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Playoff Pinch Hits: Predicting The World Series Matchup

By Sam McPherson

Monday's rainout of Game Three in the American League Championship Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals provides a unique chance to look forward, evenly, at both League Championship Series and explore the four possible World Series matchups ahead.

Who Wins provides a fun tool to look ahead at the projected outcomes of each seven-game series based on past precedent. We can even include seven-game series results from the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, too, in addition to the Major League Baseball past.

Will we get Baltimore-St. Louis in the World Series? Or will it be Kansas City-San Francisco? Maybe you're hoping for Baltimore-San Francisco or Kansas City-St. Louis? Each team has been rated on its probability to reach the Fall Classic below, based on historical precedent.

Kansas City: Strong

In MLB history for the LCS, no team has ever won the first two games on the road and lost the series. This has happened 11 times previously, and every time, the team up 2-0 and heading home for the next three games has prevailed.

On this note, the Royals look like a good bet to reach the Series.

When you add in NBA and NHL histories, 36 of 37 teams in the Royals' semifinals position have advanced.

For all seven-game series, regardless of round, the MLB success rate is 87.5%, and for all three sports, the probability is 81.1% that Kansas City will advance.

St. Louis: Solid

Strangely, MLB teams in the Cardinals' position — losing Game One at home before winning Game Two at home — have fared pretty well in LCS history. In the 16 previous circumstances where the higher-seeded team lost Game One and won Game Two at home, the higher-seeded team went on to win 11 times for a .688 series win percentage.

When you add in NBA and NHL semifinal series, the number drops a bit: a .582 series win percentage, based on a 39-28 record in such situations.

For all seven-game series, regardless of round, the MLB success rate in St. Louis' situation is 64.1%, and for all three sports, the probability is 57.3% that the Cardinals will advance.

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San Francisco: Not So Strong

Again, the numbers for San Francisco obviously are the opposite of those for St. Louis. It's very hard to sweep the middle three games at home in an MLB series, although it has been done.

The Cardinals themselves did it to the Detroit Tigers in the 2006 World Series, matching the win pattern for this NLCS. After taking Game One in Detroit, St. Louis lost Game Two on the road. The Cards then came home and swept the Tigers in three straight at Busch Stadium.

That's the scenario the Giants are hoping for, because they probably do not want to go back to St. Louis for Games Six and possibly Seven.

Baltimore: Weak

Obviously, the numbers for the Orioles are opposite those of the Royals. Baltimore has a tough task ahead of it, but most baseball fans probably remember the 1996 World Series when the Atlanta Braves won the first two games in dominating fashion over the New York Yankees in The House That Ruth Built.

And even after losing Game Three at home, the Braves looked good in Game Four — they had a six-run lead in the sixth inning. The Yankees chipped away a bit, but even in the eighth inning, Atlanta had a three-run lead. But they ended up losing in 10 innings, and the Yankees dynasty was born.

The Orioles know it is possible, but it's an admitted long shot.

Prediction Based on Historical Probability: Another I-70 Series

Back in 1985, the Royals and the Cardinals played a seven-game Fall Classic that is well known for a blown call in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game Six. St. Louis was three outs away from winning the Series, but first base umpire Don Denkinger incorrectly called Jorge Orta safe at first base. Kansas City rallied for a 2-1 victory and then rolled the Cardinals in Game Seven to win their only World Series title.

Perhaps the Royals are on destiny's path this year, just so St. Louis can get revenge on them for that miracle from 29 years ago.

Only time will tell, and the Baltimore Orioles or the San Francisco Giants may have a lot to say about that concept of "destiny" — those two teams may want to make this a true orange-and-black Halloween World Series.

Get the odds on all the MLB Playoff matchups.

Check out other Playoff Pinch Hits.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on

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