What Makes a Game Exciting? (Part 2)

In yesterday’s article, I looked at the best postseason games in baseball history. Today, let’s switch to the best postseason series of all time. The easiest way to do so is to sum up the game ratings, which produces this list …

Series                Winner		  Loser         IP      Total
1999 NLCS         Braves        4       Mets      2     62      54.34
1991 WS           Twins         4       Braves    3     69      52.66
1975 WS           Reds          4       Red Sox   3     67      51.90
1986 NLCS         Mets          4       Astros    2     64      49.36
2004 NLCS         Cardinals     4       Astros    3     66      47.84
2004 ALCS         Red Sox       4       Yankees   3     71      47.35
1912 WS           Red Sox       4       Giants    3     75      47.00
1924 WS           Senators      4       Giants    3     69      46.59
1980 NLCS         Phillies      3       Astros    2     50      46.57
2003 NLCS         Marlins       4       Cubs      3     67      46.13
1995 ALDS1        Mariners      3       Yankees   2     53      46.04
1997 ALCS         Indians       4       Orioles   2     59      45.86
1921 WS           Giants        5       Yankees   3     72      42.84
2001 WS           Diamondbacks  4       Yankees   3     67      42.10
1972 WS           Athletics     4       Reds      3     63      41.85
1952 WS           Yankees       4       Dodgers   3     64      40.34
1964 WS           Cardinals     4       Yankees   3     64      40.09
1985 ALCS         Royals        4       Blue Jays 3     64      39.91
2003 ALDS1        Red Sox       3       Athletics 2     50      39.52
1986 ALCS         Red Sox       4       Angels    3     67      39.47

How bout dat list. 1991 WS? Check. 1975 WS? Check. 2001 WS? Check. 1986 ALCS? Check. 2004 ALCS? Check. A special shout out to the 1980 NLCS, 1995 ALDS and 2003 ALDS which all made the list, overcoming the disadvantage of only being five-game series.

From this we can discern that the best series ever clearly was the 1999 NLCS. Yeah, right. I ain’t buying it. And I ain’t buying it because after three games the Dodgers led 3-love. And then we all stopped paying attention and missed the good stuff.

Here it is, game by game:

G1: 4-2 Braves, rating: 3.79
G2: 4-3 Braves, rating: 5.60
G3: 1-0 Braves, rating: 5.95

Two good games, one okay game. Braves up 3-0, so who cares what happens? The series is over. So the next games aren’t interesting despite being the best games of the series.

G4: 3-2 Mets, rating: 7.71
G5: 4-3 Mets (in 15 innings), rating: 19.29
G6: 10-9 Braves (in 11 innings), rating: 12.00

Two consecutive games with a combined rating of 31.29. That’s the highest ever for consecutive games. (Only the 2004 ALCS G4/G5 (29.75) and the 1986 NLCS G5/G6 (29.47) come close.)

Those two games taken alone would rate as the 58th-best series ever played. So what we have here are great games played in a lousy order. The other thing missing of course is GAME SEVEN. The best series ever just has to go the distance.

I think the 2004 ALCS is wildly overrated for the same reasons even though it had a game seven. It is much more exciting in retrospect than it was at the time. Sure Boston won after being down 3-zip, but the best two games were Games 4 and 5, when no one thought they had a prayer after getting spanked in Game 3.

And here’s the obligatory lowest rated series(s):

Series                Winner		  Loser         IP      Total
1989 WS              Athletics   4      Giants      0   36      12.24
1975 ALCS            Red Sox     3      Athletics   0   27      12.15
1995 NLDS2           Reds        3      Dodgers     0   27      12.03
1999 ALDS2           Yankees     3      Rangers     0   27      11.50
1998 ALDS2           Yankees     3      Rangers     0   27      11.24
2000 NLDS1           Cardinals   3      Braves      0   27       9.15
2005 NLDS1           Cardinals   3      Padres      0   27       7.25

There are games that were more exciting than these series. Yes, that’s right, we’ve just witnessed history, the WORST playoff series ever. And you didn’t even know until I told you. Why is it the worst you wonder?

For the three games combined, here are the runs scored through:

Inning 1: 2-0 Cardinals
Inning 2: 6-0 Cardinals
Inning 3: 11-0 Cardinals
Inning 4: 13-0 Cardinals
Inning 5: 19-2 Cardinals
Inning 6: 19-2 Cardinals

Any questions?

