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

posted in MLB

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.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    We receive a question via email that I want to answer here. The question was:

    “How often to home & road teams get swept in 3 or 4 game series?”

    This info is actually contained in the table above, but you have to do some calculations to get at the answer. Here are the results:

    3 game series
    -home teams got swept 9.6% of the time
    -road teams got swept 16.9% of the time

    4 game series
    -home teams got swept 5.2% of the time
    -road teams got swept 9.8% of the time

  • Chhansen

    Wouldn’t a more useful question be “What is the win percentage of a home team avoiding a sweep?”, which I’m sure I should be able to figure out from the numbers your posted but me no so good with the math.

  • Livinryt

    Terrific information, appreciate it so much. Love your site. Serious info.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Chhansen — I’m guessing you are asking what the probability of a team avoiding a sweep is, given that they lose the first game. That would just be 100% minus the odds of getting swept (which is the 0 column above). So the odds of avoiding the sweep for each of the rows above would be (from top to bottom): 46.1%, 56.9%, 70.5%, 80.1%, 85.3%, 90.0%

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Thanks, glad you appreciate the info.

  • Jeff S

    David, great info above, and in your prior comments. Would it be possible to add a table to the MLB stats page on the site that shows this info updated at the completion of each series?

    Perhaps something that breaks down the sweep/swept percentages for each team on the road and at home, and also by series length (2, 3, or 4 games)?

  • Jbhevle

     so your saying you would win about 90 out of 100 if you bet on the home team in game 3 of a 3 game series after they lost the first 2?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Jbhevle — No. I am am saying that home teams get swept in three game series 9.6% of the time. That means they will win *at least 1* of the three games 90% of the time, NOT that they will win the third game 90% of the time.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Jeff — Thanks for the suggestion. That’s an interesting idea, and I’ll add it to our possible projects list. But there are a lot of those, so I can’t promise we’ll actually get this implemented any time soon.

  • Rick Liguori

    For betting purposes it is not enough to know the percentage of times a team gets swept home or away.One must consider the risk and reward involved.My limited research indicates that you need to be correct about 88% of the time to break even. In any given season and for whatever reason,it is who gets swept the least that should be bet.Sometimes it is a big time winning team like the Yankees and sometimes it is the Pittsburgh Pirates that should be bet. I have been able to keep my winning percentage over 90% for these two years.If each team plays about 27 series home and away,you can not afford to lose more than 3 times with the nature of betting lines being what they are.I keep records of run differential home and away for all teams and these numbers along with being swept data ,I determine if I bet and how much. I also wait for some 50 games to be played before I contemplate wagering. In this way I have some data upon which I can intelligently  base a bet.Thank you for the opportunity to voice this post.You have an excellent site.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yep, you make some good points, Rick. You definitely can’t just blindly use this info to make bets. These percentages will all, of course, vary by team. And the lines for the games you are betting also come into play.

  • Jeff S

    I went back through the schedule and put together some quick numbers for series sweeps/swept for each team. I didn’t break them down home/away, but just in general and regardless of the outcome of the first game. Keep in mind these are just quick, manual run-throughs so it’s entirely possible that I missed something somewhere.

    Through all games on 6/7/12, each team has played in 19 series of 2-4 games. There have been 71 sweeps, or 24.96% of series.

    The best teams to bet to win (Teams that get swept the least):

    1. Chicago White Sox – GotSwept%: 0.0% (0) – Sweep%: 26.32% (5)
    2. Cincinnati Reds – GotSwept%: 0.00% (0) – Sweep%: 5.26% (1)
    3. LA Dodgers – GotSwept%: 5.26% (1) – Sweep%: 31.58% (6)
    4. Tampa Bay Rays – GotSwept%: 5.26% (1) – Sweep%: 21.05% (4)
    5. Texas Rangers – GotSwept%: 5.26% (1) – Sweep%: 15.79% (3)
    6. NY Mets – GotSwept%: 5.26% (1) – Sweep%: 15.79% (3)
    7. LA Angels – GotSwept%: 5.26% (1) – Sweep%: 10.53% (2)
    8. Arizona Diamondbacks – GotSwept%: 5.26% (1) – Sweep%: 5.26% (1)
    9. Pittsburgh Pirates – GotSwept%: 5.26% (1) – Sweep%: 5.26% (1)

