(Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug; opening image Garrett Jones; image credit tumblr)
Just a quick perspective in the wake of SP Jeff Locke and some timely hitting salvaging the series finale of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ second-half opener against the pursuant Cincinnati Reds…
1. By my crude math, winning 1 game out of 3 is 300% better than falling victim to a series sweep. Yes, it’s true.
2. Howso? Entering the series against the division-rival Reds, the Pirates were 19 games over .500. Losing all 3 games would drop them to 16 games over .500. But losing only 2 of the 3 keeps them not at 17 but 18 games over .500, or only 1 game back of where they started.
3. So where does the 300% come in? Entering the 3rd and final game, the Pirates had 2 possible outcomes…
Lose the game = 3 games back in the standings of where they started the series
Win the game = 1 game back of where they started the series, or a position 3x or 300% better than losing the final game!
4. Granted, fans don’t generally think in these “shades of losing gray”, series-by-series terms over the course of a 162-game season, but the difference between these outcomes is substantial, when compounded over time.
5. Consider the following: If the Pirates continued on in this manner- losing 2 out of 3 games for every upcoming series (and for simplicity’s sake, please just disregard 4-game serieses, like tonight’s opener of a 4-game set against the Washington Nationals)- it would take them 18 serieses to fall back to the .500 won/loss mark.
Assuming no off days and 3 days per series, it would take 54 days, or until September 14th for Pittsburgh to fall back to .500, allowing the Buccos to remain in contention for at least the 2nd Wild Card spot for much of that time.
However, if the Pirates only did slightly worse series-outcome wise by being swept in each consecutive series, it would only take them 6 serieses- or 18 days (300% faster, mind you)- to plummet back to the .500 break-even point.
This would barely allow the team to escape July, let alone reach September! In this scenario, the Buccos would return to their 20-year nemesis by August 8th, or over 1 month earlier. A legitimate postseason experience could be dead in the water before most parents begin their back-to-school shopping.
So perhaps if you understand compound interest, know a bit about math, can effectively count on your fingers, or simply watch the standings closely, this article was so basic that it didn’t need to be written. But as simple as the concept is, it never fails to amaze me how substantially different losing 2 out of 3 vs. losing 3 out of 3 actually is.
Most fans may just think ultimately about “winning” a series vs. “losing” a series, but in reality, there are very, very different levels of losing a 3-game set: the lesser of the two evils can keep an overachieving team (with phenomenal pitching and an anemic office in need of help) deep in the playoff hunt long beyond their expected contention shelf life. But being frequently swept can ruin a storybook beginning to a season faster than fans can say “Clint Hurdle double switch.”
Thanks for reading. #avoidthebroomsatallcosts