The Washington Nationals, a team who as you probably heard were 19-31 in late-May, somehow managed to win the 2019 World Series by coalescing into a juggernaut of a team and outlasting a 106 and 107-win team in the postseason. (Oh yeah, and the Cardinals, too.) The Nationals faced five elimination games during the playoffs and were losing at some point during all of them yet still got to host a parade. Pretty remarkable. And with the Nationals off the hook, the Rangers, Mariners, Brewers, Padres, Rays, and Rockies remain as the only still-existing franchises to never win a World Series, with the Mariners being the lone team without a League Championship.
We care about this stuff because history is vital to the sport, and we're inching closer and closer to List Season, anyway, so now is as good as time as any for such a post. Beginning a few seasons ago at Viva El Birdos, I created my own rather basic system for ranking the 30 franchises in Major League Baseball. I used 1995 as the starting point because that's when the Wild Card era began - that feels like the start of the current era, right? - and that gives each team a fairly even playing field. For example, a team which was winning titles in the 1930s is going to have an inherent advantage over a team not founded until the 1960s.
That all said, here's how it works:
From 1995 to 2019, each team gets:
+1 point for every regular season game won;
+15 points for a division title;
-10 points for a last place finish;
+2 points for every playoff game won;
+20 points for a Pennant; and
+50 points for a World Series title.
Or to put it another way, the Nationals accumulated a lot of points this year (202), and the Detroit Tigers did not (37).
Given the baseball season is a punishing 162-game affair, the goal was to award both regular season and postseason success and I think this system by and large does that. Before we get to the updated results, here is further explanation of the methodology as outlined in previous posts:
First, the Diamondbacks and Rays didn’t join the league until 1998. I averaged their win total by season from 1998-2016 (when I first started this exercise) to fill in the blanks for 1996 and 1997, and pro-rated that average win total to fit the 1995 144-game strike-shortened schedule.
Second, I awarded the Cardinals a division title in 2001 as well as the Red Sox in 2005, even though they were technically Wild Card teams but finished with the same respective record as the division winning Astros and Yankees. In similar fashion, the Rockies and Diamondbacks were both docked 10 points for finishing with the same last place record in the NL West in 2006, and same with the Royals and Indians in 2009. And no points were awarded for winning the Wild Card. Those teams are left with the points from what should be a decent amount of regular season wins and whatever they were able to accomplish in the postseason (e.g., the 2014 Giants and 2019 Nationals). As you’re going to see, that hurt certain teams like the Brewers this year, for instance, but I don't see the need to award a team who neither won the division nor went far in the playoffs.
Lastly, using this formula, here's where things stood after the 2018 season in the aftermath of the Red Sox winning another title.
1. Yankees - 3,063
2. Red Sox - 2,622
3. Cardinals - 2,589
4. Braves - 2,531
5. Dodgers - 2,361
6. Giants - 2,360
7. Indians - 2,343
8. Angels - 2,219
9. Astros - 2,171
10. Rangers - 2,082
11. Phillies - 2,071
12. Athletics - 2,063
13. Cubs - 2,049
14. White Sox - 2,045
15. Mets - 2,039
16. Diamondbacks - 2,027
17. Mariners - 1,941
18. Marlins - 1,932
19. Blue Jays - 1,905
20. Twin - 1,894
21. Reds - 1,881
22. Brewers - 1,871
23. Tigers - 1,870
24. Padres - 1,863
25. Nats/Expos - 1,856
26. Orioles - 1,813
27. Rockies - 1,812
28. Rays - 1,783
29. Royals - 1,768
30. Pirates - 1,677
As you see, even though the Nationals had been playing good baseball for almost a full decade by the time the 2018 season came to a close, they still couldn't make up for how bad they had been in those preceding years. But here's the now up-to-date rankings, or POWER RANKINGS, whatever exactly that means beyond improving a site's SEO, and you will see what a single World Series title can do under this formula:
The Nationals jumped eight spots up to number 17, which, if I recall, is the biggest jump from one year to the next since I first started working on this project. No team dropped more than two spots although the Tigers and Orioles certainly tried their hardest.
Two things have remained constant since 1995: 1) The Yankees, Cardinals, and Dodgers have never finished in last place; and 2) The Marlins, Rockies, and Pirates have yet to win a division. Which will be the first to change? The Cardinals fan in me is hoping it's not having to endure a last place finish in the NL Central but the thought of any one from that sorry collection of Marlins, Rockies, or Pirates winning a division in the near future seems quite unlikely so we'll have to just wait and see.
Another thing that jumped out, the Twins have won seven division titles in the Wild Card era and have six (six!) total numbers of wins in the playoffs to show for it. That's not six series wins, that's six total games. They've certainly been outmatched in the opening round of the playoffs plenty of times - often against the Yankees - but this still seems almost impossible in a sport like baseball.
And speaking of the Yankees, they are in first and possibly will be in perpetuity. The gap separating them and the Red Sox is nearly equal to the gap between the Red Sox and the Rangers, the team in 10th place. The Cardinals and Braves are right there fighting for second, and another repeat of this past year and the Cardinals will be back in front of the Red Sox, which is where they were prior to Boston's 2018 title. On the opposite end we find the dreaded Pirates, who, other than their three measly postseason wins, all of which came in 2013, have done nothing to add to their point total beyond regular season wins. And there hasn't been many.
Overall, the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Braves, and Dodgers have been consistently good over the last 25 years, while the Pirates, Royals, Orioles, Rockies, and Rays have not. Everyone should be relieved that we were able to clear that up. We will do this all again next year. As always, if you have a formula that you think is superior to this one, or if you have any particular issue with the numbers here, please feel free to let your voice be heard in the comments.