How Often Do MLB Teams Avoid A Sweep After Losing The First Game Of A Series?

We received an interesting question via email from Brian:

Would you have stats on an how often an MLB home team, in a 3 game series, after losing the first game loses the following 2 games (or how often do they win one of the next 2?). Hopefully you can pull that up on your database for a few of the last seasons. Thanks!

Yep, of course we can!

To answer your specific question, Brian, our database contains 1,402 3-game series since 2007 where the home team lost the first game.  Those home teams went on to get swept 291 times, which works out to 20.8% of the time. They split the remaining two games 49.7% of the time, and came back to win the series with victories in both of the last two games 29.5% of the time.

While looking up this info, I also pulled the same data for some other scenarios. The table below shows what happened in the rest of the series, based on whether the home or away team won the first game of a 2, 3, or 4 game series.

For example, the last row show that since 2007 there have been 355 4-game series where the home team won Game 1. Those home teams won zero more games 9.9% of the time, 1 more game (to split the series) 29.9% of the time, 2 more games 41.1% of the time, and 3 more games (to sweep the series) 19.2% of the time.

Series InfoWins in Rest of Series for Game 1 Winner
Series LengthGame 1 Winner# of Series0123
2Away17953.9%46.1%
2Home18243.1%56.9%
3Away140229.5%49.7%20.8%
3Home164819.9%48.9%31.2%
4Away34014.7%43.8%30.9%10.6%
4Home3559.9%29.9%41.1%19.2%

It looks like the result of the first game of a series doesn’t tell as much about the rest of the series as you might expect. Even when the road team wins the first game, they are still more likely to lose the rest of the games than to sweep the series.

And compare the situation Brian asked about (a home team losing the first game of a 3-game series) to its opposite (a home game winning the first game of a 3-game series). The odds of the home team losing the next two games in the original situation is 20.8%. If the home team wins the first game, their odds of losing the next two only drop to 19.9% — a fairly minor change.

Thanks for the question, Brian! If anybody else has a question you think we might be able to help with, please feel free to leave a comment below or email us at support@teamrankings.com.