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Saturday, November 02, 2019

Why the Nationals Might Be Most Surprising World Series Champions Ever

The Nationals may be the unlikeliest World Series champions ever.

In the eighth inning of the National League wild-card game, they trailed the Brewers 3–1; their chance of winning was 13%. Capped by a Juan Soto single, they rallied off the Milwaukee bullpen to win 4–3.

Eight days later, in the NL Division Series in Los Angeles, Washington once again trailed 3–1 in the eighth in an elimination game, and now the Nats had just an 11% chance to come back. This time Anthony Rendon joined Soto in providing eighth-inning heroics: Each belted a solo homer to set up Howie Kendrick’s decisive 10th-inning grand slam.

After sweeping the Cardinals to take the pennant, the Nationals found themselves in deep trouble once again in Game 7 of the World Series, trailing the Astros and righty Zack Greinke 2–0 in the seventh inning in Houston. Chance to win: 15%. Rendon homered, Soto walked and then Kendrick came through again, hitting an opposite field, two-run homer off the foul pole in right field to put Washington up for good.

The 1914 Boston Braves would like to contest that….

 

QLE Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:26 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nationals, world series champions

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Howie Menckel Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:38 AM (#5898039)
yeah, everything before during and after that Miracle Braves season sees "unlikely" and tells the 2019 Nationals to "hold my beer."

best part: their ace pitcher was a 22-year-old pitcher named Bill James (26-7, 190 ERA in 332 IP). 74 mediocre MLB IP later, his career was over.

the only memorable players on that team were the HOF keystone combo of Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville. (well, they had a Billy Martin, too.)

also the 1969 Mets have their own version of special sauce on that word.

and the 2004 Red Sox would like a word as well.
   2. Rob_Wood Posted: November 02, 2019 at 01:41 AM (#5898049)
I know it's a different kettle of fish, but the 1986 Mets had to be a long-shot to win the World Series at various points during the post-season (of course two outs bases empty in 10th down two in game six).
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: November 02, 2019 at 01:43 AM (#5898050)
those Mets didn't exactly coast past the Astros, either
   4. Joey B. Posted: November 02, 2019 at 10:43 AM (#5898083)
It’s a beautiful day for a parade!
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 02, 2019 at 11:56 AM (#5898095)
I still think the '87 Twins and '88 Dodgers were two of the most unlikely champions in my lifetime.
   6. Red Voodooin Posted: November 02, 2019 at 02:32 PM (#5898122)
1991 Twins were pretty unlikely, too.
   7. depletion Posted: November 02, 2019 at 03:58 PM (#5898139)
Rob and Howie: The 1986 Mets won 108 games in the regular season. As Lenny Dykstra observed after game 3, "We didn't win 108 games for nothing"
   8. bbmck Posted: November 02, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5898169)
The 2012 Giants and 1985 Royals won six games facing elimination, 2019 Nationals and 1981 Dodgers five. Even if they are substantial favorites to win each game it's really unlikely to win that many specific games or the far more famous four in a row facing elimination of the 2004 Red Sox. 2011 Cardinals also with four are the only other champion to win at least four games facing elimination.
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: November 02, 2019 at 05:31 PM (#5898172)
2011 Cardinals also with four are the only other champion to win at least four games facing elimination.
Have any non-champions won 4? I know the '03 Sox and '97 Indians won 3.
   10. bbmck Posted: November 02, 2019 at 06:31 PM (#5898198)
2017 Yankees, 2015 Blue Jays, 2003 Red Sox and 1972 Reds lost their 5th potential elimination game.
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: November 02, 2019 at 06:59 PM (#5898207)
The 1986 Mets won 108 games in the regular season.

the Nats went 74-38 since late May til the end of the regular season.
   12. Lest we forget Posted: November 03, 2019 at 02:43 AM (#5898284)
"the Nats went 74-38 since late May til the end of the regular season."

And if they'd won at that rate over the entire year they'd have had the highest win percentage in MLB.

In other words - they fixed their issues, and dominated baseball the rest of the way. 'Stros Nats was the right matchup.
   13. Sunday silence Posted: November 03, 2019 at 07:02 AM (#5898287)
I totally agree it seemed like these were the two best teams playing at this moment in time. The games seemed well played maybe not as many one run games but still.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: November 03, 2019 at 07:59 AM (#5898289)
the Nats went 74-38 since late May til the end of the regular season.


So did the Dodgers, who also started 32-18.

I think it's fair to say they were the two best NL teams at season's end.
   15. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: November 03, 2019 at 10:04 AM (#5898300)
How about what was the most surprising World Champion based on pre-season expectations? That puts teams like the 2004 Red Sox in the definitely not category. In my lifetime, I might have to say the 2003 Marlins.
   16. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 11:20 AM (#5898310)
"Most Surprising Champion" can be looked at from at least five different perspectives:

Greatest regular season comeback to an eventual World's Championship: 1914 Braves, who were in last place on July 4th, 15 games behind the Giants, and wound up winning the pennant by 10.5 games and sweeping the A's in the World Series.

