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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Elimination Games: A Study

How pitchers have performed in the 76 winner-take-all games throughout baseball history.

We don?t know yet whether the 2003 World Series will go seven games, but we?ve already had a great postseason. In fact we?ve seen four winner-take-all elimination games this October, making this one of just three seasons in baseball history ? 1981 and 2001 are the others ? to feature so many elimination games.

 

For purposes of this article, we?ll define an "elimination game" as any game in which the team that wins either advances to the next round of playoffs, or wins the World Series.

 

In all, there have been 76 winner-take-all games in baseball history:

Seventh game of a World Series     35
Fifth games of an LCS           10
Seventh game of an LCS           9
Fifth game of a Division Series   14
Third game of a three-game playoff   2
One-game playoff               6

To study how pitchers have performed in those games, we?ll use the Game Score, a fun stat invented by Bill James in the 1980s. Here?s how it works: For each pitcher, start with 50 points. Add one point for each out recorded, and another point for each strikeout. Subtract four points for a run given up, two for an unearned run, two for each hit given up, and one for each walk issued. Finally, add two points for each inning that the pitcher completes after the fourth. Voilà! You?ve got a game score!

 

The scale works like this: 55 is a pretty respectable game, 70 or 75 is excellent, and 90 is a truly great game. Only a handful of the greatest games ever pitched approach a game score of 100.

 

Of course, this is an imperfect method. For one thing, it doesn?t give nearly enough credit for innings pitched. It also arguably over-emphasizes strikeouts. But it works well enough to make it a good quick-and-dirty way to compare game performances between pitchers. So, of all 152 pitchers who?ve started a winner-take-all game (plus one reliever, just for kicks), which performed the best? Here are the Top 20:

 

                      IP H R ER BB K GS

1. Sandy Koufax, 1965 WS       9 3 0 0 3 10 88
1. Randy Johnson, 1995 AL Playoff 9 3 1 1 1 12 88
3. Al Leiter, 1999 NL Playoff     9 2 0 0 4 7 86
4. Jack Morris, 1991 WS       10 7 0 0 2 8 84
5. Ralph Terry, 1962 WS         9 4 0 0 0 4 83
6. John Smoltz, 1991 NLCS       9 6 0 0 1 8 82
7. Dizzy Dean, 1934 WS         9 6 0 0 0 5 80
7. Bob Gibson, 1967 WS         9 3 2 2 3 10 80
7. Orel Hershiser, 1988 NLCS     9 5 0 0 2 5 80
10. Johnny Kucks, 1956 WS       9 3 0 0 3 1 79
10. Bret Saberhagen, 1985 WS     9 5 0 0 0 2 79
10. Curt Schilling, 2001 NLDS     9 6 1 1 1 9 79
13. Steve Blass, 1971 WS       9 4 1 1 2 5 78
13. Jerry Reuss, 1981 NLDS       9 5 0 0 3 4 78
15. Joe Niekro, 1980 NL Playoff   9 6 1 0 2 6 77
15. F. Valenzuela, 1981 NLCS     8.2 3 1 1 3 6 77
15. Pedro Martinez, 1999 ALDS     6 0 0 0 3 8 77*
18. Catfish Hunter, 1973 ALCS     9 5 0 0 2 1 76
18. Steve Rogers, 1981 NLDS     9 6 0 0 1 2 76
18. Danny Cox, 1987 NLCS       9 8 0 0 0 5 76

*Relief appearance.

 

It should surprise nobody that Sandy Koufax holds the top spot, along with Randy Johnson?s memorable performance against the Angels in the 1995 one-game playoff. What is a little surprising, though, is that no one has ever broken the 90 barrier ? that is, nobody in baseball history has ever pitched a truly great game in a winner-take-all situation. Koufax pitched terrifically, to be sure, but that Game Score of 88 was surpassed by 17 pitchers ? including Joe Kennedy and Billy Traber ? during the 2003 regular season alone.

 

Anyway, the rest of the list includes some of the most famous pitching performances in postseason history, including those by Jack Morris, Orel Hershiser, Bob Gibson, and Dizzy Dean. It also includes some games that for whatever reason have garnered relatively little notoriety, such as Al Leiter?s masterful work which got the 1999 Mets a postseason berth.

