The trends of Wild Card teams pulling off the upset in the division series
If it seems to you like every October in the last half-decade has featured a Cinderella baseball team, you wouldn’t be wrong.
The Wild Card playoff round was integrated in 2012, and since then, there have been five winners of that round that were able to pull off the upset in a divisional series.
Those teams were the St. Louis Cardinals (2012) Kansas City Royals (2014), San Francisco Giants (2014), Chicago Cubs (2015) and the Toronto Blue Jays (2016).
Winners of the play-in game have a series record of 5-5 in the divisional series and have a promising record of 23-19 against those superior teams. Three of the five clubs that lost in the divisional series were able to take it to five games.
There have been more upsets in the National League, with Wild Card teams being 3-2 in winning the series and 12-10 overall.
There’s also been a theme for all the clubs that have been pulled off the upset: their ERA.
No team has been able to pull off the shocker in the five-game series unless they found themselves in the top 12 in ERA. Three of the five teams finished in the top eight.
The D-backs have the third-best ERA in baseball at 3.66. They also boast the sixth most strikeouts in the league for 1,482 on the season and allow the seventh lowest batting average at .240 against opposing teams.
An example of exceptional pitching carrying over to the playoffs for a Wild Card team is the Blue Jays, who had the best postseason ERA of 2.52 in the 2016 playoffs. The Giants and Royals, the 2014 Wild Card teams, finished with the second and third best postseason ERAs with 2.87 and 3.51 respectively. Those two clubs made the World Series.
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