We're four games into a pretty terrific World Series, but it'll be at least a couple more days until we can really assess its place in postseason history. In the meantime, though, Hardball Talk had a neat idea: developing a formula to determine the best postseason series in history based on a number of factors, like the closeness of the games, the length of the series, and the number of comebacks. The series that finished first might surprise you.
First, know this: Five of the ten series with the highest score involved either the Mets or Yankees. The Yankees lost all three of their series that cracked the top ten: The 2004 ALCS against Boston came in seventh, the 1995 ALDS against Seattle was fifth, and the 2001 World Series against Arizona finished fourth. Meanwhile, the Mets placed two series on the list, winning one and losing one.
Their 1986 NLCS against Houston came in sixth, thanks in part to an epic sixteen-inning Game Six. It's not hard to see why: Every game in that series was decided by two runs or fewer. (As best we can tell, whether or not a team destroyed an airplane during its celebration did not factor into the Hardball Times' formula. Otherwise, that '86 NLCS would have finished even higher.) But there's another Mets series on the list — ranked No. 1, in fact.
That would be the 1999 NLCS, in which the Braves beat the Mets in six games for the right to get swept by the Yankees in that year's World Series. A few facts about the '99 NLCS, pointed out by author Chris Jaffe: Like the 1986 NLCS, all six games in this series were decided by two runs or fewer. Five of them, in this case, were decided by one run. (Worth noting, however: Game 5 should really have ended with a final score of 7-3, except that Robin Ventura wasn't permitted by his teammates to round the bases after hitting what would have been a walk-off grand slam. On the other hand, this meant that the series featured a "grand-slam single," and that's pretty awesome.)
Two games went into extra innings, and both times the home team walked off. And the series featured plenty of late-inning drama. Consider Game 6, in which the Mets took the lead in the top of the eighth, only to have the Braves tie the score in the bottom half. Then the Mets took the lead in the top of the tenth, only to have the Braves tie it again in the bottom half. And then finally the Braves won the game and the series on an Andruw Jones walk-off walk in the bottom of the eleventh.
If you're curious, the 1986 World Series didn't crack the top twenty. Though as Howard Megdal points out at the LoHud Mets blog today, that's actually not a huge surprise, considering the formula. After all, a few of those games — Games 2, 3, and 4 especially — were pretty lopsided.