The best-of-seven format in baseball is nothing new. With a few exceptions it has been used in the World Series since the second one in 1905 and has been the League Championship Series format since 1985. Of all those series, 49 of them have gone the distance and the San Francisco Giants are hoping to make in an even fifty in the NLCS this year. And there is nothing to say that they can’t, though even if there were they have already made history once this postseason. They were the first team ever to come back from a 0-2 deficit after losing the first two games at home in a 2-3 format series.
That’s not to say they are in a good position of course. They are going home for the last two games, but they are only 1-3 in AT&T Park this postseason and they have to win twice on the trot. No doubt the players and management will all talk about taking it ‘one game at a time’ and a Game Six win will give them a nice bit of momentum. But does it affect their chances in any meaningful way?
At least in recent years the answer to that question has been a resounding yes. As there have been 49 deciding games in best-of-seven series (note I will refer to this from here on out as ‘Game Seven’ and the game before it ‘Game Six’, though one of the early World Series was actually was decided in Game Eight because there had been a tie early on) there have, of course, been 49 instances of teams forcing that game with a win in Game Six. In 28 of the 49 cases (57%) the team which won Game Six went on to win Game Seven. That’s a majority, but not a convincing one.
What is interesting though is that it gets much more one-sided recently. Since the start of the best-of-seven LCS era the team that wins Game Six is a much improved 16-6 in the ensuing Game Seven. Before that they were actually under .500 at 12-15. Even better news for the Giants is that since 1985 when the home team has won Game Six, as they will have to do on Sunday, they are 12-1 in the ensuing finale. (The 2006 New York Mets are the only ones to have lost.) Overall they are only 18-12, however.
It is not, of course, a guarantee that if the Giants win on Sunday they will go on to face the Detroit Tigers; we have seen history lead us wrong once already this postseason and the St Louis Cardinals seem to have an almost limitless ability to come back. But the Cardinals would be well advised to note recent history and treat Game Six like it is the decider itself.