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October 10, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

One Up

by Joe Sheehan

Yesterday, the Braves, Indians, and Diamondbacks took an important first step towards advancing by winning the opening game of their respective series. How big a step? In the 24 Division Series played to date, the winner of the first game has gone on to win 16 times. That's two-thirds of the time, 66.7%.

The biggest story, of course, is the Indians, who upset the 116-46 Mariners in Seattle behind Bartolo Colon's eight shutout innings. The Braves also won on the road, thanks to a Chipper Jones three-run home run. I thought the Indians had a shot to steal their series, and winning yesterday puts history on their side: teams that open the Division Series with a road win are 7-3.

Looking back a bit further, teams that opened with a win in the five-game League Championship Series (1969-1984) were 22-10. Teams that opened with a road win were 11-4.

Let's put those together to see, independent of team quality, how the Mariners/Indians (and Braves/Astros) series changed yesterday. The following table covers all MLB five-game postseason series (save the 1981 first round).


                 Road Team            Home Team
               Wins Game One        Wins Game One

1969-1984 11-4, .733 11-6, .647 1995-2000 7-3, .700 11-5, .688

Total 18-7, .720 22-11, .667

Had the Mariners won yesterday, history would give them a two-thirds chance of winning the five-game series. Now, having lost, they're staring at bucking a serious trend: more than seven times out of ten, a home team that loses the first game goes back home to stay within a week.

This isn't a perfect tool--I mean, teams that win at least 114 games are 1-0 in Division Series play--but it does indicate just how important that win was for the Indians.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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