Baseball Primer Newsblog— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Average victory total for World Series champions:
1905 to 1968: 99 wins.
1969 to 1993: 97 wins.
1995 to present: 94 wins
* * *
Here’s another way to look at it:
• From 1903 through 1968, the team with the best record in baseball won the World Series a little more than 50% of the time.
• When four teams made the playoffs, the team with the best record in baseball won the World Series 28% of the time (7 out of 25)
• Since 1995, the team with the best record has won the World Series 17% of the time (3 out of 18) and one of those winners, the 2007 Red Sox, actually tied for the best record.

Reader Comments and Retorts
Go to end of page
Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.
1. BDC Posted: October 30, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4288453)But then beat the team they tied with (Cleveland) 43 in the ALCS, so it's hardly like the tiers were ambushed somewhere in the first round or other league somewhere.
I wonder what the percentages would be of teams with the best record including the postseason winning the world series. E.G. the 1999 Yankees had a better winning percentage than the Braves when you look at the larger sample.
Interestingly, that seems to about exactly what we should expect.
I wonder if 1981 thrown out of the study entirely? It should have been, since it wasn't the number of teams that made it impossible for the team with the best record from winning, but the criteria for inclusion.
With very few exceptions,* they weren't playing the same schedules in the regular season either.
* The AL qualifiers from 19791993 were close enough to consider those schedules "same."
Is this even true? Dropping ratings or not, doesn't the World Series still generally score higher than the NBA Finals and WAY higher than the Stanley Cup?
Is that typical or an exception, though? I haven't looked for several years, but last I did the WS outrated the Finals more often than not.
WRT the NBA  if you look at 10 years of data, MLB comes out ahead easily  something like 10.7 to 9.0  but over the past three years, the NBA has averaged a 10.3 vs. MLB's 9.3, coming out ahead each year. Times may be achangin.
Two factors working against MLB in these comparisons: the World Series is up against far more original programming in October than the NBA Finals.
Second (and I just learned this elsewhere), the NBA Finals are only played on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, the three best days for television viewing. The World Series isn't that beholden to the TV gods, yet.
Third, the NBA is a more stardriven league, and people want to see stars. True, this year's World Series had Miggy, Prince, and Verlander, but Miggy and Prince only got 4 or so AB's a game, where Verlander only played in one game. In the NBA, you're going to see Kobe and Lebron go head to head all game.
I would rather watch any baseball game over any basketball game, but to the casual sport fan, the NBA just has more excitement to it.
Huh. I've been watching the NBA for 20+ years and I never noticed that. Has that always been true?
I have no idea, not having watched an entire NBA game since the last time I covered one (1994, maybe). I googled WS vs. NBA Finals and there was some TV junkie (not a baseball apologist, as far as I could tell) explaining how the NBA has arranged its schedule to play the games on the best nights for viewing.
They switched in 2004. From 19912003 they played Weds/Fri/Sunday. 1990 and earlier they played Tues/Thurs/Sun. The 1986 series started on a Monday, but otherwise was Tues/Thurs/Sun. Before that they seem to have played any old day.
The fact that the two sports finals have essentially equal TV ratings now is a fascinating change, any way you slice it. As is the fact that World Series TV ratings have fallen roughly 80 percent in a generation.
That secular change shouldn't impact fans' enjoyment of the World Series. Watch and enjoy.
I didn't notice until a couple years ago that baseball series' usually start on Fridays and Mondays.
I'd be shocked at how unobservant I can be sometimes if I was the observant type.
The fact that the two sports finals have essentially equal TV ratings now is a fascinating change, any way you slice it. As is the fact that World Series TV ratings have fallen roughly 80 percent in a generation.
Not just baseball  people under the age of 30 may not believe this, but once upon a time one of the year's highestrated shows was  invariably  the Miss America Pageant.
Maybe, but it's not "predictable" pitching that matters. Best pitcher in baseball didn't do so hot, a washed up Zito and an all season long struggling Lincecum did pretty good. The mighty Phillies pitching was beat by a Cardinal team last year which featured, at best one ace level talent. And of course you have the Braves, the team that has proven beyond any doubt, that it's not all about the pitching for October.
