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Run Differential in the World Series

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If the Royals win the World Series, they will likely have a negative run differential. How often does this happen? If the Giants win, where will their run differential rank amongst World Series over the last 50 years?

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have their backs against the wall. Trailing 3-2 in the World Series they need to take care of business at home to capture the crown. An interesting subplot to this situation is that there is a chance the Royals win the World Series with a negative run differential. After five games they are -12 (15 runs scored; 27 runs allowed). Their track record for low-scoring, close games suggests that even with two more wins they are unlikely to get themselves onto the positive side of things, and could be near the top of the list for their deficit.

If (and at this point that is a big if) this happens, the Royals would be the 14th team since 1961 to win the World Series with a negative run differential:

Year Winner Games RS RA R-Diff
1996 Yankees 6 18 26 -8
1997 Marlins 7 37 44 -7
1991 Twins 7 24 29 -5
1972 Athletics 7 16 21 -5
2003 Marlins 6 17 21 -4
2002 Angels 7 41 44 -3
1973 Athletics 7 21 24 -3
1992 Blue Jays 6 17 20 -3
1977 Yankees 6 26 28 -2
1975 Reds 7 29 30 -1
1962 Yankees 7 20 21 -1
1971 Pirates 7 23 24 -1
1964 Cardinals 7 32 33 -1

The table shows that one quarter of the World Series winners (since 1961) have won with a negative run differential. You can see that the run differential in many of these series was not large. And in the series where the run differential ended up larger, the series typically involved many close games with a blowout loss for the eventual winner mixed in. With two 2-run wins, the Royals will put themselves in a tie at the top of the list. I am sure they won't care, as winning is what really matters.

But this post does not need to only focus on the negative. If we flip things over and look at the largest positive run differentials for World Series winners, we see that the Giants have a chance to move into the upper tier.

Year Winner Games RS RA R-Diff
2001 Dbacks 7 37 14 23
2007 Red Sox 4 29 10 19
1989 Athletics 4 32 14 18
2010 Giants 5 29 12 17
1985 Royals 7 28 13 15
1976 Reds 4 22 8 14
1990 Reds 4 22 8 14
1961 Yankees 5 27 13 14
1970 Orioles 5 33 20 13
2013 Red Sox 6 27 14 13
1978 Yankees 6 36 23 13
1998 Yankees 4 26 13 13

With a Game 6 win, the Giants are guaranteed to have a run differential of at least 13, which will put them into the group shown above. With a big win they can jump up to the top of the list. Catching the Diamondbacks will be tricky, although their +23 is really driven by a 15-2 win in Game 6 of the 2001 Series, so who knows.

In the end, being the team with the best (or worst) run-differential in the World Series does not really matter. Winning the series is what matters; the run differential that accompanies it is just a footnote of the series. It just so happens that this year the run differential result could be quite interesting either way.

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All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Chris Teeter is a featured writer and editor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @c_mcgeets.