Can the Rangers Make a Third Straight Trip to the World Series?

“Hot hand” researcher says odds, history are against the team.

Play ball!

Friday the Texas Rangers host the Chicago White Sox for the season opener at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The home team hopes to be the first to advance to a third-straight World Series since the New York Yankees, who went to four in a row from 1998-2001.

Alan Reifman, a Texas Tech University professor who studies sports streakiness and conducts “hot hand” research, looked into the matter of a team’s prospects of going to three straight World Series. And needless to say, the odds are against the Rangers.

“In the ‘expanded playoff’ era (1995-present), a team must do three things to make the World Series even once,” Reifman said. “In making two straight World Series, they are already 6-for-6, but accomplishing the three tasks this year won’t be easy.”

The three things are:

  1. Qualify for the playoffs as a division winner or “wild card” (best record in the league among non-division winners)
  2. Win the opening round of the playoffs
  3. Win the League Championship Series (LCS)

“Step one rewards the best teams over the long haul, as all teams have 162 games to prove themselves,” Reifman explained. “However, steps two and three involve short series (3-out-of-5 and 4-out-of-7, respectively). This allows random chance to play a larger role.”

Other teams who have been to two straight World Series since the expanded playoff era are the Atlanta Braves (1995-1996) and the Philadelphia Phillies (2008-2009). The Braves lost in the LCS in 1997 and returned to the World Series in 1999. The Phillies have yet to return to the World Series.

Reifman is a professor in Texas Tech’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies who conducts “hot hand” analysis and can speak to sports streaks and statistical probability. His blog can be found at http://thehothand.blogspot.com/.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu.

CONTACT: Alan Reifman, professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3000 ext. 274 or alan.reifman@ttu.edu.