While watching the games last night I was informed of two things. The first was the advantage the team winning game 3 gets, after splitting the first two games. I'm not exactly sure, but I believe they said that 78% of such teams went on to win the series. Ok, fine. But is that a tangible advantage or a simple mathematical one? And by that I mean - what would the odds be if wins were just randomly assigned?
There are 10 possible combinations remaining for the games involved. Making two big assumptions, equal probability of winning and no home field advantage, the odds work out that the Cardinals would win this sereis 68.75% of the time if each of the future games was decided by a coin flip. (25% chance they win in 5, 25% chance they win in 6, 18.75% chance they win in 7). That is noticeably smaller than 78% so that would suggest there would be a psychological advantage in winning game 3.
Of course that's way too simple. Home field advantage should be factored in. Unfortunately, that involves going back and looking at each of these series individually. In the interest of time, I'm not going to do that. That other assumption though, I can make a run at that. If a team has won 2 of 3 games, it makes more sense to believe that they are the better team. If that's the case, they would win more than 50% of the games against their opponent. (Note I'm not saying the Cardinals are better than the Brewers. I'm saying if we looked at all these series that the winner of game 3 would be objectively better than the loser more often than not). What does that mean for the chance of winning?
If we simply bump up the percentage chance of winning an individual game to 52%, the odds of winning the series gets bumped up to 71.7%. Is 52% high? I don't think so. That's like saying if these two teams played a 162 game season solely against each other, the better team would win 84 games. To get to a 78% advantage, though, you are looking at a 57% win chance. That's in the better team winning 92 games area. That does seem high. These teams don't win much more than that against a mix of all sorts of teams. To win that many solely playing against a good squad seems unlikely.
There are other things to be considered, too, notably how many such series they are actually looking at and the strength of the starters due to pitch. This isn't anything more than playing with numbers, though. We're sitting at a chance of winning the series in the low 70s right now. Off the top of my head, I'd say I'm still not convinced that that 78% is anything more than a blip of a few percentage points caused by small sample size.
BAD STAT ALERT
The bad stat that I was informed of was made in an attempt to say how unlikely it was that the Cardinal bullpen would hold the lead. They noted that only YOUR Washington Nationals had more blown saves. That didn't seem right to me so I looked it up. It's true. But you'll also see on that link why that's a bad stat. The Nats had more save opportunities than all but one other team. Their save percentage wasn't great but it wasn't near the worst in the league. Same for the Cardinals.
If you want to evaluate the relief core fairly, well there's a lot of directions you can go. ERA (Cardinals 11th, Nats 4th), xFIP (7th and 8th), looking individually at the players involved and their applicable situational stats :
Salas: 2.28 ERA, 3.62 xFIP
Lynn : 2.22 ERA, 2.21 xFIP
Rzepczynski : held lefties to a .163 / .256 /.221 line with 37 Ks in 118 at bats
Motte : 2.25 ERA, 3.39 xFIP.
Looking at this it's not that suprising the Brewers didn't score again. You would have expected baserunners, and maybe 1 run was more likely than zero, but the story here isn't "How is this flawed bullpen doing this?", it's "smart managing of an average bullpen". But never let facts get in the way of a good narrative.