 

Now, here are the 13 worst performances ever in an elimination game:

                      IP   H R ER BB K GS

153. Donovan Osborne, 1996 NLCS   0.2 5 6 6 1 0 17
153. Charles Nagy, 1999 ALDS     3   6 8 7 2 2 17
153. Gil Heredia, 2000 ALDS     0.1 4 6 6 2 0 17
150. Ron Darling, 1988 NLCS     1   6 6 4 0 2 23
150. Andy Pettitte, 2000 ALDS   3.2 10 5 5 2 4 23
148. Bret Saberhagen, 1999 ALDS   1   4 5 5 1 0 24
147. Walter Johnson, 1925 WS     8   15 9 5 1 3 26
146. Vic Aldridge, 1925 WS     0.1 2 4 4 3 0 28
146. Jim Lonborg, 1967 WS       6   10 7 6 1 3 28
146. John Tudor, 1985 WS       2.1 3 5 5 4 1 28
143. Elden Auker, 1934 WS       2.1 6 4 4 1 1 29
143. Livan Hernandez, 2002 WS   2   4 4 4 4 1 29
143. Kerry Wood, 2003 NLCS     5.2 7 7 7 4 6 29

There?s one remarkable thing about this list that you should notice right away. There are not one, not two, but three games (Game 7 of the 1925 World Series, and Game 5 of the 1999 and 2000 AL Division Series) in which both of the game?s starting pitchers turned in a performance that?s among the eight worst of all time. Andy Pettitte turned in the fourth-worst performance ever, and yet his team still won the game (and, of course, the series). Amazing.

 

Incidentally, neither Walter Johnson nor Kerry Wood really has any business being on this list, but due to the previously-discussed flaws in the Game Score formula, that?s the way the numbers add up. Anyway, Johnson and Vic Aldridge certainly have a good excuse: Game 7 of the 1925 World Series was played under shameful conditions, probably the most abominable weather conditions in which any major league baseball game has ever been played. It was so wet and foggy that the pitchers couldn?t grip the ball, the fielders couldn?t field it, and the umpires couldn?t see it. Walter Johnson should get a medal instead of a place on the ten-worst list.

 

What?s interesting is what you won?t find on the above list: the two pitchers who were unable to record even a single out in an elimination game. They were Dennis Leonard (1976 ALCS; 36 Game Score) and Hank Borowy (1945 World Series; 32 Game Score). Also missing is Curly Ogden, who was Senators manager Bucky Harris? decoy starter in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series. Ogden faced only two batters, walking one and striking out the other. That netted him a darn impressive game score of 51.

 

For reasons I?ll leave to others to figure out, there are three Game Scores that are worse than any of the others by a wide margin, and all three of those have come since the start of Wild Card play.

 

Now it?s time to take a look at some hard-luck pitchers. Here are the seven pitchers who posted the highest Game Score in an elimination game, yet failed to win the game:

 

 

GS PITCHER       GAME       DEC.  TEAM W-L

72 Mike Cuellar   1971 WS Gm 7 L     L 1-2
70 Woodie Fryman   1972 ALCS   L     L 1-2
69 John Smoltz   1991 WS     ND     L 0-1 (10)
68 Ray Burris     1981 NLCS   ND     L 1-2
67 Jaret Wright   1997 WS     ND     L 2-3 (11)
67 Matt Morris   2001 NLDS   ND     L 1-2
67 Curt Schilling 2001 WS     ND     W 3-2

Remarkably, there has never been a truly hard-luck pitcher in an MLB elimination game. Cuellar?s performance ranks as the 27th-best out of 153 performances. He?s in the top 20 percent, but just barely. In all must-win games in baseball history, nobody has ever pitched a truly top-notch game that they didn?t win. Just off the bottom of this list, incidentally, is Christy Mathewson?s loss in Game 8 of the 1912 World Series, which scored a 64. Mathewson and Jack Morris are the only two pitchers ever to throw more than nine innings in an elimination game.

 

For most fans, the most disappointing winner-take-all games are those like the seventh game of the 1985 World Series, where one team scores a lot of runs early and never looks back, winning in a blowout. Here are the six elimination games where the winner outpitched his opposing starter by the greatest margin:

 

GAME     GS WINNER         GS LOSER       DIFF

1999 ALDS 77* (Pedro Martinez)  17 (C. Nagy)    60
1996 NLCS 75 (Tom Glavine)    17 (D. Osborne)  58
1988 NLCS 80 (Orel Hershiser)  23 (R. Darling)  57
1967 WS   80 (Bob Gibson)    28 (J. Lonborg)  52
1934 WS   80 (Dizzy Dean)    29 (E. Auker)  51
1985 WS   79 (Bret Saberhagen)  28 (J. Tudor)  51

*Relief appearance.

