like they were going to miss out on the playoff race yet again despite their first winning record since 2007. But then something amazing happened: The Rockies kept winning! Enter uncharted territory for Rockies fans; there was the playoff hunt and the buzz was palpable.
The rest is fondly remembered as the greatest time in Rockies history: Rocktober, the glory year of the franchise. This was the year that brought electricity to one of the best ballparks in the nation (objectively speaking, of course) and one of the most exciting single games in baseball (Holliday touched home!). The Rockies swept their way through the NLDS and NCLS — crushing the Phillies and Diamondbacks, respectively — and waited for their opponents in the World Series.
Their opponent, the Boston Red Sox, followed a different path. They finished 96-66, tied with the Indians for the best record in baseball. They finished the regular season 6-6, swept the Angels in the ALDS, and found themselves down 3-1 to the Indians while the Rockies closed out the D-Backs.
Climbing Tal's Hill
The Red Sox went on to win their next seven games, overcoming a 3-1 ALCS deficit and brushing aside the Rockies on their way to the 2007 World Series. One of the questions that arose after the ’07 NLCS was whether the layoff would cool down the Rockies and it definitely seemed like it played a factor.
Now, I’ve gone back and looked at the last 20 years, starting in 1995 when the Division Series began, to see who won: the team with a longer or shorter layoff based off number of games in the previous series. Here are the results:
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I expanded the search to both the NLCS and ALCS, and the results for each were as follows:
[table id=17 /]
[table id=18 /]
[table id=19 /]
This is a relatively small sample size, but it seems like there’s a slight advantage to playing more games in the previous series. That can be attributed to a multitude of things; a team could be coming off an emotional high of a win or go home situation, hitters could lose some rhythm at the plate if there’s a long layoff, or one team could just be better than the other. What’s interesting is how much of a difference there was between the NLCS and ALCS. In the National League, teams that played a longer divisional series were 11-2 while the American League teams were 4-10. The disparity is surprising, but ultimately doesn’t affect the final results; the leagues have split the World Series 50/50 over that time frame.
Correlation does not equal causation, but it could be a factor in determining the winners. Bottom line, if the Blue Jays pull this out, the Mets could have a lot on their plate with their lineup, just like that fateful October eight years ago.