Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Often Do Teams Finish the Sweep?

Thanks to their suddenly dormant offense, the New York Yankees have dropped the first three games of the American League Championship Series to the Detroit Tigers and are in a big hole.

The Yanks know something about 3-0 comebacks, but now they need to be on the other end of history to reach the World Series.

Detroit's outstanding starting pitching has led the way and although New York sends CC Sabathia to the hill tonight, the Tigers are still primed for the sweep as Max Scherzer (MLB-leading 11.08 K/9 IP) will get the ball.

In the MLB postseason, how often do teams that hold a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series win Game Four and complete the sweep?

UPDATE: I've updated these numbers to reflect the Tigers sweeping the Yanks in the 2012 ALCS and the Giants' subsequent sweep of the Tigers in the World Series.

31 teams have started a series 3-0 to set themselves up for a sweep*. 25 of them finished the job in the next game. Of the six teams that lived to fight another day, half were knocked out in Game Five. The 1998 Braves and 1999 Mets both won Games Four and Five of the NLCS before falling in Game Six. The 2004 Red Sox were the first team to force a seventh game and of course were the first to come all the way back and win it.

* I'm not counting the 1907 Cubs and 1922 Giants, although both are listed as winning their series 4-0. The first game of the Cubs/Tigers Fall Classic was called a tie after 12 innings due to darkness and Game Two of the Giants/Yankees series was also a tie for the same reason through ten innings.

Up 3-0 in the World Series

1914 Boston Braves
1927 New York Yankees
1928 New York Yankees
1932 New York Yankees
1938 New York Yankees
1939 New York Yankees
1950 New York Yankees
1954 New York Giants
1963 Los Angeles Dodgers
1966 Baltimore Orioles
1976 Cincinnati Reds
1989 Oakland Athletics
1990 Cincinnati Reds
1998 New York Yankees
1999 New York Yankees
2004 Boston Red Sox
2005 Chicago White Sox
2007 Boston Red Sox
UPDATE: 2012 San Francisco Giants

1910 Philadelphia Athletics (lost Game Four to the Cubs, won Game Five)
1937 New York Yankees (lost Game Four to the Giants, won Game Five)
1970 Baltimore Orioles (lost Game Four to the Reds, won Game Five)

Up 3-0 in the League Championship Series

1988 Oakland Athletics
1990 Oakland Athletics
1995 Atlanta Braves
2006 Detroit Tigers
2007 Colorado Rockies
UPDATE: 2012 Detroit Tigers

1998 San Diego Padres (lost Games Four and Five to the Braves, won Game Six)
1999 Atlanta Braves (lost Games Four and Five to the Mets, won Game Six)

2004 New York Yankees (lost four straight to the Red Sox, flopped into history books)

With their ace on the mound, I think the Yanks have a good shot at joining the short list of teams to avoid the sweep, even if it's only for a day. Beyond that who knows, but as the '04 Sox can attest, it always starts with one.

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