Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Droughts, Expansion Team Series, and Other Trivia on the 2016 Playoffs

Two years ago, I wrote about all of the teams with World Series droughts that would be going to the postseason. I didn’t intend to make it a regular feature back then, but then the very next season, wouldn’t you know it, there was yet another batch of teams looking to bust their drought! (And that postseason actually ended with a drought getting busted, unlike 2014!)

Two years of looking at this aspect of the playoffs was enough to inspire me to look again, and it wound up being yet another interesting set of teams, so it looks like I have a new tradition on my hands here. How does it stack up to years past? Well enough, actually. In fact, once again, the Blue Jays are the third-shortest championship drought in the whole thing, despite last year marking their first postseason appearance in 22 seasons.

Giants: 2014
Red Sox: 2013
Blue Jays: 1993
Dodgers: 1988
Mets: 1986
Orioles: 1983
Nationals: Never (team founded in 1969)
Rangers: Never (team founded in 1961)
Indians: 1948
Cubs: 1908

Comparing that to last year, we lose a little bit at the top (since the Yankees and Cardinals were the most recent winners from last year’s set, with 2009 and 2011 wins, respectively), but the addition of the second-longest active title drought in the Indians more than makes up for that. We once again have two 1960s expansion teams that have never won, although the Nationals are a little younger than the Astros.

How does that look in the larger context of the wild card era?

Yep, once again, this year’s set of playoff teams are some of the longest suffering. With a 39.9 year average drought and a 31.5 median, they stand above every year other than 1998, which was a murderer’s row of suffering teams, between the Cubs, Indians, pre-2004 Red Sox, and the championshipless Astros, Rangers, and Padres…but wound up with the Yankees on top anyway.

Another interesting way to look at this year’s set of teams: throughout baseball history, only 25 times has a World Series drought lasted more than 30 seasons. Eleven of those droughts are active, and for the second season in a row, five of thoes eleven teams are playing in October.

Relatedly, the ten teams left have combined for only 33 titles, which is interesting in its own right. That’s the fewest combined titles for a playoff set since the league expanded to a ten-team finale. Heck, even going back to when only eight teams made it, that’s still the second-lowest combined total ever; the only year with less decaorated teams (both in sum and in average) was 2008, with the Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, Brewers, Rays, White Sox, Angels, and Red Sox combining for only 20 wins. Granted, this number is a little misleading. The Yankees alone are nearly enough to put any year above this*, with their 27 titles. But it’s interesting trivia all the same.

*Fun fact: the lowest total number of previous World Series titles you can construct for a ten-team postseason set that features the Yankees is 30.

Also, if you’re interested in World Series match-ups as much as I am, this is a pretty good set of teams. With 25 possible combinations available, only 9 of them have previously occurred, and 6 of those haven’t occurred in five decades or more. The nine World Series that have occurred before from this set of teams includes:

Cubs-Red Sox (1918)
Dodgers-Indians (1920)
Dodgers-Orioles (1966)
Dodgers-Red Sox (1916)
Giants-Red Sox (1912)
Giants-Indians (1954)
Giants-Rangers (2010)
Mets-Orioles (1969)
Mets-Red Sox (1986)

So yeah, there’s a greater-than-80 percent chance we see a matchup we haven’t seen since 1920. Whatever happens will more than likely be something that we’ve never seen personally before. It’s also worth noting that five of those pairings involving the Giants or Mets, one of whom will be knocked out after Wednesday, while six involve either the Red Sox or Indians, who are facing off in the ALDS, making the probabilities of repeats slightly less likely.

And lastly, I have to cover the All-Expansion-Team angle, as has also become something of a tradition here. Just because we got our first example last year doesn’t mean I’m going to stop just like that. And while we don’t have five expansion teams playing on like last year (which was a record), we did get pretty close, with four.

Assuming each series has 50/50 odds (which isn’t too far off, to be honest), the AL has a roughly 37.5% chance of being represented by an expansion club (the Blue Jays in the Wild Card game and the Rangers set to face of against the Wild Card game winner). Meanwhile, the NL has similar odds (with the Nationals in the NLDS and the Mets in the Wild Card game), although their set-up is different, meaning that we might either end up with an all-expansion NLCS or no expansion teams moving on.  Put together, that’s a 14.1% chance of our second all-expansion team World Series, or just under 1-in-6. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s not much worse than what we had last year, so it could happen.


  1. A Cubs - Indians World Series would be interesting. Two former Red Sox champs going against one another, Epstein vs Francona.

    Or a beltway World Series, Orioles vs the Nationals.

  2. The Rangers own the longest drought of any MLB franchise from inception of the franchise through their first WS win.

    1. Is this just for expansion teams? Because the Phillies didn't win until 1980, and were founded in 1883 (although there wasn't a World Series for the first 20 years).

  3. Also, Rangers v. Nationals would be compelling since the Rangers used to be the Washington Senators, since the franchises are similar in age, and since (as a little bit of a stretch) the fan-bases have a built in rivalry through the Cowboys-Redskins in the NFC East.

    1. .... and since they are the only two teams in the tournament that have never won it.