A Tale of Two Leagues


Now that every division series has played 2 games, there are some interesting emerging trends. The first and most obvious is the record of home teams in the American League, 0-4. Both the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers had commanding 2-0 leads in the series and they did it in hostile road environments, making the victories even more impressive. The trend is just the opposite in the National League. With the exception of the extra innings come-back win last night for the Atlanta Braves, both the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants had enjoyed a perfect record in their home ballparks. With only 1 of the 4 series tied at 1, these division series could be over quickly with lopsided match-ups.

Since 2000, there have only been 2 seasons in which the wild card team didn’t make it out of the 1st round of the playoffs (2001, 2009) and to take it a step further, 8 times a wild card team has made it all the way to the Worlds Series (3 of those teams won the title). Many years, wild card teams enter the postseason in a better situation that the division champs, because most wild card teams need to play hard down the stretch to get the post-season spot, where in most years the division leaders secure their bid earlier and rest players the last few weeks of the season. Of course this isn’t always true, but tends to happen more often than not, even in a crazy close year like this past season.

That being said, what has transpired so far has surprised me. Coming into the post-season the Yankees had been struggling, losing 8 of their final 11 games and appeared to be limping into their series with the Minnesota Twins. In both of the 1st 2 games the Twins had a lead at home, only to squander it and allow the Yankees to come-back and win. The other AL series has surprised me as well, because the Texas Rangers didn’t look incredibly strong down the stretch, losing games against bad opponents late (Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, but talent-wise, I felt the Rays had one of the best pitching staffs in the post-season. The Rangers came into Tropicana Field on a mission and have allowed just 1 run on 8 hits in 2 games against the home-town team while scoring 11 on 19 hits.

In a short series, a 0-2 deficit is daunting, but feeding from Red Sox experience, it is certainly not impossible to come-back from down 0-2 to win the series. It has been done twice in the last decade, both against the Oakland Athletics. The Sox did it in 2003 and the Yankees did it in 2001, so it is not an impossible task for the teams with their backs against the wall. The bigger question is whether the 3 teams on the brink of elimination have enough heart and determination to battle back and make a push towards the Championship series?