After a loss Sunday afternoon to the San Diego Padres, the Braves sit at a 6-8 record in the month of September. Following a 20-7 August, some Braves fans are worrying that the Braves may be slipping into the playoffs, something some fans say absolutely dooms the team to postseason failure. But does it really? Let’s take a look at what recent history tells us…
Age-old baseball “wisdom” has held that a team playing well at “the right time of the year” will be more successful in the postseason. If this is true, then it would hold true that teams who moved to the league championship series would have finished the season strong, correct?
In the wild card era, 146 teams have made the postseason. Of those, only 3 have finished under .500 for the entire second half. Six have finished over .700 for the second half. Based on that, one would assume that more .700+ teams would have advanced to the league championship series and thus the World Series. Of the teams who finished below .500, two made the LCS, both of them making the World Series, and one of them one the World Series. Three of the six .700+ teams made the LCS, with two making the World Series and one winning the World Series. So on the extremes of second half records, teams with extremely poor records actually had more success.
So on the extremes, things weren’t as favorable for the high end records, but certainly the average World Series team would have a very good record, right? Maybe so, but it’s certainly not a rule. A 90-win team wins games at a .556 clip. The average team that wins a World Series has a .593 winning percentage in the second half, while the average LCS participant had a similar .595 winning percentage. Those both are approximately 96-win pace, so very, very good. That said, of the 18 World Series champions, six played the second half below a 90-win pace, but an equal six played at or above a 100-win pace. So the extremes were really not a winning formula, but playing at a 90-100 win pace in the second half seems to be advantageous.
For all that, I wanted to see if there was any change in how a team performed in the last month versus second half stats. For those who won the World Series, 4 played the last month at less than a 90-win pace while 9 played at over a 100-win pace. So perhaps there is some relevance to how you finish the last month. For the Braves to finish at a 90+ win pace, it would require them to finish the month at 9-4. That may seem near-impossible, but the Braves final schedule may make that actually seem quite feasible – 3 at Washington, 3 at Chicago (NL), 3 vs. Milwaukee, and finishing with 4 vs. Philadelphia. This may be the easiest schedule to finish the season for any contending team. That finish would put the Braves at 98 wins on the season, which would be an incredible season if you would have told me that number on April 1st.
Statistics and oddities
– The two worst second half performance by a World Series team in the wild card era were both in 2006, when a .473 second half Cardinals team beat a .486 Tigers team.
– No team has ever won the World Series with a .700+ winning percentage in the last month, but the 2009 Yankees did win with a .700+ second half winning percentage.
– Of the playoff teams, one of the two teams in the league with the top second-half winning percentage for the AL or NL that season won the World Series 5 times while 4 teams with one of the lowest second-half winning percentages in that season won the World Series.
– When sorted by winning percentages across all seasons, the top 10 second half performances produced 5 division series (DS) winners, 3 league championship series (LCS) winners, and one World Series (WS) winner. The worst 10 across all seasons produced 6 DS winners, 4 LCS winners, and 2 WS champs.
– The same sorting for the last month producing the top 10 and bottom 10 records showed of the top 10, 6 won DS, 1 won LCS, but none won the World Series. Of the 10 worst records, 7 won DS, 6 won LCS, and 3 won the World Series, so if the Braves fall short of that 9-4 record, they aren’t out of hope!