The regular season is about to begin. Every one of the 30 major league teams wants to “win the last game of the season.” (Winning a series, like the World Series, ends that series. So winning the final game means winning the World Series).
In order to win the World Series a team has to essentially win 111 games:
- 100 games in the regular season to essentially guarantee winning the team’s division.
- 3 games in the NLDS or ALDS (league divisional series, best of 5)
- 4 games in the NLCS/ALCS (league championship series, best of 7)
- 4 games in the World Series (best of 7)
Certainly a team can win fewer than 100 games in the regular season and still make the playoffs. Usually 90 games is enough, in fact.
Five teams from each league make the playoffs every season: the top team in each of three divisions (east, central, west) and the top two teams who didn’t win a division (wild cards). The winner of the wild card (single game elmination) plays the divisional winner with the top record in each league and the other two divisional winners play each other in best of 5 series. No one makes the World Series (AL or NL pennant) without winning a minimum of 7 post-season games, or 8 if they started in the wild card game.
That’s the strategic objective of every team, every year: to win that 111 games and walk off the last game of the season a winner. Last year the Cubbies won 103 regular season games, the most they’ve won in years. Winning more regular season games than any other team, though, isn’t enough. You have to peak at just the right time and win those remaining 11 games.
For the first time since 1945, the Cubs won those seven games to make it to the World Series, and then came back from a 3-1 deficit to win those last three games and go home champions. The last time the Cubs were in the Series there were no playoffs.
So who’s going to win those 11 post-season games and take home the trophy this year? The Cubs are early favorites in the National League and the Red Sox and Indians likely in the American League. There’s a lot of ball (162 games) between now and the playoffs and we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll be rooting for my Cubbies to repeat, the first back-to-back series win since the 99-00 Yankees.
Counting down the 111 starts now. Only one team gets to win it all.