The KC sweep and run differentials

The Kansas City Royals have completed a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series. This follows the sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series and the sensational one-game Wild Card playoff against the Oakland Athletics. Both the Angels and the Orioles had far superior regular-season records and significantly better run differentials during the season. The A’s had the league’s best run differential, despite their late collapse from a runaway division title to a ten-game deficit at the hands of division winner LAA. It really is hard to fathom how they are doing it. Royal blue smoke and mirrors? Best explanation I can offer.

In the just-concluded ALCS, the Royals continue to maximize wins out of few runs. In fact, their run differential is the smallest ever in a LCS sweep, by a good margin. In the series, they scored 18 runs, and the Orioles scored 12. They +6 differential beats the previous LCS record by three runs (1988 A’s over Red Sox, +9).

The +6 differential is reminiscent of the White Sox sweep of the 2005 World Series; as I noted at the time, only one prior World Series sweep had ever featured such a low differential (1950, Yankees over Phillies, also +6). Since 2005, there have been two more sweeps, but with typically large differentials (+19 in 2007 and +10 in 2012).

Obviously, the minimum possible differential in a four-game sweep is +4. So if you win with a +6, like the Royals just did, you are being exceptionally efficient in your run distribution.

Across all sweeps of best-of-seven World Series (19 of them), the average differential is +12.5. In the two leagues’ Championship Series, which have had this format since 1985 (when, incidentally, the Royals overcame a 3-1 deficit to win in seven), there have been six sweeps before this one. The average differential in those six was also +12.5. The Royals sweep was thus historic, setting a record for LCS and tying a record for all best-of-seven series. Too bad they scored that superfluous run in the top of the ninth in Game 2. They could have beaten the all-time best-of-seven sweep “efficiency” record.

(All data calculations by me, from Baseball Reference)

2 thoughts on “The KC sweep and run differentials

  1. It is also unusual for the sweeping team to have won the first two games on the road. As I noted in 2005, “Of the 17, the team that swept had the first two games at home 11 times (that’s 64.7% of the time).”

    Since then, the Red Sox began their sweep of the 2007 World Series on the road.

    In the LCS, on the other hand, all sweeps since the best-of-seven format came into being have been by the team that started the series on the road. That’s interesting!

    (2012 ALCS, 2007 NLCS, 2006 ALCS, 1995 NLCS, 1990 ALCS, and now 2014 ALCS.)

  2. i just think we have to be comfortable with luck being part of the sport of baseball. The Angels and Orioles could go on a run of championships after this season. The sweeps should not take much away from the seasons they had this year.. Baseball Reference lists “Luck” as one of its statistics. Its the differential between expected won loss based on run differential and actual won loss. However, looking at the Giants easy victory last night, luck may have run out on the Royals.

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