Friday, October 16, 2015

2015 LCS Notes/Oddities

By Rick Morris

^ As the ESPN stats department correctly notes, this is the first time that the LCS is comprised of four teams without a world championship in the last 20 years between them, so some fanbase without a title for some time is going to be sated.  To build on that note, Toronto is the most recent world champion (1993) of the bunch (with only one other team, the 1998-2000 New York Yankees, winning consecutive titles since, although the 1992-93 championships led to a weird decline that led to them being the team out of the postseason for the longest period of time until now), with the New York Mets (1986), Kansas City (1985) and the Chicago Cubs (19FREAKING08) as the others who have been suffering.  Do not hold your breath waiting for Cubs fans to salute another fanbase for their patience amidst long periods of misery.

^ The Mets are defying tremendous historical odds in their World Series quest.  Since the American League expansion of 1961, there has ALWAYS been at least one team in the World Series that was around before that time.  The AL is guaranteed to send a post-1961 franchise to the World Series, as the Royals were created in 1969 and the Blue Jays in 1977.  With the Mets having been formed in 1962 and the Cubs as the only “old line” franchise left, they are seeking to defy 54 years of history in terms of the makeup of the World Series.

^ The cities of Toronto and Kansas City are not bound in any major way in the sporting world outside of their epic ALCS exactly 30 years ago (making this one of only nine ALCS combinations with the same teams), when the Royals became the first team in American League Championship Series history to survive a 3-1 deficit (in fairness, they were the first because it was the first year for the best-of-7 format).  New York and Chicago of course have a deeper history across many sports, but perhaps not as deep as you’d think.  The cities have only clashed three times in baseball playoffs, all of them in the World Series: in 1917, when the White Sox beat the Giants, in 1932 , when the Yankees beat the Cubs (with the Babe Ruth “point to the fence” moment) and in 1938, when the Yankees beat the Cubs again.  The Bulls and Knicks knocked heads a lot in the 1990s, but only once in the East finals, won of course by Chicago in 1993.  With the sparse number of teams before the NHL’s “Original Six” era ended in 1967, you’d think that the Rangers and Blackhawks might have squared off at least a few times for the Stanley Cup, but it never happened!!!  Perhaps the biggest impact historically between the cities has come with the NFL, which saw the Bears and Giants square off for the first league championship game in 1933, with the Bears coming away the winners.  They would meet five more times for the championship (and, once in the same conference, in many important games – although none of them NFC Championship Games – in the 1980s when they, San Francisco and Washington ruled the NFL), with Chicago (1941, 1946 and 1963) and New York (1934 and 1956) each winning some.

^ Having faced Baltimore last year in the ALCS and previously not reaching this far since before the three-division split of 1994, Kansas City continues their run of only ever facing teams from the Eastern Division in this round.

^ With the Giants and Dodgers, among other teams, accounting for several recent LCS appearances, this is the first time since 2011 that none of the teams represented come from the West Coast – and before that, you’d have to go back to 2007 (that’s sticking by the letter of the law and not counting Arizona, still a very far western team if not on the coast).  So it’s not just fresh faces in this round in terms of the past several years, it’s teams that won’t feature travel extremes in either this round or the World Series.

^ The AL West marks its fourth consecutive season of not being represented in the ALCS, the first time that’s happened since 1996-1999.  As such, this is the fourth consecutive East vs. Central showdown, with the Central having taken two of the last three.  Neither the AL East nor the AL Central (dating back to its creation in 1994) has ever had even one streak of being excluded as long as four years.

^ Likewise, the NL East just ended a streak of being shut out of four consecutive editions of the NLCS (with the West and Central having split the last four NLCS matchups).  Previously, the Central had been shut out of the NLCS exactly that long, from 2007-10 and the same was true of the West from 2003-06.  So between the two leagues, no division has EVER been shut out of the LCS five years in a row, so somebody from the AL West is guaranteed to be there in 2016!

^ Related to the above stat, the NL Central has now been represented for five consecutive years in the LCS, thanks to the Cubs this year and the Cardinals the previous four.  The longest streak in the three-division era belongs to the NL East (thanks largely to that Braves run, but also the Mets and Marlins) from 1995-2001.  The second-longest streak is owned by the AL East from 1996-2001, with New York, Boston and Baltimore all making it over those six years.  The Central just tied the third-best streak, also notched by the NL Central, from 2002-06, when the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros all made it this far.

^ Since the three-division split happened in 1994 and allowed for the possibility of teams from the same division to meet in the LCS, it has not happened decreasing frequency.  In the AL, it happened five times from 1995-2008, with the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry accounting for three of them.  It has not happened once since then.  In the NL, the last time two teams from the same division met in the LCS, it was 2011 with St. Louis and Milwaukee.  Similarly in the Senior Circuit, the frequency is declining: five times from 1995-2007 and just that 2011 happening since then.


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