Baseball: When One Loss Equals Two Games

I am fascinated by seemingly random things when it comes to numbers. (Okay, I’m fascinated by a lot of random things, but numbers and statistics in particular.)

One of those things is an oddity of the baseball standings that looms large later in the season, when the number of games remaining grows smaller. And that oddity is that one loss can equal a two-game swing in the standings.


Team A has a record of 85-65. Team B has a record of 82-68. So Team B is 3 games behind. If Team B sweeps the series, it will move into a tie with Team A. But if Team B loses even 1 game in the series, it will be 2 games out at the end of the series. One loss equals a two-game swing in the standings.

I guess this isn’t so much an “oddity” as just something that sticks out to me. Normally in baseball, the goal is to “win the series.” So winning 2-of-3 is a good thing. But when you’re trailing in the standings, any losses to the team you’re chasing can create a huge setback.

Take the example above. Each team has played 150 games, which means 12 more games remain. A 3-game sweep by Team B results in a tie in the standings with 9 games left to play. But if Team B loses 1 game, Team A would still be 2 games ahead with just 9 games left. Not an impossible deficit, but a much bigger hill than being tied. All from losing 1 game.