    The worst teams to bet to win (Teams that get swept the most):

    1. Chicago Cubs – GotSwept%: 31.58% (6) – Sweep%: 5.26% (1)
    2. Minnesota Twins – GotSwept%: 31.58% (6) – Sweep%: 10.53% (2)
    3. Seattle Mariners – GotSwept%: 26.32% (5) – Sweep%: 10.53% (2)
    4. San Diego Padres – GotSwept%: 21.05% (4) – Sweep%: 0.00% (0)
    5. Kansas City Royals – GotSwept%: 21.05% (4) – Sweep%: 5.26% (1)

    If I have time I may go back through the 2011 season and run the same stats to see how they compare.

  • Rick Liguori

     Jeff,
           Thanks for the info on being swept.Actually it does matter sometimes significantly whether it is home or away since betting lines have a built in bias for home teams.If you find a team that rarely gets swept away from home, bet it since you get better odds.
            My system calls for the acquisition of one unit for each series bet. You want to win just once in a series whatever the unit bet is.So,normally stay away from series of 2 games and 4 games. The 2 games series may not be enough games to win your unit and 4 game series calls for too great a risk factor.
            Tonight I will bet the Yankees to beat the Mets.The home team Yankees are more  than a run  better than the Mets on the road.If I lose tonight, I manipulate the bet for game 2 so that if I win,I win the equivalent of one unit.If I lose game 2,then I must make a bet for game 3 that results in a win of that unit.Therefore ,you can not absorb more than 3 losses on a team per season of 27 series.Thus,the minimum of 88% correct rule is required.
            Conversely, if a team gets swept often enough , bet against them as in the case of the Cubs.Patience,knowledge, and a big enough bank roll will lead to a winning system.Just don’t be greedy,be disciplined instead! Good luck Jeff.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Jeff, thanks for the great info! Don’t worry about pulling 2011 data yourself. I’ll dig into our DB this afternoon and figure out how to grab that info.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Jeff — I’ve read about people using this system before, and was always a little skeptical because of the ENORMOUS losses that can occur if you’re not careful. It’s definitely a betting process that has a bunch of small gains and a few large losses, so it can be risky. But it sounds like you properly understand the risk, so that’s good!

    As I said to Jeff, I’ll dig into the DB this afternoon and pull some info. I’ll specifically look at 3-game series broken down by home/away for you.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Jeff — I’m not sure what exact numbers you want, so rather than try to filter this to a few important numbers, here are the Sweep% and GetSwept% for all MLB teams in 2012, broken down by home & away (3 game series only):

    Season
    Team
    Loc
    # Series
    Sweep%
    GetSwept%

    2012
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    home
    8
    62.5%
    0.0%

    2012
    New York Mets
    home
    5
    40.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Miami Marlins
    home
    6
    33.3%
    16.7%

    2012
    Baltimore Orioles
    home
    7
    28.6%
    14.3%

    2012
    Tampa Bay Rays
    home
    8
    25.0%
    12.5%

    2012
    Atlanta Braves
    home
    5
    20.0%
    20.0%

    2012
    Houston Astros
    home
    10
    20.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Minnesota Twins
    home
    6
    16.7%
    50.0%

    2012
    Texas Rangers
    home
    6
    16.7%
    0.0%

    2012
    Los Angeles Angels
    home
    6
    16.7%
    0.0%

    2012
    St. Louis Cardinals
    home
    6
    16.7%
    16.7%

    2012
    Chicago White Sox
    home
    7
    14.3%
    0.0%

    2012
    Detroit Tigers
    home
    7
    14.3%
    14.3%

    2012
    Chicago Cubs
    home
    7
    14.3%
    14.3%

    2012
    Cleveland Indians
    home
    8
    12.5%
    0.0%

    2012
    Toronto Blue Jays
    home
    8
    12.5%
    0.0%

    2012
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    home
    8
    12.5%
    12.5%

    2012
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    home
    9
    11.1%
    0.0%

    2012
    Kansas City Royals
    home
    6
    0.0%
    33.3%

    2012
    Oakland Athletics
    home
    5
    0.0%
    20.0%

    2012
    Seattle Mariners
    home
    6
    0.0%
    16.7%

    2012
    Boston Red Sox
    home
    4
    0.0%
    25.0%

    2012
    New York Yankees
    home
    7
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Philadelphia Phillies
    home
    7
    0.0%
    14.3%