1989 is the worst World Series ever, and I didn’t even factor in the earthquake. The Giants were outscored 10-1 over the first two innings, 18-4 over the first four innings, 25-4 over the first five innings. You’ve got yourself a Mermaids, Beaches, Steel Magnolias and Ghost movie marathon right there.

So as we did with games, we can sum the weighted game ratings, which will give more influence to games at the end of the series and to games played while the series is close.

We’ll do the top-20 countdown, from 20 to one, Casey Fossum style.

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
20. 1964 WS      Cardinals   4    Yankees   3    64      40.09    18.03
19. 1960 WS      Pirate      4    Yankees   3    63      30.41    18.08
18. 1972 ALCS    Athletics   3    Tigers    2    48      36.02    18.15
17. 2003 ALDS1   Red Sox     3    Athletics 2    50      39.52    18.16
16. 1986 WS      Mets        4    Red Sox   3    64      36.97    18.32
15. 1926 WS      Cardinals   4    Yankees   3    64      36.54    18.39
14. 1925 WS      Pirates     4    Senators  3    63      38.52    18.78
13. 1952 WS      Yankees     4    Dodgers   3    64      40.34    20.05
12. 2003 NLCS    Marlins     4    Cubs      3    67      46.13    20.40
11. 1997 WS      Marlins     4    Indians   3    65      36.56    20.54

Every series went the distance. Lots of familiar names and a few from wayyy back.

The 1960 WS had a great finish, but it is also remembered for the routs, 16-3 in Game 2, 10-0 in Game 3, 12-0 in Game 6. There were only two good games in the series, but what a Game 7.

The ’86 WS also had four weak games saved by the amazin’ finish. Here’s Game 2 to Game 5 in order: 9-3, 7-1, 6-2, 4-2 (4-0 from the fifth to the eighth). There just aren’t enough good games in there.

Now, back to the countdown…

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
10. 2001 WS      Diamondbacks      4    Yankees   3    67      42.10    21.69

Bet ya thought it would be higher. Three terrific games…

G4: 9.47
G5: 11.43
G7: 8.47

There are two strikes against the series. The Diamondbacks had a 2-0 lead, which reduced the weight for Game 3, and Game 6 SUCKED: 15-2 Diamondbacks (rating: 1.56). Game 6 has the second-highest weight in the scoring, so once that game was 12-0 after three innings, it meant that six of the 18 highest-value innings of the series were devoid of interest.

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 9. 1986 NLCS    Mets        4    Astros    2    64      49.36    21.71

This is the best series that failed to go the distance.

G1: 4.49
G2: 3.30
G3: 8.37
G4: 3.73
G5: 12.52
G6: 16.95

That’s the way to finish up a series. As mentioned, that’s the third-highest rating for back-to-back games.

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 8. 2003 ALCS    Yankees     4    Red Sox   3    65      39.34    22.03

G1: 3.72
G2: 3.19
G3: 5.81
G4: 4.30
G5: 4.26
G6: 8.23
G7: 9.83

It’s always helpful to have a Game 7 that goes 11 innings. The best games came at the end, as they should.

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 7. 2004 NLCS    Cardinals   4    Astros    3    66      47.84    22.04 

G1: 5.49
G2: 7.13
G3: 4.75
G4: 6.36
G5: 7.50
G6: 11.68
G7: 4.93

Every game was above average, and three were terrific.

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 6. 1912 WS      Red Sox     4    Giants    3    75      47.00    22.87

A bit of a cheat here since there are eight games, and the best game was Game 2, which ended in a 6-6 tie after 11 innings. I’m still not sure what to do with it; it was a heck of a game, with each team scoring a run in the 10th. But there was no winner. It’s a big tease. Imagine that All-Star game draw from a few years ago, but 1,000 times as intense. Today there’d be a riot. So the game stays in, and the series is great because of it. Worst Game 7 of the list.

G1: 5.63
G2: 11.98
G3: 4.47
G4: 4.97
G5: 4.27
G6: 2.93
G7: 1.96
G8: 10.79

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 5. 1995 ALDS1   Mariners    3    Yankees   2    53      46.04    24.58

A five-game series is #5? Yup. Having two of the 50 best playoff games ever helps, especially when one occurs in the decisive game.

G1: 4.14
G2: 19.84
G3: 4.31
G4: 6.48
G5: 11.27

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 4. 1991 WS      Twins       4    Braves    3    69      52.66    25.22

G1: 3.07
G2: 6.20
G3: 11.81
G4: 7.88
G5: 3.73
G6: 10.84
G7: 9.13

Three of the best 102 playoff games ever (including Games 6 and 7) overcome two relatively weak games. It hurt a little that the Twins had a 2-0 lead. A better Game 5 would have helped. Don’t have your best game in game three.

