When the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros meet in Game 1 of the 2019 World Series on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, they'll come in on different rest schedules, as is typically the case. The Nats are coming off a sweep of the Cardinals in the NLCS, and that means they'll be operating on six days' rest in Game 1 of the World Series. The Astros, meantime, just wrapped up with the Yankees with Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday, so they'll be on just two days' rest in Game 1. That's a substantial difference.
It seems like the default assumption should be that, after six months of regular season and two series of high-stakes postseason play, extra rest is a good thing. After all, it's a structural reward for taking care of business as early as possible in the LCS round. However, you need not wander very far to find concerns that extra rest leading up to the World Series will compromise rhythm or intensity or allow rust to set in or something along those lines. That's not a ridiculous notion, but it would seem to be a cost you'd accept in exchange for additional time to recuperate after, oh, 173 games of baseball.
To poke into this matter, we went back through 1969 -- the first year of LCS play -- and counted up how many days of rest each pennant winner had going into the World Series. What follows is not the final and lasting word on the matter -- we didn't do things like correct for the quality of the teams involved (World Series occasionally have on-paper mismatches, you know) -- but it gives at least a quick-and-dirty idea of whether extra rest is helpful, damaging, or somewhere in the nebulous middle. Here's some of what we found.
- On average, teams that won the World Series have come in on 2.9 days of rest.
- Teams that lost the World Series have on average come in on 3.1 days of rest. These are basically the same.
- The team with more rest since 1969 is 18-20 in the World Series (in the remainder of series, the two teams had an equal number of days rest).
- Teams with five or more days of rest are 7-9 in the World Series.
- However, teams with six or more days of rest, which is what the Nationals will have, are 4-3 in the World Series.
- Teams with two or fewer days or rest, which is what the Astros will have, are 11-11 in the World Series (versus, obviously, teams on more than two days' rest).
- And what about the current margin of note? The Nationals will have in on four more days' rest than the Astros. Teams with at least four more days of rest than their opponents are 3-5 in the World Series since '69.
- The team with the most rest coming in was the 2007 Rockies, who were on eight days of respite before getting swept by the Red Sox, who were on two days of rest.
- The 1981 Dodgers are on the other end of the continuum. They came into the World Series against the Yankees on no days of rest. This was because the 1981 MLB season was shortened because of a players' strike that ran from the middle of June to the end of July. That labor stoppage led to a split season, which in turn compressed the postseason schedule. Even so, the Dodgers prevailed in six games over the Yankees, who came in on four days of rest.
Again, there's a lot of noise in the numbers, so don't mistake this for some kind of peer-reviewed authoritative word on the matter. That said, you don't have enough here to assume that the extra rest will hurt the Nationals. And given the fact that their bullpen doesn't have a great deal of depth, the extra rest probably helps them on that front.
Teams with six or more days of rest have, again, won most of the World Series in which they've competed. Just as teams that have "out-rested" their opponents by at least four games have lost most of their encounters. That's a pleasing mixed bag when it comes to the current World Series. Uncertainty is what you want this time of year, you know. In the end, history doesn't suggest that getting extra rest is a bad thing.