Baseball’s best rarely finish on top in October

Best in baseball? The Detroit Tigers and Giants spent large parts of the season just trying to catch mediocre teams like the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers just to win their divisions.

Those up-and-down regular seasons are distant memories now that the Giants and Tigers have raced through the playoffs and have played two games of the World Series.

The Giants trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West as late as mid-August before making a strong run to win the division and finish tied with the third-best record in the National League.

The Tigers were merely six games over .500 with three weeks left in the regular season and made the playoffs despite posting the seventh-best record in the American League.

For much of its history, baseball was a grueling, six-month endurance test, with only the top team in each league going to the postseason.

Now, with six divisions and four wild-card teams, it’s more a matter of just getting into the tournament and getting on a roll in October.

“I think ideally you like to see the teams that have the best record end up there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “But as we have mentioned many times, once you get to the playoffs it does become a little bit of a crap shoot, who’s playing the best at that time. You understand that. That’s why wild-card teams have done well. A lot of them are fighting to get there, but they’re also playing well at the right time.”

Both the Giants and Tigers got in as division winners but they were not the top teams in their leagues over the 162-game haul.

In the 18 postseasons since the playoffs expanded in 1995, the team with the best overall record in the regular season ended up as World Series champion just three times. The Yankees did it twice, in 1998 and 2009, and Boston accomplished it as well in 2007. That one out of six rate is little better than if the champion was chosen randomly.

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By John Krolik Special to The Examiner