During the 2014 World Series I had the idea to rank Game 7’s by average leverage, which is just a measure of how important or stressful the average at-bat was. Apparently, the same day I had that idea, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs had the same idea. So I decided to shelve the idea and present it in a different way at a later point. Welcome to the later point!
I thought about calling this list a ranking of the most exciting Series ever played, but I realized that’s not what I’m measuring. Albert Pujols hitting 3 home runs in a game is definitely exciting, but there’s not much intrigue or mystery as to who will win when it’s a 16-7 contest. In 2004, the Red Sox put an end to a near-century of frustration, but what else do we really remember from that Series? The Sox beat the Cards by at least 2 runs in all 4 games, and Game 1 was the only game in the series that had a tie score after the first inning. The context, with all the history and the drama of what had come before in the ALCS made 2004 special, but the games themselves were mostly pretty boring.
Also, I have to be objective. Otherwise, #1 is automatically 1995, because 1995 is perhaps the most excited moment of my life. I was a little more than a week away from my 12th birthday, and my body didn’t know what to do other than run and jump and skip and leap for the heavens. I was pretty sure that night if I leaped hard enough, I might just get there. I was wrong, of course. I was already in Heaven. The Braves were World Champions.
So, with that in mind, I’ve set out to rank the series in a different way. It is not intended to be a definitive or better way, but rather just a different way. You don’t need me to explain why Don Larsen made 1956 special, or why 1988 is great because it gave us Kirk Gibson’s limp-off homer. This isn’t about excitement or memorable moments. It’s about stressful games that could go either way. It’s about game 1 of the 2000 Subway Series, when the tying or go-ahead run was on base or at the plate 91 different times. It’s about Series where those of us watching never quite knew what to expect. It’s excitement, just of a specific kind. It’s a ranking of competitiveness, more than anything.
I’ve adjusted for series length to some extent – a 7 game series is generally more exciting than a 4 game sweep, but it isn’t an end-all, be-all. 7 boring games are not better than 4 exciting ones, and that bears out in these rankings.
Enough explanation. Let’s get going. This should be fun.