(a) Your premise is not really true;
(b) The Dodgers couldn't score for ####, and they tried to fix that problem.
Are you talking about regular season? In the regular season, as a general rule, games will always be played on Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun, barring a rare event. The only time you'll have off days in the season is Mon/Thursday. (barring weird events such as the stadium being out for another sport or the very rare 2 game series(with advent of interleague play all season long, that might change)
I did mean the regular season. This is how observant I am. What I noticed a couple years ago is that there is a thing called a "weekend series" with games usually running Friday to Sunday. This was embarrassing enough so I tried to wing the rest of it and guess the other day of the week when a series often starts.
Well sure, the last 2 minutes. The NBA is a procession of regular scoring that becomes interesting when the game is close and it's very late in the game.
The NBA totally transformed when you had the Showtime Lakers of the 80's taking on Bird's Celtics in the finals nearly every year. Two perfect foes who always played hard, showed a healthy respect for each other and were just fun to watch. Then of course, MJ came along and the NBA had the first true sports star who transcended both gender and race.
• When four teams made the playoffs, the team with the best record in baseball won the World Series 28% of the time (7 out of 25)
• Since 1995, the team with the best record has won the World Series 17% of the time (3 out of 18)
The sample sizes are small, especially for the latter two, but interestingly:
19031968: If the playoffs were random, you'd expect this to be 50%. They say it's a bit better than that but not how much. Sounds awfully close to random.
19691993: Random would be 1 of 4 ... expected would be 6.25 so just about as close to random as you could get.
19952012: Random would be 1 of 8 (the team with the best record makes it to the round of 8 of course) or 2.25 out of 18 so this is about as close to random as you could get.
Does anybody know the actual number for 19031968? By randomness, the winningest team should have one 41.5 WS titles. I'm guessing the actual number is about 46?
I thought this was the more depressing stat:
Since 1905, there have been 90 teams that have won 100 games. This has been a standard of excellence for a very long time. How did those teams fair?
From 1903 to 1968, 40 of the 45 played in the World Series. Obviously. There was no hurdle between them and the World Series. And 25 of the 45 actually won the World Series.
OK, add one layer of playoffs, and it changes somewhat. From 1969 to 1994, 24 teams won 100 games. 19 of the 24 made the World Series, but only eight of them won.
And since 1995? You ready for it? Twentyone teams have won 100 games. Two have won the World Series. Two. The 1998 Yankees and the 2009 Yankees. Even more incredible … FOURTEEN of the 21 100win teams did not even reach the World Series.
Which goes back to the thread on odds. You're a fool if you bet on anything that doesn't pay out at least 12:1 no matter how good you think that team is.
But in each case, it's on the high side of random, which makes sense when you're looking at the team with the best record. As I said, it looks like just what you might expect when you're starting with the team that is slightly better than the others in the field (though in a sport where the better team doesn't win all that often).
I once read that in much of the 1970s, the top ten programs every year would include the Miss America pageant, the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, and the annual Bob Hope special.
I mean, lets face it, tons of people say the playoffs is a crap shoot; I cant rightly disagree with them, but that sure as hell doesnt mean each and every regular season game was determined in strict accordance with mathematical certainty either.
Last time I ran some numbers, quickly, it seems that whatever measure you use. Such as runs for/against, OPS+/ERA+; or whatever. There is at least a +/ of 5 games (probably more like 6 games ) for teams that appear to be statistically equivalent. I mean as long as you measure both defense and offense. I made groups of teans that were excellent, or very good or pretty good (I think there was at least 5 categories of good) and you kept find a variance of about 5 or 6 games from top to bottom.
the 2nd question that you should consider is: can we get a more valid measure of a current teams strength by using a smaller data set that is closer to the current time? E.g." teams with a pct. of .700 in Sept win X amount of world series..." Or last ten games. or last 20 whatever.
Surely there must be some question that a data set compiled over the past 6 months maybe somewhat less than ideal measure if the issue who is the best team RIGHT NOW. I mean that's obvious on its face isnt it? Would anyone disagree? if the issue is which team is best right now; surely data in April is less useful that data from June, and July, etc...
