You’ll hear the question posed in the headline a lot in early going of tonight’s Game 1. If the Astros jump out to a lead and/or go on to win the game, it’ll likely transform from a question to an assertion. The “[Team] had too many days off between games” thing is often cited by commentators and fans as a reason for the team with a lot of time off after the LCS woofin’ it in the World Series.
Does more rest hurt a World Series team compared to a team that played more recently? Yes, at least in recent years.
The team with less time off before Game 1 of the World Series has won nine of the past ten World Series, with last year’s Red Sox team — which had four days off to the Dodgers’ three before Game 1 — being the exception. In the three years before that — 2006 through 2008 — the team with less time off won two of three. Ah ha! it’s settled then.
Or not. Because before that — from the advent of the Wild Card round, which was first played in 1995, through 2005 — the team with more rest won the World Series ten of eleven times.
Perhaps that doesn’t make a total wash — the current pattern is certainly interesting — but it does make it hard to be 100% confident that the rest factor is more than just somewhat oddly-ordered randomness.
But let’s look a bit more specifically. Let’s look at teams that not only had more rest, but which had an unusual amount of rest for a baseball team.
The Nationals have had six full days off before today. That doesn’t happen that often, at least not recently, especially since MLB stopped letting Fox arbitrarily set the start date of the World Series which often created longer wait times. Let’s look at how having six full days off or more before the Fall Classic begins helps or hurts a team.
Here’s everyone who has fit that description since 1995:
- 1995 Braves: 6 days off: WON
- 1996 Yankees: 6 days off: WON
- 2006 Tigers: 6 days off: LOST
- 2007 Rockies: 8 days off — EIGHT DAYS OFF?!! — LOST
- 2008 Phillies: 6 days off — WON
- 2009 Phillies: 6 days off — LOST
So, it’s three wins and three losses for the teams with six or more full days off. One of those wins and one of those losses came from basically the same team, the 08-09 Phillies. One of those losses came from a 2007 Rockies team that, most people would agree, was seriously out-classed by the Red Sox.
Which means that . . . it kinda doesn’t matter? Indeed, to the extent I think people think it does matter was because after it happened to the Tigers in 2006 manager Jim Leyland made a big point to say that the extra rest was a problem while most managers haven’t really cited it, at least with any amount of passion or definitiveness. If I remember correctly Leyland cited it again in 2012, and that year the Tigers only had five full days off. When someone like Leyland says something, narratives tend to be formed.
Anyway, just know that if/when someone mentions the Nats’ being rusty, the time, in and of itself, is probably not the whole story.