October 20, 2005
World Series matchups

I'll save the analysis of who is the favorite to win this World Series for later. For now, I've got a little inspiration from this Baseball Prospectus article on World Series matchups. There were eight original franchises in each league, meaning there were 64 possible World Series combinations from 1903 to 1960. There are many more now, of course (224, to be exact), but since 1903 only 32 of those possible matchups have occurred. One of those that has never happened is Cardinals-White Sox. Maybe next year.

As far as I can tell, this Astros-White Sox World Series is the new record holder for pairing two teams with the longest combined Series drought - 46 years for the Sox and 43 for the Stros. The next closest that I can think of is from 1980, when the Phillies (30 years at the time) and Royals (first Series in their 12th season) met up. Had the 1994 Classic not been cancelled, a Cleveland (40 years) versus Montreal (never in 25 years of existence) meetup would have been the standard. Well, technically the 1995 Series between Cleveland (now 41 years) and the Braves (three years) slightly outpaces Philly-KC, but that's too one-sided for me.

It's just a footnote now, but had the Cards completed a comeback to win the pennant, we'd be talking for a long time about their improbable comeback on Monday night after being one out (and one strike) away from elimination. How improbable was it? Nate Silver calculated the odds based on the game situation, the pitcher on the mound, and the count, and came up with 298-1 against. Putting it in simpler terms:

No visiting team came back from a two-run deficit when down to their last out in the entire 2003 season. Same thing was true in 2004. The overall win probability in this situation between 1996-2005 was 0.76%.

The adjustment for Lidge's effectiveness, especially with two strikes on the hitter, is what gets us to the final number.

To answer Kimberly's comment here, I'm very happy for the Astros, and I'll be rooting for them to bring home the bacon, but I'm not someone who's lived and died with them for decades, so it's not quite right for me to do a lot of gushing about this. Let me point you instead to the folks who've really paid their dues: Tom, Lair (who may never take his prized Chad Qualls jersey off again), PDiddie, 'stina (who I assume is feeling better now), Christine (whose plan to prevent a repeat of Monday seems to have worked), Norbizness, Greg, Houtopia, Plunk Biggio, and no doubt many others who are still sleeping it off. Y'all celebrate, you've earned it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 20, 2005 to Baseball | TrackBack