Over and over my local team that has a better than average winning record seems to consistently lose the final game of the series after securing the series (unless they're playing a truly challenged team). Are there outlets that keep stats on this? What decisions are the coaching staff/manager making that seems to statistically secure a loss before the game starts?

There doesn't seem to be many ideas on this on Google, at least with my queries. My guess is that they are playing players, especially pitchers, that are more risky and either need playtime under their belt to gain confidence, shake out of a funk, etc.

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    "seems to consistently lose the final game of the series after securing the series" Humans are excellent at believing patterns where none exist. My first question would be "is this actually a real effect?"
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented May 31 at 18:19
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    MLB? There might be some reasons but it would vary by series- using the backup catcher for the third game especially if it’s day after night (Sunday or Wednesday afternoon), used their high leverage relief pitchers two nights in a row already, won the first two in part because their two best starters pitched, etc. or chance like the other comments and answer say.
    – Damila
    Commented May 31 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


This sounds like regression toward the mean, also known as the sophomore slump or Sports Illustrated curse. A team/player with an excellent record will tend to do worse in subsequent games/seasons, even if their underlying skills or win probabilities stay exactly the same.

As an example, suppose you flip a bunch of fair coins 100 times and pick the one that came up heads the most to flip once more. The probability that the best-performing coin shows heads on the next flip is still only 50%, not the proportion of heads you saw on that coin in the last 100 flips.

Similarly, if you pit evenly matched baseball teams against one another, and only examine series where one team wins most of the games, you'll find that team loses the final game more often than you'd expect given their record. This is simply due to chance - they weren't actually better than any other team, they just lucked out into a statistically unlikely result in the past, which is reverting to a more probable outcome in subsequent trials.

There may indeed be some differences in how the teams are actually playing which could also contribute, but the phenomenon seen here can occur even with no change whatsoever in the teams' win probabilities.

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