Friday, October 24, 2008

Inspired, presumably, by Boston's amazing comeback from a 7-0 deficit to win Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against Tampa Bay (although ultimately not the series), Tom Tango has just written a piece at Hardball Times probing the historical record of similar comebacks. Does evidence exist for comeback wins inspired by what the article calls "in-game momentum"?

Specifically, Tango identified games in which a team rallied from five or more runs down to tie a game, but not take the lead before the end of the inning. The idea is that the game would now have been back to square one -- dead even -- but one team would have had the momentum. Tango then investigated how often the latter team went on to win the game by scoring in a later inning, which might be seen as a sign of momentum on the part of the team that tied the game (or demoralization on the part of the team that squandered the lead).

Tango finds evidence that teams coming back from five or more runs have won games with a slightly greater frequency than that of teams coming back from smaller deficits (and thus with lesser momentum). However, he urges caution as follows:

...don't forget that we're talking extreme momentum here; in-game momentum in which the team scored five runs in an inning to tie the game. One must believe that the effect of momentum must be even less day-to-day.

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