    2012
    Washington Nationals
    home
    4
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Cincinnati Reds
    home
    7
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Milwaukee Brewers
    home
    10
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    San Diego Padres
    home
    8
    0.0%
    12.5%

    2012
    Colorado Rockies
    home
    8
    0.0%
    25.0%

    2012
    Chicago White Sox
    road
    6
    50.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Atlanta Braves
    road
    8
    37.5%
    12.5%

    2012
    Detroit Tigers
    road
    6
    33.3%
    16.7%

    2012
    Seattle Mariners
    road
    6
    33.3%
    0.0%

    2012
    New York Yankees
    road
    6
    33.3%
    16.7%

    2012
    Miami Marlins
    road
    8
    25.0%
    12.5%

    2012
    Cleveland Indians
    road
    6
    16.7%
    16.7%

    2012
    Texas Rangers
    road
    6
    16.7%
    0.0%

    2012
    Boston Red Sox
    road
    7
    14.3%
    14.3%

    2012
    Baltimore Orioles
    road
    8
    12.5%
    12.5%

    2012
    New York Mets
    road
    9
    11.1%
    11.1%

    2012
    Washington Nationals
    road
    9
    11.1%
    22.2%

    2012
    St. Louis Cardinals
    road
    9
    11.1%
    11.1%

    2012
    Kansas City Royals
    road
    7
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Minnesota Twins
    road
    8
    0.0%
    25.0%

    2012
    Oakland Athletics
    road
    7
    0.0%
    14.3%

    2012
    Los Angeles Angels
    road
    8
    0.0%
    12.5%

    2012
    Toronto Blue Jays
    road
    5
    0.0%
    40.0%

    2012
    Tampa Bay Rays
    road
    7
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Philadelphia Phillies
    road
    6
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Chicago Cubs
    road
    6
    0.0%
    50.0%

    2012
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    road
    7
    0.0%
    14.3%

    2012
    Cincinnati Reds
    road
    7
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Houston Astros
    road
    5
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Milwaukee Brewers
    road
    5
    0.0%
    20.0%

    2012
    San Diego Padres
    road
    6
    0.0%
    50.0%

    2012
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    road
    7
    0.0%
    0.0%

    2012
    Colorado Rockies
    road
    8
    0.0%
    12.5%

    2012
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    road
    6
    0.0%
    0.0%

  • Jim Miller

    your info is very helpful could you possibly add when a series starts in your info thank you

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Jim — I’m not sure what you mean. Could you clarify? Thanks.

  • T Kenny Phan

    How often does a team get swept by the same team more than once in the same season (3-4 game series)?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Over the past 5 years, it looks like that has happened about 23 times per year. So less than once per team per year.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    I’m sorry, but I was not able to follow your train of thought here. If you can lay out very specific questions we may be able to help you. (Though probably not this week, as we’re swamped with NCAA tournament work).

    Also, just a guess, but any simple “system” that would supposedly have won you over +60 units a year … well, let’s just say I’m skeptical.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Oh, and sorry about the delay in your comment showing up. It originally got marked as spam by our filtering system.

  • Sully

    Thanks so much for getting back to me so quick.

    I actually realized there is an error in my math/thought process when I used the 9.6% get swept rate for the home team. If I’m reading it right, that rate is for all 3-game series. What I need to use in my system is the 20.8% get swept at home rate b/c I don’t bet until after the home team loses game#1. I will recalculate and then try to post more concise questions if the system still seems viable.

  • Sully

    Ok so I re-ran the numbers and the system is giving me a return of +55 units if the season adheres to the law of averages.

    So I want to explore it some more with more accurate data. Would you be able to dig the following out of your DB please (if possible)??

    1) Would you be able to update the above chart to include the 2012 season?

    1) Can you provide the same data as in the table above, but year by year (all year 2007-2012)?

    2) Cumulative and season data for: if the home team loses game#1 of a 3-game series, how often do they win game #2 (In this scenario, whether they win Game #3 or not is irrelevant)?

