Cleveland Playoff Near-Misses

This reflection was originally posted on June 17, 2015. 

Here’s a fun fact about Cleveland sports that I went through and quantified this morning:

There have now been 144 completed seasons since the past Cleveland title. Based on recent history, one might expect that Cleveland teams are partially responsible for the drought due to a simple failure to reach the playoffs…which I believed firmly was untrue (my hypothesis was that Cleveland playoff appearances were near the expected value for playoff appearances, and we’ve just had that much playoff heartbreak). So I put the numbers together, essentially tallying expected playoff appearance value simply by how many teams in a conference made it to the playoffs each year.

I was almost right. If you include all seasons where teams make an actual playoff appearance or are the first team out of the playoffs, Cleveland is expected to have seen 65.874 of these seasons out of 144. We have witnessed 62 of these. Pretty close, right?

However, let’s break this down. Of those 65.874 expected appearances, 54.413 should be actual playoff appearances and 11.461 should be finishes in the next spot out of the playoffs. In reality, Cleveland has seen 42 playoff appearances and 20 finishes in the first spot out of the playoffs. So while we’ve also gone 0-42 in playoff appearances in the last 50 years (0-5 in the championship round, 10 losses in the semis, and 27 losses in earlier rounds), we’ve also barely missed the playoffs twice as many times as you would expect (teams such as the ’05 Indians and the ’07 Browns come to mind).

Honestly, the fact that we manage these near misses so often should be impressive considering how badly some of our teams have done for stretches (looking at you, Indians, for the FORTY-season streak of missing the playoffs).

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