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 3. 1975 WS      Reds        4    Red Sox   3    67      51.90    25.42

G1: 4.83
G2: 7.21
G3: 7.80
G4: 7.50
G5: 3.71
G6: 13.58
G7: 7.27

I barely remember this one, but it deserves the hype. Five games rated above seven. An awesome Game 6 deserves its legendary status. Game 6 is the third-highest rated World Series game ever, and the highest-rated WS game that occurred after Game 3.

Five games rate among the top 206 postseason games. Barely better than 1991.

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 2. 1924 WS      Senators    4    Giants    3    69      46.59    25.73

G1: 11.26
G2: 5.15
G3: 3.36
G4: 4.43
G5: 4.08
G6: 5.34
G7: 12.97

We’ve seen this one before. Two of the top 50 playoff games ever and the best Game 7 ever are enough for #2 on the list.

Leaving #1…which is not a World Series and is not even a seven-game series

Series             Winner	   Loser	 IP      Total   Weighted
 1. 1980 NLCS    Phillies    3    Astros    2    50      46.57    27.66

How can it be? Look at the game scores:

G1: 4.95
G2: 9.49
G3: 10.74
G4: 9.03
G5: 12.36

There have been 109 games rated above 9.00 (less than 10% of all playoff games). The Phillies and Astros played four games like that in a row. Think about that. Four extra-inning games in a row. The second-best winner-take-all game ever played.

Every game had a lead change after the sixth inning except G2, which ended 1-0 in 11 innings.

Of the 99 half-innings in the series, the teams were tied in 48, within one run in 36 and within two runs in 12. Just twice did a team open an inning with a three-run lead, and only in one half-inning did a team have a lead as large as four runs.

Combining the 1975 and 1924 WS, the best five games add up to 53.11; the 1980 NLCS nearly equals that (46.57). It’s the best.

Of course we could weight the Championship Series at 50% and the Division Series at 25% to create another list, but I’m not going to. It’s my list and I watched that series and I say that it’s the best one ever.

You can make your own list if you want.

Tidbits:

Best sweeps
3 game: 1969 ALCS, Weighted 9.57
4 game: 1922 WS, Weighted 8.49 (included a tie game)
normal 4 game sweep: 1914 WS, weighted 7.45

Best series where the loser won one game
4 Game: 2005 NLDS Brave-Astros, weighted 15.06
5 Game: 2000 WS Yankees-Mets, weighted 10.57

1919 WS was rated the 144th best series ever. Of the games, only Game 6 was a good game.

Best playoff year
2003

This is only compared to the other years with a Division Series round to make it apples to apples. In the Division round, 18 of a possible 20 games were played. Both Championship Series went seven games, and the World Series went six games.

And just for more fun, let’s see how that Braves-Astros game went inning by inning. At the start of the game, the home team is presumed to have a 54% chance to win the game.

T1: no score (0-0), 57.9% chance for the home team to win with eight innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(57.9%-50%) = 42.1% .421/8 = .053 points. Turnaround = abs(54% – 57.9%) = .039.

B1: no score (0-0), 53.1% chance for the home team to win with eight innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(53.1%-50%) = 46.9% .469/8 = .059 points. Turnaround = abs(57.9% – 53.1%) = .048

F1st innings rating: (.053 + .059) + 3 * (.039 + .048) = .372 points

T2: no score (0-0), 58.0% chance for the home team to win with seven innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(58.0%-50%) = 42% .42/7 = .06 points. Turnaround = abs(53.1%-58.0%) = .049

B2: no score (0-0), 52.9% chance for the home team to win with seven innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(52.9%-50%) = 47.1% .471/7 = .067 points. Turnaround = abs(58.0%-52.9%) = .051

2nd inning rating: (.060 + .067) + 3 * (.049 + .051) = .427 points

T3: 4 runs (4-0), 17.6% chance for the home team to win with six innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(17.6%-50%) = 17.6% .176/6 = .029 points. Turnaround = abs(52.9%-17.6%) = .353

B3: no score (4-0), 13.4% chance for the home team to win with six innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(13.4%-50%) = 13.4% .134/6 = .022 points. Turnaround = abs(17.6%-13.4%) = .042

