I got out of class last night about the sixth inning and went down to the student center to get a bite to eat (I'm a grad student, that's about as nice as it gets). I was disappointed to be missing most of the game, but hell I've been a Cubs fan for twenty years, I've learned a thing or two about waiting. The game was on the TV down in the UC, and as you all know by now, the Cubs got beat fairly convincingly by LA. But I was listening to the TBS broadcast, and they displayed a stat that most likely was designed to make defeatist Cubs fans squirm. They said something like this: out of 28 division series, the team who won the first game went on to win the series 24 times. I felt terrible after hearing that, and I wanted nothing more than to go and feel sorry for myself and my team. I said out loud with several people listening, "That's a pretty convincing stat." Tony Gwynn, whom I respect both as a player and an analyst, said something like "You've got to win this game" after he heard those numbers.
TBS duped a hall of famer. And probably everybody else who watched that game on TBS.
So I came to the library to work on a paper that's due tomorrow. But I couldn't stop thinking about that number! 24 out of 28! Statistically, then, the Dodgers have like a 91% chance of winning the series. Feeling even worse, I went to the baseball fan's ultimate website: baseballreference.com to see these numbers for myself.
Suddenly I realized that TBS was VERY misleading in their presentation of those numbers, or they outright lied to make being a Cubs fan seem futile. First of all, those were the last 28 series (I'm guessing, they never made that clear). There have been 48 LDS series played in total! Now, I'm a historian, not a statistician, but something seems ass-backwards about those numbers. As a grad student, if I cherry picked numbers like that and somebody went to check up on me, that would come close to constituting MISCONDUCT. Like bad enough to ruin your academic reputation for life if you aren't removed from your graduate program or dropped from your thesis/dissertation committee first.
Here is the total breakdown:
Teams who LOST Game 1, but still won the LDS: 16.
Teams who WON Game 1, and went to win the series 32.
Statistically then, the Cubs have a 33% chance of pulling this thing off. Not 8.5% as TBS would have you believe!
But Cubs fans -- there's more!
Those 32 Series.
19 were sweeps.
13 were split.
This might be poor stats for a math major, but it works for a historian and it's not too far off the mark. Let's discount the sweeps and chaulk those up to one team being overmatched -- in three game playoff sweeps, that's usually, but not always, the case. We are left with 29 (oddly close to TBS's figure of 28) series, 16 of which the loser of the first game went on to win. That means, if the Cubs and Dodgers are evenly matched which is a fair claim, the Cubs, statistically speaking, have a 55.2% chance of going to the NLCS.
The real point of these numbers is this: tomorrow's game is the most important in the series. Only once has a team fallen 2-0 and still won the LDS. That team? The 1995 Seattle Mariners, managed by (this is too good) Lou Piniella.