 

And now, here are some pitchers who?ve just gotten lucky. Below are the 9 pitchers who turned in the worst Game Scores in a game their team eventually won:

 

GS PITCHER       GAME     DEC TEAM W-L
23 Andy Pettitte   2000 ALDS ND W 7-5
24 Bret Saberhagen 1999 ALDS ND W 12-8
28 Vic Aldridge   1925 WS   ND W 9-7
34 Ron Guidry     1977 ALCS ND W 5-3
34 Eric Show     1984 NLCS ND W 6-3
36 Ron Darling   1986 WS   ND W 8-5
37 Spec Shea     1941 WS   ND W 5-2
37 Don Gullett   1972 NLCS ND W 4-3
42 Don Gullett   1975 WS   ND W 4-3

Terrible as they were, the top three pitchers on this list had the good fortune to face a pitcher who was even worse than they were (namely, Gil Heredia, Charles Nagy, and Walter Johnson, respectively). The rest just got outpitched, but their team bailed them out in the end anyway. (Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the worst performance ever to get credit for a win in an elimination game was by Jaret Wright. He gave up two earned runs in just over five innings in Game 5 of the 1997 AL Division Series, a game score of 44.)

 

Only once in elimination games has a man oupitched his opponent by more than 10 points, yet still lost the game. That was Game 7 of the 1926 World Series, in which Jesse Haines was outpitched by Waite Hoyt. Haines came away the winner anyway, of course, thanks to famously terrific relief work by Pete Alexander.

 

In case you were wondering, the mean performance for pitchers in elimination games is 5.8 innings pitched, 5.4 hits, 2.3 earned runs, 3.75 strikeouts, and a 3.52 ERA. Here?s the innings pitched breakdown:

 

At least 10 innings   1 pitcher 00.6 percent
At least 9 innings   28 pitchers 18.4 percent
At least 8 innings   45 pitchers 29.6 percent
At least 7 innings   64 pitchers 42.1 percent
At least 6 innings   86 pitchers 56.6 percent
At least 5 innings 103 pitchers 67.8 percent
At least 4 innings 114 pitchers 75.0 percent
At least 3 innings 131 pitchers 86.2 percent
At least 2 innings 140 pitchers 92.1 percent
At least 1 inning   145 pitchers 95.4 percent
Less than 1 inning   7 pitchers 04.6 percent

Win       45 29.6 percent
Loss       52 34.2 percent
No decision 55 36.2 percent

Should you happen to find yourself pitching a winner-take-all game, here?s a friendly bit of advice: Don?t pitch eight innings. Thirteen pitchers have pitched exactly eight frames of an elimination game, and in 10 of the 13 cases, their team lost the game. Meanwhile, 26 of the 28 pitchers who went nine innings or more won the game, with the two exceptions being Christy Mathewson and Bob Gibson.

 

Only 23 pitchers in baseball history have started at least two elimination games. Not surprisingly, 18 of them pitched after the advent of divisional play; the other five are Don Newcombe, Don Larsen, Lew Burdette, Bob Gibson, and Johnny Podres. There are obvious sample size issues, of course, but judging by their records in these games, John Smoltz is the one pitcher in baseball history you?d most want on the mound, followed closely by Podres, Leiter, and Burdette.

 

            G IP   W-L   ERA Tm W-L

Jack Billingham   2 9   0-1   5.00   0-2
Steve Blass     2 16.3 1-0   1.65   1-1
Lew Burdette     2 17   1-1   2.12   1-1
Roger Clemens   4 20.7 1-0   3.48   3-1
Ron Darling     2 4.7   0-1 13.50   1-1
Bob Gibson     3 27   2-1   3.67   2-1
Ron Guidry     3 12.7 1-0   4.97   3-0
Don Gullett     2 7   0-0   7.71   2-0
Don Larsen     2 4.7   0-0   5.79   1-1
Al Leiter       2 15   1-0   1.20   2-0
Pedro Martinez*  3 20   2-0   3.60   2-1
Mark Mulder     2 11.3 0-2   3.18   0-2
Don Newcombe     2 11.3 0-1   7.15   0-2
Blue Moon Odom   2 9.3   1-0   0.96   2-0
Andy Pettitte   2 10.3 0-1   7.84   1-1
Johnny Podres   2 14   1-0   0.64   1-1
Nolan Ryan     2 13   0-1   5.54   0-2
Bret Saberhagen   3 13   1-0   3.46   3-0
Curt Schilling   2 16.3 1-0   1.65   2-0
John Smoltz     3 22.3 1-0   0.81   2-1
Pete Vuckovich   2 11.7 0-0   4.63   1-1
Kerry Wood     3 13.7 1-1   5.27   1-1
Jaret Wright     2 11.7 1-0   2.31   1-1

*Includes one relief appearance.

