When trailing three games to noneby Chris Jaffe
October 28, 2012
Well, things look down for Detroit, don’t they? The Tigers are the 24th team to lose the first three games of the World Series, and down three games to none is a rough spot to be in a best-of-seven series. To figure out what might happen, let’s look at the past to see what happened to the previous 23 teams.
Down three games to none
Twenty of them got swept, and the other three lost in five games. Yeah, that’s kinda bad. A 3-20 record in Game Four is rather impressively bleak. The three teams to pull off the win, if you’re curious, were the 1910 Cubs, 1937 Giants, and 1970 Reds, who all, of course, lost anyway.
Well, then again, the World Series isn’t the only type of best-of-seven. There is also the 1985-onward LCS. In those games, nine times a team has dropped the first three games of the LCS. Six of them, alas, were swept. However, the three teams that all won Game Four, also all won Game Five. That’s kinda neat. But two lost Game Six: the 1998 Braves and 1999 Mets.
Famously, the 2004 Red Sox are the only team to storm back from a three-games-to-none deficit to take the series, but I doubt you needed to read this to find out.
Summing it all up, the 32 previous teams that lost the first three decisions in a best-of-seven:
- Went 6-26 in Game Four.
- The surviving six went 3-3 in Game Five.
- The remaining teams went 1-2 in Game Six.
- And the sole remaining squad 1-0 in Game Seven.
For the Tigers, it’s all about taking it one game at a time. If they win Game Four, they'll have Justin Verlander on the hill in Game Five, and then … well, it’s best to take it one game at a time, right?
Three straight without a lead
Actually, there’s another way of looking at this. The Tigers haven’s just lost all three games, they’ve never even led in any of them. Yeah, that makes it worse.
Of those 32 teams that went down zero games to three, how many never led in any contest?
Just six. And one of those, by the way, just happened: the Yankees versus the Tigers in the 2012 ALCS. Obviously, the Yankees not only got swept, they never led in Game Four, either.
In fact, no team that has lost the first three games without even leading have gone on to win Game Four. Five of them never led in Game Four, either. Aside from this year’s Yankees, there are the 1963 Yankees, 1966 Dodgers, 1989 Giants, and 2004 Cardinals, all of whom lost in the World Series.
The “success” story is the 1976 Yankees. After losing the first three games of the World Series to the Reds while always trailing, the Yankees took an early 1-0 lead in Game Four—and then coughed it up in the fourth inning, losing 7-2. That’s the success story.
So, in news that shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, the precedents sure paint a bleak picture for Detroit.
Detroit and there straight games without a lead
One final note. This is just the third time all year the Tigers have lost three straight games without ever leading. It happened to them on April 24-26 against the Mariners and Sept. 7-9 versus Anaheim. Detroit has not played four straight games without ever leading. However, on both April 27 and Sept. 10, the Tigers lost their next game, which is the important part.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.