Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals fans, your teams had great seasons this year. The Sox and the Cardinals each finished with 97 wins, tops in MLB. And while it seems like these one of these two clubs has the best shot to win the World Series, odds are they won't.
According to a study completed by researchers at Harvard, baseball fans looking forward to this year's MLB playoffs should be expecting one thing -- the unexpected.
Julian Ryan and Barrett Hansen of the Harvard Sports Analysts Collective write that, of the four major North American sports, the MLB champ is the "least deserving postseason winner."
They came to that conclusion after studying every MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL champion since 1995. In that timeframe, only three times has the MLB team with the best regular-season record gone on to win the World Series (the 1998 New York Yankees, the 2007 Boston Red Sox and the 2009 New York Yankees). In fact, more wild-card teams (five) have gone on to win the World Series. They are the Marlins (1997 and 2003), Angels (2002), Red Sox (2004) and Cardinals (2011).
Here's an excerpt from the study. The full report can be seen here:
"As we expected, the NBA seems to produce postseason champions most aligned with regular season performance. The long format of the seven-game series and reduced likelihood of upsets on account of the high number of possessions have resulted in the best regular season team winning eight of the nineteen possible championships."
"Vividly remembering the LA Kings' and Baltimore Ravens' unlikely triumphs, we naively assumed that the NFL and the NHL would battle it out for last spot. However, our analysis revealed that the MLB most consistently produces champions most disparate from their regular season performance. What is remarkable is just how bad the MLB playoffs really are. Owing to the length of its 162 game season, one might think that regular season performance would actually be a fairly good indicator – better, for example, than in the NFL where strength of schedule can have a huge impact – of the overall quality of a team. Given this fairly reasonable assumption, if you chose the eight best regular season teams, or even eight of the top ten because you require four from each league, and then just asked each team to draw straws to determine the World Series, the average winning team would be better determined than by the current system. Only three times has the best team from the regular season ended up winning the World Series."
Look on the bright side, baseball fans, at least that means there's a little more intrigue in October. Meanwhile almost any casual basketball observer could have predicted that the Miami Heat would make the NBA Finals last season.
(H/T to For The Win)