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Are sweeps good or bad? A closer look at how postseason series' lengths affect winning the next series

I was wondering whether a team would do better in say, the World Series, if they had swept the NLCS and had time to rest, or if that long layoff was a bad thing.

Here are the results of every 5 and 7 game series since 1969, based on how long a given team's series took, how long their opponent's took, and who won:

Series Length Games OppGames # W L %
5 3 3 14 7 7 .500
5 3 4 14 4 10 .286
5 3 5 13 6 7 .462
5 4 3 14 10 4 .714
5 4 4 12 6 6 .500
5 4 5 7 5 2 .714
5 5 3 13 7 6 .538
5 5 4 7 2 5 .286
5 5 5 14 7 7 .500
7 4 4 - - - -
7 4 5 - - - -
7 4 6 2 1 1 .500
7 4 7 4 0 4 .000
7 5 4 - - - -
7 5 5 6 3 3 .500
7 5 6 4 2 2 .500
7 5 7 4 4 0 1.000
7 6 4 2 1 1 .500
7 6 5 4 2 2 .500
7 6 6 10 5 5 .500
7 6 7 3 2 1 .667
7 7 4 4 4 0 1.000
7 7 5 4 0 4 .000
7 7 6 3 1 2 .333
7 7 7 4 2 2 .500

Here's the same data except collapsed, ignoring opponent's number of games:

Series Length Games # W L %
5 3 41 17 24 .415
5 4 33 21 12 .636
5 5 34 16 18 .471
7 4 6 1 5 .167
7 5 14 9 5 .643
7 6 19 10 9 .526
7 7 15 7 8 .467

I didn't realize how rare seven-game sweeps in the LCS were-it's only happened six times, but only one team has ever swept a best-of-seven LCS and then gone on to win the World Series - the 1995 Braves.

Looking at the data, it looks like sweeping a series is really bad - when a team sweeps a series, it only wins the following series 18 of 47 times, or a .383 winning percentage, or roughly the equivalent of being replaced by the 2013 Marlins.

But going the full 5 or 7 games isn't great either - teams that use all the games to win a series have won just 23 of 49, a .469 winning percentage.

So it looks like both points of view are correct - when you sweep, you get too much time off and you are rusty for the next series, but if your series goes the full length, you'll be too tired/worn out and also perform poorly in the following series. It looks like the best thing to do is to win a best of 5 in 4 games, or to win a best of 7 either 4-1 or 4-2 to have the best shot at winning that next series.

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