Is scoring lower in the postseason?

October 14, 2008

Yes, but not as much as the TV and radio guys might lead you to believe.

I was just recently at our offices in Pennsylvania working with the staff there to prepare The Bill James Handbook 2009. Steve Moyer, the president of Baseball Info Solutions, and I were discussing the playoffs. We both agreed that the TV and radio guys seem to continually preach how scoring in the playoffs is so much lower than the regular season. We both felt that while scoring may be down, there certainly have been a lot of high-scoring games (including last night's 13-4 game in Boston) and it can't be down that much. Here's Steve's take on it:

"Baseball talk radio to me is like gawking at a car wreck—I hate it, but I listen anyway. In the words of the ex-jock radio guy, 'it's true because I say it is.' Now that it's postseason time, a 'fact' I'm constantly bombarded with is that playoff games are low-scoring and close. This usually transitions directly into why teams need to be adept at smallball to be successful in the postseason, which is a digression for another time. Perhaps it's nothing more than a fluke, but you may have noticed all the smallballs sailing over the wall this postseason."

Let's see if we can substitute some facts for impressions and take a look at scoring in the last five years of the playoffs (plus this year so far).

Regular season vs. Postseason Scoring
2003 through 10/14/2008
Runs Per Game Margins of Victory
Regular Season 9.5 3.5 runs
Postseason 8.8 3.3 runs

The drop in scoring is less than one run per game. The average score of a game in the regular season is 6.5 to 3.0, while in the postseason it's 6.0 to 2.8. Certainly a difference, but not a huge one.

It's in the World Series where the contests become lower scoring and closer:

Runs Per Game Margins of Victory
World Series 7.8 3.0 runs

The average score in World Series games in the last five years is 5.4 to 2.4.

(Source Baseball Info Solutions, 2008 regular and postseason through the games of Tuesday, October14, 2008)

Quick note: I'm looking for a research assistant to work with me. If you know anyone who might be interested, please reply to this email. Here is more info:

The position in the Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) Coplay, PA office will involve sports analysis, computer programming and writing. The position will involve working with John Dewan, supporting his analytical projects, and will involve extensive independent work. It requires a variety of skills including an analytical mind, computer expertise, and writing ability, as well as a passion for baseball.

  1. Analytic / Mathematical ability similar to those used in the actuarial field.
  2. Computer literacy level, which allows independence in retrieving and analyzing data. Examples of skills required include SQL, Access, Excel, and Web development.
  3. Writing ability to be able to communicate the results of the analysis in an interesting and insightful way, both internally within BIS as well as to sports professionals and fans.


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