So one has to consider whether it is possible to refine the data and get a closer estimate of who the "best" team is. Or for that matter whether the time period shoud be extended, i.e. is there any statistical evidence that taking a 2 year or 3 year measure of a ball club is a better indicator of current level of "greatness" or "superiority" or whatever you want to define it as..
why should this be depressing for you Walt? Putting aside sample size for the moment, this data might suggest that the "better" team (however we define it) actually won I guess 55% of the series.
A better way to do this would be to use game by game winning pct. as should be apparent in a minute. OK...what does 55% series winning translate into game winning pct? I dunno, I did this calculation awhile ago. Lets say it's a .580 winning pct? someone else can post better idea. That means these teams are winning against the 2nd or 3rd best or whatever team at a .580 clip.
THere are excellent teams out there that won at a .600 clip like the Big Red Machine. So this actually looks pretty good. Doesnt it?
Well, that's one way of summarizing it. Here's another:
From 1903 to 1968, 5 out of 45 100 win teams didn't play in the postseason. That's 11% of the teams.
From 1969 to 1994, 2 out of 24 100 win teams didn't play in the postseason. That's 8% of the teams.
And since 1995? You ready for it? All the 100 win teams have played in the postseason. EVERY SINGLE ONE has had a chance to win the World Championship.

Neither of these two summaries is inaccurate.
The first 100win team factoid isn't depressing; the second one doesn't seem too bad; it's the trend suggested by the third one. 2 out of 21 won the WS, only 7 of 21 even made the WS. Now 7 of 21 is a good bit better than a random 1 of 4 but that's for 100win teams.
OK...what does 55% series winning translate into game winning pct? I dunno, I did this calculation awhile ago. Lets say it's a .580 winning pct? someone else can post better idea. That means these teams are winning against the 2nd or 3rd best or whatever team at a .580 clip.
You've got that backwards. A true .55 game win percentage relative to another team would win a 7game series about 60% of the time. A 55% 7game series win percentage is somewhere around 5253% game win percent.
If you want to pursue that line of argument, it leads to the idea that even 162 games isn't enough to establish "best" with sufficient certainty such that the playoffs are truly a crapshoot among nearly indistinguishable teams selected in a largely arbitrary process. Which would be sufficiently accurate but it's a lot easier to maintain the illusion for a 162game season than it is a 12win playoff.
By the way, this is a year in which I think there were a bunch of roughly equal teams and the playoffs were pretty much a true crapshoot. The Giants weren't an inferior team ... the Tigers might have been the worst team in the tourney but they weren't pulling off huge upsets to get there.
thanks for posting the math on that; those are good numbers to remember. but it doesnt surprise me, I would not expect the best team playing another team almost as good would be winning at a .580 clip. a .520 winning pct. seems just about right for a team with a slight advantage.
But then there's another detail we should add. We shouldnt count those games where the two teams in the world series are statistically equal. So any two teams w/in 5 games of one another should be considered a push, i.e. the w/l numbers arent statistically different enough to prove there's a difference. So through out all those matchups. What do we have left?
.583 winning pct for better team (11985) and;
.622 better team wins the series (2314).
So for the first 66 years of the world series, this is perhaps too good to be true, the better team wins at a rate that maybe even better than could be expected.
So the first data set suggests that the world series is less of a crap shoot and more of a true reflection of the better team. However, this assumes: league parity, seasonal records reflect current team strength, etc. Lots of assumptions in there.
It would be interesting to do the same thing, but only use the final month of the regular season as a barometer of how good the teams are.
Someone else can do the recent years.
yeah but dont you think you have to do a little more refinement of the data here? You dont know how many of those teams were playing teams just as good as they were. I mean until you start to break it down that way, these numbers dont mean much. 7 out of 21 sounds bad, but who knows? Maybe there were years where 5 or 6 teams had stellar records, obviously only one them can win. That would mess up the data right there.
The pt. is, that data needs more refinement before you can draw any conclusions.
Again, breaking it down by wins/losses would be an obvious first step.
You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.
<< Back to main