    3)Cumulative and season data for: if the home team loses game #1 AND #2 in a 3-game series, how often do they win game #3?

    4) Do you guys track money line data? If yes…
    4.1) Cumulative and season data: What is the average money line on the home team in Game #2 of a 3-game series after they have lost Game #1?
    4.2) Cumulative and season data: What is the average money line on the home team in Game #3 of a 3-game series after losing Games #1 AND #2?

    Ok, hopefully that makes more sense than my original mad scientist ramblings and you can see better where I am going with my line of thought. I know it’s a lot of data I asked you to dig up and I really appreciate anything and everything you can provide.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    OK, thanks for the questions. If we revisit this topic and do an update post for the 2013 season, we’ll keep these in mind. However, these aren’t easy to answer given our DB structure, so I can’t promise anything.

  • Sully

    I totally understand and appreciate whatever you can do.

    As an another update to my number crunching…

    From the above chart, the Away team winning Game #1 of a 3 game series then loses the next 2 games 29.5% of the time. This is the same as saying that the home team, after losing Game #1 of a 3-game series, will win Game #2 a MINIMUM of 29.5% of the time.

    So I adjusted my numbers for how many units would have to be bet on games #2 and #3 using a 29.5% win rate in Game #2.

    Again, IF the law of averages holds in 2013, we now get +146 units on the season.

    I know, seems to good to be true, and I keep double and triple checking my math, but everything adds up. I’m totally obsessed with fully exploring this now as I am sure you can tell. :)

  • Dan

    These questions are similar to the question Brian asked but a little bit different. Can you pull up the stats for how often a Home team will win at least 1 game out of a 3 or 4 game series? And, how often does a Home team get swept in a 3 or 4 game series? Also, which teams are most prone to getting swept at Home over the last few years? Thanks!!

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Dan,

    Thanks for the questions. As I told Sully above, this stuff is pretty time-consuming to pull from our DB, so we’re not going to be able to answer individual questions on request. However, if we do an update post this year to revisit this topic, we’ll consider adding your question. Thanks!

  • andy e

    what are the stats for when a team wins the first two games of a three game series, how often will they sweep. It seems as if it is a diffucult thing to do once you win twice in a row. what percentage of double headers are swept?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    We actually took a look at this question in a past mailbag column. See the question from John C here: http://www.teamrankings.com/blog/mlb/mlb-winning-streak-frequency-sweep-difficulty-more-mailbag

    That table shows how often a team completed a sweep, if they had the opportunity to do so in the last game of a series. In our sample (about 5 and a half years), the team that won the first 2 games of a 3-game series ended up winning the third game 50.9% of the time. You can check out the table for info on more specific scenarios.

  • Chance

    What is the easiest way to find out what teams have been swept and are about to play the same team again?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    I don’t know of a super easy place to find that info. Our matchup sections do have head-to-head results, so you could use those:

    1. Go to http://www.teamrankings.com/mlb/schedules/

    2. Click on a game link, which should take you to a page like http://www.teamrankings.com/mlb/matchup/cardinals-brewers-2014-04-16

    3. In the gray box on the upper left, click the + symbol next to “Record & Results” to expand that item, then click “Head to Head”, which should take you to a page like http://www.teamrankings.com/mlb/matchup/cardinals-brewers-2014-04-16/head-to-head

    4. Examine the results to find sweeps.

    Like I said, it’s not super convenient, but I don’t know of a quick way to find the info you’re looking for.

  • Batwax

    What is the record for a team getting swept during a season? The Red Sox have been swept in 5 three game series this year so far. Do they have a shot at this dubious record?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Unfortunately, we don’t have sweep data going back very far, and I wasn’t able to find the answer online. So … I don’t know what the record is.

    I did find this site, though, which you might be interested in: http://mlbsweeps.com/

  • annon

    any one knows if a team that didn’t GET swept( which means losing 3 or 4 game serie) against another team in a season?

  • annon

    any one knows if a team that didn’t GET swept( which means losing 3 or 4 game serie) against another team in a season? which teams and in what season(s)? st louis cardinals currently hasn’t lost a 3 or 4 games serie against 1 team this season and i know every team sweeps or get swept at least ones in a season. or am i wrong? ’13 and ’12 every team has done that.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Interesting question, but I do not know the answer to that.