NLDS success must be tempered a bit
History says LCS prosperity doesn't always follow if you sweep
Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have swept their way into the National League Championship Series on Saturday, they confront a far bigger problem than that posed by the Chicago Cubs.Namely: Avoiding the letdown that has conspired against every NL club which has taken the Division Series in straight sets. With the exception of three instances when both teams entered the NLCS off sweeps, each of the six prior clubs to have swept the NLDS has had it lead to NLCS defeat. Overall, since the introduction of Wild Card berths led to the 1995 advent of the Division Series, a flawless start to the postseason has guaranteed little in the course of the playoffs. Of the previous 21 teams to sweep Division Series, only nine went on to LCS triumphs, six of eight in the AL but only three of 13 in the NL.
|Year||Sweeper||Swept||LCS Fate||LCS Opponent|
|2007||D-backs||Cubs||Lost to||Rockies, 0-4|
|2007||Red Sox||Angels||Beat||Indians, 4-3|
|2006||Mets||Dodgers||Lost to||Cardinals, 4-3|
|2006||Athletics||Twins||Lost to||Tigers, 0-4|
|2005||Cardinals||Padres||Lost to||Astros, 2-4|
|2005||White Sox||Red Sox||Beat||Angels, 4-1|
|2004||Red Sox||Angels||Beat||Yankees, 4-3|
|2002||Cardinals||D-backs||Lost to||Giants, 1-4|
|2001||Braves||Astros||Lost to||D-backs, 1-4|
|2000||Cardinals||Braves||Lost to||Mets, 1-4|
|2000||Mariners||White Sox||Lost to||Yankees, 2-4|
|1999||Yankees||Rangers||Beat||Red Sox, 4-1|
|1998||Braves||Cubs||Lost to||Padres, 2-4|
|1997||Braves||Astros||Lost to||Marlins, 2-4|
|1996||Cardinals||Padres||Lost to||Braves, 3-4|
|1995||Reds||Dodgers||Lost to||Braves, 0-4|
|1995||Indians||Red Sox||Beat||Mariners, 4-2|
And, remarkably, each of the NL survivals came in "can't miss" situations, with both LCS teams qualifying with sweeps: 1996, when the Braves beat the Cardinals; 1997, the Marlins over the Braves; and last year, the Rockies over the D-backs.So, with the set between the Phillies and the Brewers already heading to a Game 4 on Sunday, the Dodgers will be trying to become the first NL team to follow up a Division Series sweep with an NLCS triumph on an uneven playground. Incidentally, while you're not supposed to look past the next series, staying the LCS course off a Division Series sweep has definitely made the ultimate destination more accessible. Of the nine teams which survived the LCS, six wound up wearing World Series rings: the 1997 Marlins, 1998-99 Yankees, 2004 and '07 Red Sox and 2005 White Sox.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.