The 2007 League Division Series fell just one Yankees rally shy of an unprecented 3-0 sweep by all four series winners. In our NLDS preview for ESPN.com, we projected the Rockies and Cubs to advance to the League Championship Series; the Rockies swept the Phillies and now have won 17 of their last 18 games, but the Diamondbacks defied the odds against a lackluster Cubs squad.
Our simulation, however, did show the odds switching dramatically to the team that won the first game of each series. Sure enough, the D-backs did just that, as did the winner of each LDS. In a seven-game series like the LCS, on the other hand, a team losing Game 1 has more of a chance to recover.
As we did for the LDS, we've employed our Diamond Mind simulation software to project the results of the upcoming LCS. Before revealing our projected results for the NLCS, here is a brief recap of our methodology:
• We updated our projections and ratings for each player based on his 2007 regular-season performance.
• Although playoff rosters were not yet finalized, we used our best judgment, before running the simulations, about whom the teams would select, the starting rotations, batting orders, bullpen and bench roles.
• We made judgments about players carrying an injury into the LCS. Beyond deciding, for purposes of setting these roles, whether or not a player would play, we did not attempt to simulate the degree to which such an injury might hamper the player, except to the extent that it already was reflected in his regular-season performance.
• Then we played each series 1,000 times.
As unpredictable as the outcome of the regular season can be, luck and unforeseen events play an even greater role in a short series. Nevertheless, the results of our simulations project the Rockies to continue their Cinderella run into their first World Series. In fact, while they were the narrowest of our four projected favorites entering the LDS, they enter the LCS with a bigger projected edge over the Diamondbacks than did any of our projected LDS winners, winning 69 percent of our series simulation runs:
In our NLDS simulations, a key to Colorado's success was the ability of its pitchers to keep Ryan Howard and the rest of the Phillies in check. The story is similar in our NLCS simulations, with the Diamondbacks averaging just 3.98 runs per game, compared to 4.79 for the Rockies.
For Arizona, Stephen Drew hit just .217, Chris Young .208 with one homer, and Eric Byrnes .263 with one homer on average over our 1,000 series runs. For Colorado, Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe all had big series. Colorado's biggest edge may be in the bullpen, with Rockies relievers posting a collective ERA of just 3.48, compared to 4.82 for the Diamondbacks.
A short series often will produce standout performances, sometimes from unlikely sources (like David Eckstein in last year's World Series). Imagine if a series actually were replayed 1,000 times, which is more postseason series than have been played throughout the entire history of Major League Baseball. The odds of something extraordinary occurring would increase significantly. Here are some of the more eye-popping performances from our 1,000 series simulations:
• Manny Corpas saved all four wins for the Rockies 28 times.
• Holliday had 19 hits in one simulation run, 17 in another, and 16 hits twice.
• Young and Hawpe each had one series in which they pounded seven home runs and another in which they belted six.
In a best-of-five LDS, winning Game 1 is such an advantage that it will even shift the odds in favor of a substantial underdog -- like the Diamondbacks were against the Cubs -- to win the series. However, the impact of a win in the first game of a best-of-seven series is somewhat less, though still substantial.
In our 1,000 series simulations, Colorado, behind Jeff Francis, beat Webb and Arizona in Game 1 51.9 percent of the time. Winning that first game makes them overwhelming favorites at 84.6 percent:
If Webb and his teammates win Game 1, however, the odds get better for the Diamondbacks, but the Rockies enter the series with such a substantial projected edge that they remain the favorites even if they drop the first game, still winning 55 percent of our simulations despite losing the opener:
Accordingly, Imagine Sports projects the Rockies to make the franchise's first World Series appearance. Given that the 2007 season began with a cold, snowy April in much of the country with many games snowed out, there is a certain ironic symmetry to the fact that the season could well finish in equally frigid conditions on an icy October night if the World Series comes to Denver.