The ALCS is set, with Kansas City starting off at Baltimore for the chance for either team to return to the World Series for the first time since the 1980s. In this era of 24-hour sports stations, newspapers, and web outlets, no shortage of air time and ink (real or virtual) will be dispensed on this series. In this case, with each team getting four days of rest, it should be a moot point. The question remains, however -- do teams benefit from having more days of rest than their opponent?
It started with this very tongue-in-cheek tweet:
Yes, this is indeed deep analysis (***very*** important note -- Brandon is one of my favorite people on Twitter), and one of the distinctive features of Beyond the Box Score, chosen by Sporting News as one of the 200 must-follows on Twitter during the postseason, is our insistence on diving into the data to see what it shows. This table shows three different dynamics -- did the team with the better record win the LCS, did the home team win and did the better-rested team win:
Third digits indicate teams were tied. Click here to see a Google Docs spreadsheet with all the information.
Better-rested teams didn't appear to have much more success overall. There is a clear difference between the leagues, for which there could be any number of reasons. It's pretty clear -- being the better team trumps being the home team, which trumps being the better-rested team.
As recently as 2012 the Tigers swept the Yankees in the ALCS, while the Giants required all seven games to defeat the Cardinals. Going into the World Series the Tigers had five days of rest compared to only one for the Giants, allowing the Tigers to rest their players, set their rotation, and scout the Giants to their heart's content.
The Tigers were swept.
As long as there are platforms that allow people like me to bloviate endlessly on every facet of the game, and as data collection improves and dissemination of that data becomes broader, every single factor will be explored to death in searching for that one nugget that might explain why Team A will defeat Team B. This leaves aside one important fact -- there never is one thing that causes a team a win as opposed to a whole range of things, some of which will receive more attention than they deserve.
For the ALCS the lines are already being drawn -- the Orioles have the most home runs in the AL and the Royals the least, whereas the Royals have the most stolen bases and the Orioles the least, a classic power vs. speed matchup that will be beat to death. Left unsaid is the most important factor, runs scored, with the Orioles scoring 4.3 a game and the Royals 4.0 -- a difference, to be sure, but not a huge one. Both teams can score runs and just take different paths in how they're scored. By the same token, both teams are right next to each other in runs allowed, showing they know how to pitch, and both have outstanding bullpens.
When teams play different styles it makes for intriguing matchups, and this one should be good. What will be the determining factor in victory? Who knows, I certainly don't, and in this case, I can categorically state it won't be days of rest, since it will be the same for both. It probably won't stop people from mentioning it though.
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All data from Baseball-Reference
Scott Lindholm lives in Davenport, IA. Follow him on Twitter @ScottLindholm.