 

Eric Enders Posted: October 25, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:52 AM (#613705)
The Game Score method overemphasizes small differences between pitchers. There's really not a significant difference between Steve Blass's outing in Game 7 of the 1971 WS and Mike Cuellar's; the main differences between the two are that Cuellar gave up one more run and pitched one less inning. I don't see how you can reasonably argue that Cuellar didn't pitch every bit as well in that game as did Blass.

A Game Score of 50 is considered to be an average outing. Probably, I'd guess, pitchers w/ Game Scores of 67 or above win their games at least 3/4 of the time - and thus I'd consider all of the pitchers on Eric's list that didn't win with that Game Score to be hard-luck losers.

-- MWE
   2. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613707)
It may not be that surprising that there have been no truly great games by this method, because the quality of competiton is much better than average.

And a very minor quibble - there are a few winner-take-all games not included here: when the top 2 teams are playing each other the last game of the season, and the math means that only one can win the pennant/make the playoffs. (Yankees-Boston in 1949 is the example of this, and it may be the only one. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure if 1967 fits or not.)
   3. Eric Enders Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613708)
Jack,
Lolich's Game Score was 74, which ranks 24th on the list. I've posted the Excel file with all 153 games here for those who are interested. (Hopefully that link works; if it doesn't, let me know.)

FJ,
It's a matter of opinion, obviously, but I don't think Kerry Wood's performance belongs on the 10-worst list over guys like Hank Borowy, who gave up three runs without recording any outs in the 1945 World Series, or Bob Turley, who gave up three runs in one inning of work in 1960. The fact that Wood at least got through five innings makes his performance stronger than theirs, in my opinion.

Mike,
You're certainly correct that all 10 of those pitchers were hard-luck losers, of a sort. But none of them pitched a great game and failed to win, which is what I was getting at. For example, nobody's ever pitched a complete game and lost 1-0. (The closest was Smoltz, who pitched "only" 7 scoreless innings.)

Similarly, nobody's ever pitched a low-hit complete game without winning. (In fact, nobody's ever come remotely close-- the closest was Buck Newsom, who pitched a complete game seven-hitter and lost in the 1940 WS.)

Devin,
Yes, I'm aware that there are a few regular season winner-take-all games not included. The reasons for that are:
A) They're hard to identify; so far as I know, there is no definitive list of such games, and
B) Even if I could identify them, the box scores (and therefore the pitching lines) are mostly unavailable on the Retrosheet site, which is what I used to compile my data.
   4. RobertMachemer Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613710)
It should not be that big a surprise that pitchers who pitched 8 innings lost a fair number of games. If you pitch for the visitors, you don't get to pitch a ninth inning if the other team is leading.
   5. Doug Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613712)
Re: Game Score is imperfect.

An obvious imperfection (or, at least, an apparent inconsistency), is that a long outing gets points for both innings and outs, but a short outing is only effectively penalized by limiting opportunities for outs points.

So, to at least make the scoring symmetrical with respect to innings pitched, should probably deduct 2 points for each full inning not pitched up to the fourth. I suspect with this change, games like Kerry Woods's, or Walter Johnson's, would drop out of the worst-ever list.
   6. Eric Enders Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613714)
But I just did the math for the first time: In a 9-inning game, the innings count for 37 points (1 for each out, 10 for pitching innings 5-9). If a pitcher goes 9 innings and earns 100 points, innings count for 74% of his earned points, because the formula starts him with 50. Hmm.

Warren,

I don't think you're quite right about that. Those 50 free points have nothing to do with innings pitched. The formula awards each pitcher 50 points regardless of how many innings he pitches. He gets those 50 even if he pitches zero innings (as Hank Borowy did). So if a pitcher goes nine innings and earns 100 points, as in your scenario, only 37 of those 100 points (37%) are coming from innings pitched.

Starting at 50 seems an odd thing to do anyway. I mean, I can see why the formula was devised that way -- so nobody could ever realistically end up with a negative game score, and so the greatest games ever pitched would score around 100. But it still seems kind of weird for some reason.