3rd inning rating: (.029 + .022) + 3 * (.353 + .042) = 1.237 points

T4: 0 runs (4-0), 15.4% chance for the home team to win with five innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(15.4%-50%) = 15.4% .154/5 = .031 points. Turnaround = abs(13.4%-15.4%) = .020

B4: 0 runs (4-0), 11.1% chance for the home team to win with five innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(11.1%-50%) = 11.1% .111/5 = .022 points. Turnaround = abs(15.4%-11.1%) = .043

4th inning rating: (.031 + .022) + 3 * (.020 + .043) = .242 points

T5: 1 run (5-0), 8.1% chance for the home team to win with four innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(8.1%-50%) = 8.1% .081/4 = .020 points. Turnaround = abs(11.1%-8.1%) = .030

B5: 1 run (5-1), 8.8% chance for the home team to win with four innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(8.8%-50%) = 8.8% .088/4 = .022 points. Turnaround = abs(8.1%-8.8%) = .007

5th inning rating: (.020 + .022) + 3 * (.030 + .007) = .153 points

T6: 0 runs (5-1), 10.3% chance for the home team to win with three innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(10.3%-50%) = 10.3% .103/3 = .034 points. Turnaround = abs(8.8%-10.3%) = .015

B6: 0 runs (5-1), 6.3% chance for the home team to win with three innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(6.3%-50%) = 6.3% .063/3 = .021 points. Turnaround = abs(10.3%-6.3%) = .040

6th inning rating: (.034 + .021) + 3 * (.015 + .040) = .220 points

T7: 0 runs (5-1), 7.5% chance for the home team to win with two innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(7.5%-50%) = 7.5% .075/2 = .038 points. Turnaround = abs(6.3%-7.5%) = .012

B7: 0 runs (5-1), 3.8% chance for the home team to win with two innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(3.8%-50%) = 3.8% .038/2 = .019 points. Turnaround = abs(7.5%-3.8%) = .037

7th inning rating: (.038 + .019) + 3 * (.012 + .037) = .204 points

T8: 1 run (6-1), 2.3% chance for the home team to win with one inning to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(2.3%-50%) = 2.3% .023/1 = .023 points. Turnaround = abs(3.8%-2.3%) = .015

B8: 4 runs (6-5), 16.9% chance for the home team to win with one inning to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(16.9%-50%) = 16.9% .169/1 = .169 points. Turnaround = abs(2.3%-16.9%) = .146

8th inning rating: (.023 + .169) + 3 * (.015 + .146) = .675 points

T9: 0 runs (6-5), 20.0% chance for the home team to win with one inning to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(20.0%-50%) = 20.0% .200/1 = .200 points. Turnaround = abs(16.9%-20.0%) = .031

B9: 1 runs (6-6), 50.9% chance for the home team to win with one inning to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(50.9%-50%) = 49.1% .491/1 = .491 points. Turnaround = abs(50.9%-20.0%) = .309

9th inning rating: (.200 + .491) + 3 * (.031 + .309) = 1.711 points

T10: 0 runs (6-6), 63.8% chance for the home team to win with one inning to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(63.8%-50%) = 36.2% .362/1 = .362 points. Turnaround = abs(63.8%-50.9%) = .129

B10: 0 runs (6-6), 50.9% chance for the home team to win with one inning to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(50.9%-50%) = 49.1% .491/1 = .491 points. Turnaround = abs(63.8%-50.9%) = .129

10th inning rating: (.362 + .491) + 3 * (.129 + .129) = 1.627 points

The more clever among you will realize that the 11th to 17th innings will all also be rated at 1.627 points.

T18: 0 runs (6-6), 63.8% chance for the home team to win with one inning to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(63.8%-50%) = 36.2% .362/1 = .362 points. Turnaround = abs(63.8%-50.9%) = .129

B18: 1 runs (6-7), 100.0% chance for the home team to win with 0 innings to go. Closeness = 50% -abs(100.0%-50%) = 0.0% .0/1 = .000 points. Turnaround = abs(100%-63.8%) = .362

18th inning rating: (.362 + .000) + 3 * (.129 + .362) = 1.835 points

Now do that for 1,118 other games…I bet you’re wondering why you didn’t do this yourself.

Looking at it,

The 18th is the highest-rated inning 1.835
The ninth inning is the second-highest 1.711
The 10th to17th follows that with 1.627
The third inning follows that 1.237
The second inning follows that 0.675

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