2016 World Series: History says Comeback Cubs’ biggest hurdle isn’t Game 7 – CBSSports.com

We’ve known since the outcome of Game 4 in Chicago that the Cubs would be tasked with coming back from down 3-1 against the Indians. We also know that the Cubs won Games 5 and 6, so two-thirds of that comeback journey is complete.

So what does history say about such unlikely comeback journeys in a best-of-seven postseason series? Via the very excellent WhoWins.com we learn that just 12 of 81 teams down 3-1 in a best-of-seven playoff series have come back to win said series. More to the point, just six of 44 teams down 3-1 have come back to win the series while playing Games 6 and 7 on the road. That, of course, is what the Cubs are trying to do. As noted, they’re most of the way there.

Based on that (fairly small) sample of teams faced with similar straits — i.e., being down 3-1 in a best-of-seven playoff matchup – here are the kind of historical odds the Cubs have faced along the way …

  • As mentioned, just 13.6 of teams (six out of 44) down 3-1 and playing Game 6 and 7 on the road came back from down 3-1.
  • Teams down 3-1 and playing Game 5 at home, as the Cubs did, have won Game 5 50 percent of the time. Stated another way, 22 of those 44 teams extended the series to at least six games.
  • Of teams down 3-2 in a best-of-seven and playing Games 6 and 7 on the road (again, this describes the 2016 Cubs), 21.3 percent went on to win the series.
  • The team down 3-2 and playing Game 6 on the road wins Game 6 just 44.7 percent of the time. The Cubs on Tuesday night beat those odds.
  • Of the teams down 3-2 and playing Game 6 on the road, 21 out of 47 forced a Game 7 (the 44.7 percent of teams mentioned in the bullet point just above this one). Of those 21 teams to come back and tie the series at 3-3, 10 win Game 7. In other words, teams like the Cubs who evened up the series after being down 3-2 are 10-11 in Game 7. That’s in essence coin-flip.

There’s a larger and fairly obvious point here, and the point is that it no longer makes sense to think of the Cubs as a team coming back down 3-1. This is because they’re not down 3-1; they’re tied 3-3. That’s a reset, as reflected by near-.500 record in Game 7. Consider this to be loosely related to the Gambler’s Fallacy. Yes, we’re dealing with human beings and not spins of the roulette wheel or market commodities, but in general terms the fact that the Cubs won the last two games doesn’t make it more likely that they’ll lose (or win) the next game.

The Cubs team that was down 3-1 isn’t here anymore, just as the Indians team that was up 3-1 is no longer with us. These are two damn good teams playing one game to decide the championship. Call that 50-50ish, but also call it the best odds the Cubs have enjoyed since the series was 1-1.


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