One way to tinker with the formula might be to double the amount of points awarded for completion of each inning after the fourth. So a pitcher would get 2 extra points for completing the 5th inning, 4 more for the 6th, 8 more for the 7th, 16 for the 8th, and 32 for throwing a complete game. (On second thought, that would probably cause the opposite problem, placing too much emphasis on IP.)
   7. Eric Enders Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613718)
Wayne,
At least you can take heart in the knowledge that Donovan Osborne was no Al Travers. Travers gets a Game Score of -52.
   8. Eric Enders Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613719)
Eric, I don?t think you?re quite right about that, but it?s partly a result of my sloppy writing. I misused the term ?earns 100 points.? A pitcher gets 50 for showing up. If he achieves a 100-point game score, he only earns 50. If he pitches 9 innings, the innings account for 74% of the 50 points he has earned.

Warren,

I realize that this is a little like two full people arguing over the last French fry, but you're still wrong.

I repeat: Because the pitcher gets 50 free points just for showing up to the ballpark, those points have absolutely nothing to do with his innings pitched. He can pitch no innings at all and still get those 50 points. So, if a pitcher pitches a 9-inning game with a Game Score of 100, it would break down this way:



- 37 points earned from his innings pitched (37%)

- 13 points earned from the effectiveness of his pitching (13%)

- 50 points not earned at all (50%)
   9. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613725)
But none of them pitched a great game and failed to win, which is what I was getting at.

It depends on your definition of great, I suppose. Cuellar's effort in G7 1971 certainly qualifies as great in my book (8 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 6 K); he just made one more mistake than did Blass (9 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K). Fryman's G5 effort in the 1972 ALCS was comparable (8 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K). Smoltz's 1991 outing wasn't quite up to those, but still pretty impressive. They weren't *blow-em-away* games, to be sure, but you still don't see efforts like those very much at all.

-- MWE
   10. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613728)
Would the 1908 Tigers-White Sox game qualify? Wild Bill Donovan pitched a 2-hitter and the Tigers won 7-0.

Yes, it would, because the winner of that game was guaranteed to finish ahead of Cleveland, even though the Naps were also just a half-game back entering the day and defeated St. Louis 5-1 in their finale. The White Sox would have been .001 ahead of Cleveland had they beaten the Tigers.

-- MWE
   11. Eric Enders Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613729)
Beckett gets an 84 tonight, in case anyone is wondering. If it had been an elimination game, he'd be tied with Jack Morris for 4th-best ever.
   12. RobertMachemer Posted: October 25, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613730)
"There have been 3 regular season
elimination games in major league
history: 1982, 1949, 1908"

What about 1948, 1951, 1962, 1978, and... (it's harder to remember the recent ones) 1995?

Those all were regular-season games, winner take all (of something).
   13. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 26, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613736)
This WAS an elimination game. The Yankees were eliminated; the Marlins took the Series. Beckett IS now tied for 4th on the list.

It's not an elimination game, because had the Yankees won the Marlins would not have been eliminated. It's only an elimination game if the series is over no matter which team wins.

-- MWE
   14. MGL Posted: October 26, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613738)
The confusion of course is in this sentence:

For purposes of this article, we?ll define an "elimination game" as any game in which the team that wins either advances to the next round of playoffs, or wins the World Series.

Obviously that is not what the author meant. He meant a game in which if either team wins, they win the series.

Is that called an elimination game (I don't think so) or a double elimination game (or something else?

   15. Walt Davis Posted: October 26, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613740)
FJ, It's a matter of opinion, obviously, but I don't think Kerry Wood's performance belongs on the 10-worst list over guys like Hank Borowy, who gave up three runs without recording any outs in the 1945 World Series, or Bob Turley, who gave up three runs in one inning of work in 1960. The fact that Wood at least got through five innings makes his performance stronger than theirs, in my opinion.

The other side of this opinion is that Kerry Wood also gave up 3 runs in his first inning of work. The difference between him and Turley is that Baker left him out there. Which worked fine for innings 2-4 (for which Wood deserves game score credit) but not so good in innings 5 and 6 (for which Wood gets lots of game score demerits, though most of it would seem to be Baker's fault). Or to put it another way, Wood didn't "deserve" to make it through 5 innings -- 4 worked out, 4.2 maybe, but not 5, much less 5.2.

On the other hand, his WHIP is among the best on that list.