Greatest comebacks from World Series death: 1986 Mets and 2011 Cardinals. The Mets were deeper in the hole, but the Cardinals had to dig out of two different holes.

Greatest comeback from multiple postseason deaths: 2019 Nats (late inning comebacks in the deciding game of 3 of the 4 postseason series)

Most improbable World Series winner at the start of the playoffs: 1987 Twins (Pythag record of 79-83), or the 1988 Dodgers (1-10 vs. the Mets in the regular season, with an 18-49 run differential, and then beating a 104-58 A's team in the Series)

Least likely World Series winner at the start of the season: 1991 Twins (last place in the 1990 AL West)

And then there's this:

Least likely World Series participant at the start of the season: 1991 Braves (worst record in the entire Major Leagues in 1990)
   17. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: November 03, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5898312)
Maybe the 91 Twins.

edit: never mind. I wrote the above about an hour ago but forgot to hit submit. Andy beat me to it.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: November 03, 2019 at 12:13 PM (#5898315)
1991 Twins (last place in the 1990 AL West)


I think the 1987 Twins were less likely, as the '86 Twins were a worse club (though a sixth-place finisher).

Of course, neither were as bad in their pre-World Series season as the 2012 Red Sox had been.
   19. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: November 03, 2019 at 01:19 PM (#5898326)
Of course, neither were as bad in their pre-World Series season as the 2012 Red Sox had been.


The 2013 Red Sox had been retooled, spending the money they saved by some idiot taking on the Beckett/Crawford/Gonzalez contracts on better players like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew and John Lackey as well as replacing Bobby Valentine with somebody who wasn't Bobby Valentine. So the performance of the 2012 Sox wasn't all that relevant. They were a somewhat but not super surprising team.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: November 03, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5898329)
The 2013 Red Sox had been retooled, spending the money they saved by some idiot taking on the Beckett/Crawford/Gonzalez contracts on better players like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew and John Lackey as well as replacing Bobby Valentine with somebody who wasn't Bobby Valentine. So the performance of the 2012 Sox wasn't all that relevant. They were a somewhat but not super surprising team.


I wasn't mentioning them because I thought they were more surprising. They weren't (not surprising to most, I'm pretty familiar with the Sox). Just noting that they actually had a bigger swing in wins than either of the Twins teams.

   21. Rennie's Tenet Posted: November 03, 2019 at 01:42 PM (#5898335)
The '60 Pirates won while being outscored 55-27 over 7 games. That must be pretty hard to do.
   22. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 02:17 PM (#5898339)
The surprising part of that 1960 World Series wasn't that the Pirates won, since they had a better Pythagorean record than the Yankees in a much better league. The surprising part was the run differential, which was purely the product of a small sample size.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 03, 2019 at 02:45 PM (#5898341)
The surprising part of that 1960 World Series wasn't that the Pirates won, since they had a better Pythagorean record than the Yankees in a much better league. The surprising part was the run differential, which was purely the product of a small sample size.

Or the Yankees were, you know, better. The 1959 Pirate were 74-80, the 1961 Pirates were 79-75, with very similar rosters.
   24. vortex of dissipation Posted: November 03, 2019 at 02:48 PM (#5898342)
Least likely World Series winner at the start of the season


I still think that the '69 Mets win this one, at least in the area of public perception. In seven seasons, they had finished tenth five times and ninth twice. One of those ninth place finishes was the season before, when they won 73 games, the first time they had broken the 70-win plateau. The Mets were an absolute joke in the public eye, a team of losers who defined baseball futility. One of the reasons Gil Hodges was hired was to eliminate this trope in the clubhouse, but it was still very much there with the public. It must have been absolutely mind-boggling to watch that season unfold in real time from an outsiders' perspective. To go immediately from a total joke for their entire existence to 100 wins and World Series Champions in one season, without an intermediate stop, must have been quite something to follow.
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 03:07 PM (#5898346)
Or the Yankees were, you know, better. The 1959 Pirate were 74-80, the 1961 Pirates were 79-75, with very similar rosters.

Unfortunately baseball seasons stand independently of one another in terms of actual performance. This isn't about raw talent or the number of Hall of Famers, it's about what those two teams did in 1960 against competition of decidedly unequal quality.

--------------------------------

Least likely World Series winner at the start of the season

I still think that the '69 Mets win this one, at least in the area of public perception.


Upon further review, I'll give you that one. The 1969 Mets were the equivalent of the 1967 Red Sox, and then some, in terms of not just rising from the ashes of the season immediately preceding it, but rising from an entire decades worth of nuclear waste. The 1991 Twins have always stuck in my mind not just because of the worst-to-first aspect of their championship, but because both they and the Braves were worst-to-first----and that matchup may have been the biggest surprise of all.
   26. greenback used to say live and let live Posted: November 03, 2019 at 03:22 PM (#5898350)
Greatest comebacks from World Series death: 1986 Mets and 2011 Cardinals. The Mets were deeper in the hole, but the Cardinals had to dig out of two different holes.

