Samsung and Nexen Playoff Chances: 100%

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Alright, I know this is a bit of a sensational headline. There is a lot of season left, and it is very much mathematically possible for both teams not to make the playoffs, however this is the actual title of an article at OSEN where they discuss the trend of teams who win early in the season and their success in making the playoffs. There are some interesting historical numbers here. See below for the translation.

Samsung and Nexen Playoff Chances: 100%

On Sunday July 7th, Samsung and Nexen both recorded their 40th win of the season. Samsung’s record of 40-26-2 gives them a winning percentage of 0.606 and puts them in first place. Nexen stands at 40-29-1 with a winning percentage of 0.580 1.5 games behind Samsung in second place. Samsung did it in 68 games and Nexen in 70, but they both reached 40 wins on the same day and have reserved their tickets to the playoffs.

Being the first team to reach 40 wins is a major milestone, much more important than 20 or 30 wins. The chances of falling out of the playoff picture at this point are much lower, and history shows us that this is true.

Since 1982 the first team to reach 20 wins has failed to reach the playoffs three times, the 1983 Sammi Superstars, the 1999 LG Twins, and the 2012 Nexen Heroes. There has been one team that was the first to reach 30 wins that has failed to make the playoffs, the 2011 LG Twins. However, in 32 years of Korean Professional Baseball, the first team to reach 40 wins has never been left out of the playoffs.

Of the 32 teams that reached 40 wins first, 27 of them have reached the Korean Series, and 16 of them have won it. Historically, teams that reach 40 wins first have a 50% chance of winning the Korean Series. It is even more the case if we look at recent history. From 2005 to 2012, all 8 teams to reach 40 wins first have made the Korean Series, and only one team has failed to win it, the 2009 SK Wyverns.

For Samsung, it is the 10th time in team history that they have reached 40 wins first. Of those 10 times, they have won the Korean Series championship 5 times in 1985, 2005, 2006, 2011, and 2012. Since the Nexen team was founded in 2008 this is their first time to reach 40 wins first, but if we look at their predecessor the Hyundai Unicorns they reached 40 wins first 3 times in 1996, 1998, and 2000. They reached the Korean Series all 3 times, and won the championship twice.

But this year may be different. There isn’t much separating the top teams in the league. In the past 10 years, when a team has first reached 40 wins, the average gap between 1st place and 5th place has been 9 games. This year KIA is in 5th place and only 4.5 games behind Samsung and 3 games behind Nexen. Since there isn’t much separation, there is a greater than usual chance that the 40 win rule will not hold true this year.

Two teams reaching 40 wins on the same day has only happened once before. In 1990 the Binggrae Eagles and Samsung Lions both reached 40 wins on July 25. Binggrae did it in 68 games while it took Samsung 73 games. Both teams made the playoffs with Binggrae finishing 3rd and Samsung finishing 4th. Samsung beat Binggrae in the first round of the playoffs and went on to beat the Haitai Tigers in the second round to punch their ticket to the Korean Series. However, the Lions were swept in 4 games by the 1990 champion LG Twins.