How Many Games Does a World Series Usually Last?

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Before we start, we’d like to point out that the 2014 World Series is proceeding more or less exactly how we guessed that it would, so there’s that. That’s pretty cool — and also, obviously, kind of a bummer for Kansas City fans. Sorry, KC’s loyalists. We meant no offense. Anyway, with the Royals down 3-2 going into Tuesday’s game against the Giants, who have made a bit of a reputation out of closing games out on the road, things are looking bleak for baseball fans, as they begin to face the surest sign of an upcoming winter imaginable: time without America’s pastime, as it goes into hibernation during the coldest months of the year.

That inevitable stretch of time, from the end of October to the start of spring training, got us on the subject of how long World Series usually take, at least in terms of the number of games played, since the World Series is a time honored tradition that dwarfs any other American sports culmination by dozens of years. The first was held in 1903, and it continued each concurrent year after that, save 1904, when the Giants refused to play, and 90 years later, when a player’s strike managed to disrupt the entire season after August, including playoffs. So, using the data from the 108 remaining Series, collected from the ever-useful Baseball Almanac, we dove into the information to figure out how long these things usually take, and some more interesting information besides.

For one thing, ties have happened in baseball’s biggest games, but very rarely, with only three being recorded in three separate series: 1907, 1912, and 1922, all before the advent of artificial light. For another, its extraordinarily unlikely that a team will be swept in a World Series, as that’s only happened 18 times in the history of the game. But as for how long they usually last, the answer lies just under six games each. We’ll break down the math momentarily.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

So, there have been 634 official World Series games played in the history of baseball as we know it, and while that doesn’t take into account any sort of postseason enjoyed by the pre-MLB professional leagues, it’s still a sampling of over a century of the game’s past. So, divide up the number of games played by the 108 near-consecutive years that the World Series has been held, and you’re given 5.87 games (which, for all intents and purposes, can be rounded to six). In other words, if the 2014 Series ends tonight, with the Royals falling to the Giants, it’ll all be according to plan.

Which means, obviously, that the Royals are going to wind up winning the entire thing straight out. Luckily they’re not playing in a best of nine, like they were in the days of yore — also known as before 1919, the year the White Sox fixed the outcome.