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Are the Mets and Dodgers hosed in the postseason because they can't win against good teams?

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An in-depth, unqualified analysis.

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The Mets won the NL East. They outpitched the world and took down the preseason favorites to win the World Series. They persevered through injuries and misfortune, and they came out on top. And right when Mets fans started to feel good about this, some Internet ruffian would always saunter by and slap them with a wet well-actually.

Well, actually, the Mets really struggled against over-.500 teams.

They did! It's true. They were 28-38 against teams over .500, which seems like a nice, easy shorthand way to say they struggle against good teams. Which, in turn, seems like a great way to suggest they'll struggle mightily in the postseason. Sorry, Mets, but you won't find any Phillies or Marlins here in October, the conventional wisdom goes.

Except, hold on, the Dodgers were also lousy against over-.500 teams, going 28-37 against them. Maybe they're the ones who will struggle in the postseason. Sorry, Dodgers, but you won't find any Rockies or Padres here in October, the conventional wisdom goes.

If I had to guess, my hunch would be that this is completely overblown. It's a lazy way to extrapolate buckets of information from 65 games or so, which is never a good idea. But I didn't want to guess. I wanted to spend 10 hours on Baseball-Reference like an idiot, clicking clicking clicking and looking for every postseason team in baseball history with a losing regular season record against over-.500 teams.

There were interesting nuggets of information! Here, have some nuggets.

Teams with losing records against over-.500 teams in the regular season do win less in the postseason

Well, I'll be. Before this season, 74 teams made the postseason with a losing record against over-.500 teams in the regular season. Their combined winning percentage in the regular season against over-.500 teams was .470. Their combined winning percentage in the postseason against over-.500 teams was .473. That ... probably isn't a coincidence? I'm bad at at statistics, so please tell me how my methodology is screwed up in the comments, which I won't read.

The combined winning percentage of all teams in the postseason is -- wait for it -- .500. I didn't go through and count the wins and losses for the over-.500 teams, but we know that teams with winning records against over-.500 teams in the regular season did better than the 74 teams with losing records.

Teams with losing records against over-.500 teams can still win the World Series

To find the last championship team that struggled against over-.500 teams, you have to go all the way back to 12 months ago. The 2014 Giants were 27-31 against over.-500 teams in the regular season. Then they went 12-5 against them in the postseason, which I suppose pushes them over the .500 mark on the season, if you want to get technical. Of those 74 teams, 12 of them won the World Series, including seven in the Wild Card era.

Those teams:

  • 1908 Cubs
  • 1920 Indians
  • 1926 Cardinals
  • 1973 A's
  • 1993 Blue Jays
  • 2000 Yankees
  • 2001 Diamondbacks
  • 2002 Angels
  • 2006 Cardinals
  • 2008 Phillies
  • 2010 Giants
  • 2014 Giants

Typical Cubs, always getting lucky.

You'll note that the list is weighted toward the recent years, which is almost counterintuitive. The more recent teams had to run a longer gauntlet and play more series; teams before 1968 just had to win just one series for a championship, so they should be represented more, right?

Except it's kind of a self-selecting pool. To make the postseason at all before '68, a team had to have the very best record in the league. And if a team is under .500 in a large chunk of their games against any sort of team -- good teams, bad teams, teams with bird mascots -- that makes it almost impossible for them to have the best record in the league.

An aside: The 1954 Indians, one of baseball's best regular-season teams, didn't qualify for this article because they were exactly .500 against over-.500 teams. But they made up for that record by going 89-21 against under-.500 teams. It was by far the most absurd outlier I found of any team.

There have been three World Series where both teams struggled against over-.500 teams

Maybe the 2014 Giants did okay in the World Series because they got to play the 2014 Royals, who were 44-45 against over-.500 teams in the regular season. Here are the all-not-good-against-good-team World Series in history:

  • 2014 (Giants over Royals)
  • 2010 (Giants over Rangers)
  • 1973 (A's over Mets)

Feels like I should apologize for the Giants at this point. But I'm not there yet.

The worst team against over-.500 opponents to win the World Series was the 2010 Giants

They went 33-41 against good teams in the regular season, but they still won the World Series.

On behalf of the Giants, I'm sorry. Sorry for all the nonsense. We'll look into that.

The worst record against over-.500 teams of any to make the postseason belongs to the 2006 Dodgers, who were an appalling 19-38 against good teams in the regular season. They were swept in the first round.

Either the Mets or Dodgers would become the worst team against over-.500 teams to win the World Series

The worst of the worst postseason participants against over-.500 teams, including this season:

  1. 2006 Dodgers (.333 winning percentage against over-.500 teams)
  2. 2010 Reds (.377)
  3. 1996 Orioles (.387)
  4. 1999 Astros (.400)
  5. 1997 Indians (.404)
  6. 2013 Indians (.409)
  7. 2015 Mets (.424)
  8. 2015 Dodgers (.430)
  9. 1996 Padres (.437)
  10. 2014 Dodgers (.440)

Dammit, Dodgers.

Those teams up there won three postseason series out of 11 chances, which probably doesn't mean anything. And that will be four out of 13 by next week.

Did we learn anything about the chances of the Dodgers and Mets in the 2015 postseason? Probably not. But I spent hours of my time looking this up, and there were interesting nuggets of information. Did you not find those nuggets interesting? Here, have some nuggets.