MLB Teams That Sizzle in September Often Fizzle in October

MLB Teams That Sizzle in September Often Fizzle in OctoberThink your baseball team having a hot September will ensure their playoff success in October? Think again.

Ever since three Wild Card teams in a row – the 2002 Angels, the 2003 Marlins, and the 2004 Red Sox – won the World Series after sizzling Septembers, people have thought that ending the season on a hot streak is the key to postseason success. Only thing is, it’s not often the case.

True, going on a run down the stretch – like the 2007 Rockies did, when they went 21-8 over the last month of the regular season – will frequently catapult a team into the playoffs. But it doesn’t necessarily increase the likelihood of postseason success.

I took a look at the September/October regular season records for all 72 MLB playoff teams from 2000-2008 (records courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com). Here’s what I found:

* Of the ten teams to have a winning percentage above .700 in the last month of the regular season, firing on all cylinders, only one of them – the 2007 Rockies – even made it to the World Series, where they were swept by the Red Sox. And just four of the hottest teams down the stretch even advanced past the first round of the playoffs in those years:

Year Team Win Loss Pct. Result
2001 Athletics 23 4 .852 ALDS Loss
2002 Cardinals 21 6 .778 NLCS Loss
2004 Astros 23 7 .767 NLCS Loss
2000 Athletics 22 7 .759 ALDS Loss
2003 Twins 19 7 .731 ALDS Loss
2007 Rockies 21 8 .724 WS Loss
2001 Cardinals 20 8 .714 NLDS Loss
2002 Yankees 19 8 .704 ALDS Loss
2007 Yankees 19 8 .704 ALDS Loss
2003 Cubs 19 8 .704 NLCS Loss

* Six playoff teams had sub-.500 records down the stretch, stumbling into October. Yet four of them made it to the World Series, and two won it:

Year Team Win Loss Pct. Result
2008 Brewers 10 16 .385 NLDS Loss
2006 Cardinals 12 17 .414 WS Win
2000 Yankees 13 18 .419 WS Win
2006 Tigers 12 16 .429 WS Loss
2008 White Sox 12 15 .444 NLDS Loss
2008 Rays 13 14 .481 WS Loss

* The average September/October regular season record of the nine World Series-winning teams in 2000-2008 is .586, making it actually lower than the .596 record in the same time frame for the World Series losers.

* The teams who lost the League Championship Series went .652 down the stretch, with better records during the last month of the season than the .591 average of the opponents who defeated them in those series.

* Surprisingly, those teams who lost in the first round of the playoffs averaged a .600 winning percentage in the last month of the seasons, a number actually higher than the Sept./Oct. winning percentage of either the World Series winners or the losers.

* So why do so many think that being hot guarantees playoff success? It’s because that of the ten teams that had a Sept./Oct. winning percentage of .600 and up and went on to the World Series, six of them won the Wild Card in that last month, thus contributing to the perception that the hottest team, not the best team, makes it to the playoffs:

Year Team Win Loss Pct. Title Result
2007 Rockies 21 8 . 724 NL Wild Card WS Loss
2002 Giants 18 8 . 692 NL Wild Card WS Loss
2003 Marlins 18 8 . 692 NL Wild Card WS Win
2008 Phillies 17 8 . 680 NL East WS Win
2004 Red Sox 19 11 .677 AL Wild Card WS Win
2003 Yankees 18 9 .667 AL East WS Loss
2002 Angels 18 9 .667 AL Wild Card WS Win
2001 Yankees 16 9 .640 AL East WS Loss
2005 Astros 19 11 .633 NL Wild Card WS Loss
2005 White Sox 19 12 .613 AL Central WS Win

But for every 2002 World Series – with both the Angels and Giants sporting such strong September records – there are matchups like the 2000 World Series, where the Yankees, who went just .419 in the last month of the year, beat the Mets, who had a .517 record in September and October regular season games.

So if your team is staggering into the playoffs, don’t worry about it. And if your team is on a hot streak, don’t get too excited over it, either.  All that a great run down the stretch will do is increase their chances of getting to October, not winning then.

Photo by Schmiddy

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Lisa Swan, a lifelong Yankee fan, grew up in Passaic, N.J., where her favorite player was the talented but insecure Reggie Jackson. Today she lives on Staten Island, where her favorite player is the t ...read more

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