Two different holes? The Cardinals trailed in Game Six on five separate occasions. That's the only time in their history that they've won such a game.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 03, 2019 at 03:50 PM (#5898355)

Unfortunately baseball seasons stand independently of one another in terms of actual performance. This isn't about raw talent or the number of Hall of Famers, it's about what those two teams did in 1960 against competition of decidedly unequal quality.


Performance is a result of talent, and talent lives on a continuum, that changes every day. Actual performance in the regular season means nothing by the time you get to the World Series. Talent matters. This isn't sim baseball. And talent does not equal "best regular season stats".

If the Pirates played way over their heads in 1960 and weren't that good, it means that the Yankees may well have been the more talented team.
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 05:50 PM (#5898368)
Greatest comebacks from World Series death: 1986 Mets and 2011 Cardinals. The Mets were deeper in the hole, but the Cardinals had to dig out of two different holes.

Two different holes? The Cardinals trailed in Game Six on five separate occasions. That's the only time in their history that they've won such a game.


Point taken, but of course I was referring to the final and most dramatic holes where they were what, one strike away from losing.

---------------------------------------------

If the Pirates played way over their heads in 1960 and weren't that good, it means that the Yankees may well have been the more talented team.

You're just refuting a strawman here. I fully realize that the talent on the Yankees' roster, with 3 inner circle HoFers to the Pirates' lone Clemente, was superior to that of the Pirates. But in the 1960 season they didn't perform as well as the Pirates. The "better team" and "the most talented team" are not synonymous concepts, no matter how many times you insist on conflating them.
   29. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: November 03, 2019 at 06:32 PM (#5898377)

Point taken, but of course I was referring to the final and most dramatic holes where they were what, one strike away from losing.


Better yet, one non-atrocious jump from Nelson Cruz away from winning. Of course, if we are splicing to moments in time, what was the 1985 Royals chance of winning during the second between when the ground ball got thrown to first and when the umpire made the safe call?
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 03, 2019 at 08:46 PM (#5898391)
You're just refuting a strawman here. I fully realize that the talent on the Yankees' roster, with 3 inner circle HoFers to the Pirates' lone Clemente, was superior to that of the Pirates. But in the 1960 season they didn't perform as well as the Pirates. The "better team" and "the most talented team" are not synonymous concepts, no matter how many times you insist on conflating them.

The "better team" is the team we would expect to win, which is the same as "the most talented team". The team that put up the best stats that year is nice, bur not really relevant except in how it projects talent.

You raised the same point the other day. The 2000 Yankees had pedestrian regular season stats because they went into an absolute swoon when they had effectively clinched the division. Those stats mattered not at all in predicting their future perfromance in the playoffs.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2019 at 08:59 PM (#5898395)
But who's predicting? And what relevance do predictions have when you're reviewing a single season? Which in this case is 1960----not 1961.

Pittsburgh put up a better Pythagorean record than the Yankees while playing in a much superior league. In 1960. What happened in other years is irrelevant.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 03, 2019 at 09:42 PM (#5898405)
Pittsburgh put up a better Pythagorean record than the Yankees while playing in a much superior league. In 1960. What happened in other years is irrelevant.

Again, nothing that happened performance-wise in the regular season is at all relevant to the World Series. All the teams bring with them is the talent of their players at that moment in time.

Take the extreme case. 1921 Babe Ruth with a broken leg is totally useless in the World Series.

My only point is you're judging the Pirates solely on their 1960 regular season performance, which isn't what mattered once the games were played. In retrospect, we can see that that team wasn't nearly as good as their 1960 numbers suggested. And the performance of the Yankees from 1961-64 strongly suggests their talent was greater than an analysis based solely on their 1960 performance would suggest.

I know you have a bugaboo about the relative superiority of the NL post-integration, but seriously, if Casey Stengel hadn't been well into his dotage the Yankees would have won in four. They were the better team. Whitey Ford was the best pitcher in baseball at that moment in time.
   33. Sunday silence Posted: November 04, 2019 at 02:33 AM (#5898440)
In retrospect, we can see that that team wasn't nearly as good as their 1960 numbers suggested.


Because why?

And the performance of the Yankees from 1961-64 strongly suggests their talent was greater than an analysis based solely on their 1960 performance would suggest.


again why?
   34. JustDan Posted: November 04, 2019 at 12:20 PM (#5898501)
Least likely World Series participant at the start of the season: 1991 Braves (worst record in the entire Major Leagues in 1990)

This could be the 1914 Braves too. They were 31.5 games out of first the previous year, and over 50 GB each of the preceding 4 years before that.

best part: their ace pitcher was a 22-year-old pitcher named Bill James (26-7, 190 ERA in 332 IP). 74 mediocre MLB IP later, his career was over.

I think that now it is assumed that he had a rotator cuff injury, probably from overuse.

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