Does MLB’s 2-3-2 World Series format fare for the favorite?

The 2017 World Series is tied up at 1-1 and now the scene shifts for 3 games down in Houston which means the lower seeded teams has 3 straight home games.  Houston has yet to lose at home in the postseason and now can clinch the World Series IF they just win their 3 straight home games.

That present an interesting question: Is it fair that the “favorite” (i.e. the club with home-field advantage) should have to face a situation, particularly if there’s a chance that the best-of-seven series could be over and done before the higher-seeded team gets back home?

MLB is the only sport that does the 2-3-2 format nowadays. The NBA and NHL use the common format of 2-2-1-1-1.  Given that structure, logic says that if the underdog team can simply split the first two games on the road, that presents the opportunity to finish things off before the favorite is even allowed to return home.

Note that for our purposes, “higher seed” means the team that had the home-field advantage (Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home), whereas “lower seed” means the team played Games 3, 4 and 5 on its home field.

I went back and looked at the World Series matchups since 2000 and researched if the “favorite” was at a disadvantage if they lost Game 1 or 2 at home before going to the lower seed’s home field for 3 straight games.  The results are interesting.

The “favorite” has only lost the World Series title after splitting Games 1 & 2  twice since 2000.  The 2006 Cardinals (4-1) who split with the Tigers in Detroit before winning 3 straight in St. Louis and the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies (4-1) who split games 1 and 2 in Tampa before winning three straight in Philadelphia.

I personally was shocked at the limited number of times it’s happened in the World Series. Twice out of the past 16 World Series matchups.

Based on a sample I researched over the last 16 years, the 2-3-2 format doesn’t do the higher seed any favors. We will see what happens with the Astros and Dodgers as the series moves to Houston.  Does LA become the third “favorite” to get screwed by the format or do they do what champions do and win on the road.  Only time will tell.

Overall, the 2-3-2 doesn’t hurt or benefit the “favorite”.

 

 

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