And just a nit, if Wood doesn't deserve to be on there, neither does Lonborg.
   16. MGL Posted: October 26, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613742)
Eric,

Did you not notice the following:

In all, there have been 76 winner-take-all games in baseball history:

Seventh game of a World Series 35
Fifth games of an LCS 10
Seventh game of an LCS 9
Fifth game of a Division Series 14
Third game of a three-game playoff 2
One-game playoff 6


Since these are all "double" elimination games, and there are plenty more "single" elimination games, apparently the author did NOT mean what he wrote in the definition, unless I am missing something!
   17. Eric Enders Posted: October 26, 2003 at 02:53 AM (#613743)
MGL,

It was a poorly written definition, but it was obvious what was meant. (If every last game of a World Series counted, there would have been a lot more than 76 elimination games.)



Also, I think you meant to address your remarks to "Erik," not "Eric." (Either that, or I'm even more confused than I thought.)



The definition was off by one word.



For purposes of this article, we?ll define an "elimination game" as any game in which the team that wins either advances to the next round of playoffs, or wins the World Series.



should instead have read:



For purposes of this article, we?ll define an "elimination game" as any game in which the team that wins must either advance to the next round of playoffs, or win the World Series.



It's hard to tell in print whether Erik was genuinely confused or just trying to be a smartass.
   18. Marc stone Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:53 AM (#613753)
"What is a little surprising, though, is that no one has ever broken the 90 barrier ? that is, nobody in baseball history has ever pitched a truly great game in a winner-take-all situation. Koufax pitched terrifically, to be sure, but that Game Score of 88 was surpassed by 17 pitchers ? including Joe Kennedy and Billy Traber ? during the 2003 regular season alone."

There were over 4800 games started during the regular season. That means that the chance of posting a Game Score of over 90 at almost 1 in 300. Even with higher quality pitchers in the post-season, it's still not surprising to see this in less than 80 games
   19. Steve Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:53 AM (#613760)
Larsen's pefect game was game 5 in 1956, not game 7.
   20. Carl Goetz Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:53 AM (#613762)
'What about 1948, 1951, 1962, 1978, and... (it's harder to remember the recent ones) 1995? '

These, along with the 1999 Mets-Reds playoff were the 6 1-game playoffs that were included in the study.


   21. jimd Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613766)
Two things.

1967 AL should count as an "Ultimate Game" (I call them "decision games"). Yes, what would happen next depended on the result of another game, but so what? The winner either won the AL pennant outright or had to play another "Ultimate Game" tie-breaker to decide that winner. The primary feature of Ultimate Games was present; the loser went home, the winner was left standing.

If you count the Federal League as a major league (as some do), then there is one more regular season entry. The 1915 Federal League ending is somewhat similar to the 1908 AL. The Chicago Whales defeated the Pittsburgh Rebels 3-0 to win the pennant after losing the first game of a double-header 5-4, setting up the Ultimate Game in the second game. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Terriers slipped into second with a win; there was no outcome from Chicago that day in which they could come out on top (they're like Cleveland in 1908).

   22. jimd Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613776)
Would the 1950 Dodgers-Phillies season finale count as an elimination game?

If it was the AL, it would be like a Game 6. Dodgers needed a win to force a "deciding game" tiebreaker for the pennant. But it was the NL, so a Dodger win would have forced a tie-breaker best 2-of-3 series, so any analogy to a post-season series falls apart.

It's not a "deciding game" because the Phillies would play on even if they lost the game.
   23. Marc Posted: October 28, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613784)
First, this is one of the most interesting articles ever.

But the definition for "elimination game" is pretty imprecise. It flaunts conventional wisdom. And within the article is a vastly better definition for exactly what we're talking about--a winner-take-all. So forget elimination or double elimination, just call it winner-take-all and I don't think there is any confusion.

In this sense, however, I don't think '67 counts. If the winner had been the Twins, they still would not (as a result of that win) have taken it all. (The Sox of course won and did take it all, but it wasn't, er, double elimination.)
   24. jimd Posted: October 29, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613794)
In this sense, however, I don't think '67 counts. If the winner had been the Twins, they still would not (as a result of that win) have taken it all.

Yes they would have, Marc. The Twins and Red Sox were in symmetric situations, winner-take-all. It's just that it was unclear exactly what "all" meant, at the time of the game. It might have been the pennant, should the Angels beat the Tigers later (which is what happened in the event), or it might have been the privilege of playing the Tigers in another winner-take-all game for the pennant. But it did decide who was done for the season and who got to sit in the clubhouse after the game to find out "What next? Tie-breaker or World Series?".

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