From 1969 through 1984, when all the League Championship Series were best of five series, home field advantage alternated divisions. When the Division Series started in 1995, at first home field was awarded on a rotating basis. Those series were all 2-3. In 1999, Division Series changed to a 2-2-1 format, with teams with the better record getting home field in Game 5. For this year only, MLB has changed the Division Series back to a 2-3 format because of scheduling concerns.
In the 1981 split season, the first half winner got home field advantage in a 2-3 format.
This year, Oakland, the AL West champ, finished six games better than the AL Central champ, Detroit. The Tigers won the first two games of their Division Series at Comerica Park.
So, how have teams that were six or more games better than their opponent fared when starting on the road of a five-game series in a 2-3 format.
- 1969 - The Mets finished seven games better than the Braves, but started the first NLCS in Atlanta. The Mets swept the series in three games.
- 1970 - The Reds finished 13 games better than the Pirates and started the series in Pittsburgh. They swept the series. The Orioles were 10 games better than the Twins and started the ALCS in Bloomington and swept the Twins.
- 1971 - The Pirates were seven games better than the Giants. They started the NLCS in San Francisco. The Giants won the first game and then lost the next three.
- 1972 - Didn’t happen
- 1973 - Didn’t happen
- 1974 - The Dodgers were 14 games better than the Pirates but started the NLCS in Pittsburgh. The Dodgers won both games in Pittsburgh, lost Game 3 in L.A. and then won in four games.
- 1975 - Didn’t happen
- 1976 - The Yankees were seven games better than the Royals and started the series in Kansas City. The teams split the games in Kansas City and the Yankees prevailed in five games.
- 1977 - Didn’t happen
- 1978 - The Yankees were eight games better than the Royals and started in Kansas City. After splitting the two games in Kansas City, the Yankees won the final two in New York.
- 1979 - The Pirates were eight games better than the Reds and started in Cincinnati. The Pirates swept the series.
- 1980 - The Yankees were six games better than the Royals and started in Kansas City. The Royals swept the series, making them the first underdog of that magnitude to parlay the 2-3 format into a win.
- 1981 - The Royals won the 2nd half of the AL West, but finished 11 games behind Oakland. The Division Series started in Kansas City, but the A’s swept the series.
- 1982 - Didn’t happen
- 1983 - Didn’t happen
- 1984 - The Tigers were 20 games better than the Royals and started the ALCS in Kansas City. The Tigers swept the series.
- 1995 - Atlanta was 13 games better than Colorado and started their Division Series in Denver. The Braves won both games in Denver, dropped Game 3 in Atlanta, but won Game 4. The Reds were seven games better than the Dodgers and started in Los Angeles and swept that series.
- 1996 - The Braves were six games better than the Dodgers and started their series in Los Angeles. The Braves swept the series.
- 1997 - The Braves were 17 games better than the Astros and started their series in Houston. The Braves swept the series. The Orioles were eight games better than the Mariners and started their series in Seattle. The Orioles won both games in Seattle, lost one in Baltimore, and won Game 4.
So prior to this year, there were 16 instances of a team with an inferior record by at least six games starting a five game series with two home games. Only once did one of those underdogs win the series, the 1980 Royals.
However, the masses have spoken this year and the 2-3 format, which is likely popular only with members of the media, will be scrapped. Because if the Tigers do win their series against Oakland, there will be a lot of angry people.
Washington, which finished 10 games better than St. Louis, pulled out a 3-2 win over the Cardinals Sunday at Busch Stadium to keep Twitter from collapsing under the weight of righteous indignation.
As W.I. Thomas said, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”