Your verification ID is: guDlT7MCuIOFFHSbB3jPFN5QLaQ Big Computing: MLB playoffs format gives the worst teams best shot at a World Series title?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MLB playoffs format gives the worst teams best shot at a World Series title?

I was going through the chat sections of my linkedin groups, and there was a thread there that talked about making the MLB playoff games a best of seven series and the World Series a best of nine series. The argument being that longer series will yield more wins for the superior teams.

I have to admit I never understood why baseball does the playoff to World series the way that they do. First they play a 162 game season to determine the eight best teams which given the number of games there is a high probability they are really the best eight teams. Then they playoff in the first round in a best of five series which gives the weaker team a better shot of winning than a seven games series. Then MLB finishes off the playoff with two rounds of a best of seven. It is an illogical progression.

If the goal is to give the best team the best shot without increasing the number of games in the playoffs the best way to do that would be to make the first two rounds a best of seven series and the World Series a best of five.

To give you an idea of the difference between a best of five series and a best of seven series lets run some numbers. In a typical MLB season the best teams win about 60% of the time while the worst teams win about 40% of the time. Using that as their excepted chance of wining a game, the chances of the weakest team in baseball beating the best team in baseball in a best of five game series is roughly 32% while in a best of seven series that team has roughly a 29% chance of winning. Yup, that is a staggering three percent improvement in the chances the better team wins the series. Interesting to the statistician but irrelevant to the typical baseball fan. 

Personally I think the playoffs should be switched to a best of seven series all the way through mostly for uniformity reasons than anything else.

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