The Excitement Index, 2010 Edition

A few years ago, I developed a very simple system for measuring how exciting a baseball post-season is.

I wanted to check just how boring 2007 was turning out so I devised a quick and dirty way to rank the post-seasons. It works like this:

Every game played gets 1 point.

Each game get 0.2 extra points for a lead change or tie. So tonight the Sox led 1-0. The Tribe tied it. Then the Sox took the lead for good. 0.4 points. Now if the Tribe had scored a run in the 1st and another in the second, that would have been 0.4 points; but had they taken the lead with two in the 1st, that would have only been 0.2 points. The system rewards a little drawing out of the game.

Extra innings or a last at-bat victory is worth an extra 0.5 points.
Finally, the game is credited with 1/(margin of victory). So a 1-run game gets an extra point. A five-run game only gets 0.2 points.

It’s arbitary, I know. It gives the same weight to an 18-inning game as a 10-inning game. It weights early rallies as much as late ones. It doesn’t account for runners left on base, which is why Game 7 of the 1991 World Series comes in at only 2.50. It weights an exciting game one as much as an exciting game seven. It doesn’t care if a team has come back from being down 3-0.

In other words, it’s quick and dirty.

I’m not really looking to rank the greatest game in baseball history. What I’m looking for are series — and post-seasons full of series — that go the distance with lots of exciting close games. And I don’t have the computer resources to do a more thorough job. This one can be calculated just by looking at the line score.

After tonight, I would add that it doesn’t take into account no-hitters.

I’ve now expanded the database to go all the way back to 1976. A few highlights:

  • To give you a sense of scale. The average games scores 1.9 points. The average 5-games series scores 7.2. The average 7-game series 10.8. The average modern post-season scores 60 points.
  • The most exciting post-season in history was 2003, which came in at a whopping 74.1 points. You may remember this one as the year both the Red Sox and Cubs were five outs away from a pennant and blew it. Pro-rated, however, the 1991 post-season comes in slightly better (40.2 points pro-rated to 78.5). That was the year the Braves came from nowhere to take the Pirates and then the Twins to seven games.
  • The most boring post-season, as I noted above, was 2007. Five series sweeps and a surprisingly dull 7-game ALCS. It game in at 47.6.
  • The most exciting 7-game series was the 1991 World Series (17.2). As a survivor of that, who watched the greatest Cinderella team ever lose a 7-game heart-breaker, I can vouch for that one. Coming in second is the 2001 World Series (16.1).
  • The dullest 7-game series was 1989′s blowout of San Francisco by Oakland in which the Giants never took a lead. It scored a pathetic 5.4.
  • The most exciting 5-game series was 1980′s Philadelphia-Houston epic ALCS which featured four extra-inning game. At 13.5, it outdid most 7-game series.
  • The most boring 5-gamer was St. Louis blowing out San Diego in the 2005 NLDS. There have been games that have scored better than the 3.9 the whole series did.
  • The most-exciting game, at a whopping 4.1, was game two of the 1997 NLDS. Huh? That game featured 8 ties or lead changes and was won on a walk-off single by Moises Alou. I’m inclined to think this a quirk of the system. Even though game seven of the 2001 world series only score 3.3, I would give that the nod as the greatest game.
  • There are many candidates for boring games. Technically, game seven of the 1996 NLCS scored the lowest (1.06). But the Braves’ 15-0 victory capped a comeback from a 1-3 series deficit. Game five of that series (a 14-0 blowout, 1.07 in the system) is another candidate, as is game one of the World Series that year. But I would probably go with game one of the 2005 ALDS (1.08), Chicago’s 14-2 blowout of Boston.
  • We’ll see how this season shapes up.

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