Cleveland enters the postseason on fire. Since September the Indians have won 26 of their last 30 games (and 31 of 35). The Dodgers have the best record in baseball but over the final month of the season L.A. has gone 13-17.
If you believe in clichés, it’s not the best team that wins the World Series but the team that gets hot at the right time. Does a team’s performance in the final month of the season correlate to postseason success?
Using a team’s record in September (plus any regular season game played in October), we checked the hottest and coldest teams entering the playoffs since 2012 (when the wild card expanded to two teams). That gives us a sample of 50 teams and 176 playoff games.
The 25 hottest teams entering the postseason had a combined record of 465-251 (.649) over the final month of the season. That is a better winning percentage than the 2016 Chicago Cubs who won 103 games and ended their World Series drought. On the other end of the spectrum, the 25 coldest (375-345 record, .521) looked more like the Milwaukee Brewers who despite winning 13.5 more games than their preseason win total missed out on the playoffs.
How did the hot and cold teams perform in the postseason?
The hot teams went 88-92 (.489), a steep decline from the level of play at the end of the season. The cold teams fared better going 88-84 (.512). If you look at the extremes, the ten teams with best and worst records entering the postseason the pattern holds. Ten best teams, 194-86 (.693), went 32-37 in the playoffs, the coldest teams, 135-155 (.464), went 30-31.
Cleveland is playing its best baseball heading into October and Dodgers appear to have peaked back in August but the way a team finishes the regular season doesn’t say much about their playoff chances.
2017 MLB Playoffs
Betting Against the Public: 107-75 (58.8%), +51.42 units since 2005
Hot and Cold Playoff Teams
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