By Bill Speros | | 8 mins
The Unluckiest MLB Teams Since 1995
Get up to $1,100 in First Bet Insurance - Promo Code: BOOKIESCZR
Is it better to be lucky than good?
With St. Patrick’s Day just ahead, that question takes on added relevance. Do we need the luck of the Irish to win a championship? Or is it all analytics, physics, and execution?
Bookies.com has examined the best teams in Major League Baseball since the sport’s last work stoppage, which began during the 1994 season and ended up wiping out that World Series and 18 games in 1995.
The data shows that winning and talent doesn’t necessarily equate to winning championships. Since the end of 1994-95 players’ strike, the team with the best overall record in baseball has won the World Series just seven times. And one of those teams is the 2020 Dodgers, who played a 60-game regular season.
There have been 47 MLB teams that won more than 60% of their regular-season games since the 1994-95 players’ strike ended. Only 10 of those teams won a World Series in the same year.
Numbers Show 2001 Mariners Top ‘Unlucky List’
We examined every team since the end of the 1994-95 players' strike that won at least 60% of its regular-season games but did not go on to win the World Series. We gave each team one point for each regular season win, postseason win (PSW), each All-Star, each Hall of Famer, and each projected Hall of Famer not currently eligible.
There were three teams that finished above .600 in 2020 that did not win the World Series that year (Twins, Rays and A’s). They are omitted here because that season had just 60 games, did not include an All-Star Game, and had an expanded playoff format.
The “Unluckiest” MLB Teams Since 1995
(* 1995 MLB season limited to 144 games due to players' strike)
Bad Luck, Karma, History Add To Legendary Losers
The 2001 Mariners won an MLB-record 116 games in the regular season and sent eight players to the All-Star Game. Seattle could get no further in the postseason than Game 5 of the ALCS, falling to the New York Yankees 4-1. The Yankees lost that World Series to the Diamondbacks in 7 games.
The only other team to win that many games since 1900 was the 1906 Chicago Cubs. Those Cubbies had four Hall of Famers but lost the World Series to their cross-town rival White Sox. The 2001 Mariners DH Edgar Martinez is in Cooperstown. Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will be enshrined once he is eligible.
The 2019 Astros landing in the No. 2 spot is a measure of baseball karma. The 2017 Astros cheated their way to a World Series title, denying the Dodgers (No. 4 above) a rightful crown. Several players on that team were upended by the Washington Nationals in the 2019 Fall Classic in 7 games.
The 2004 Yankees, who are fifth on our list, were one strike away from sweeping the Red Sox in the ALCS. But they subsequently lost four straight and became the first MLB team ever to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. The Red Sox ended their 86-year World Series drought a week later.
The 1995 Indians were also victims of bad timing. They had the misfortune of meeting up with the Braves in the World Series. Atlanta’s rotation included a trio of Hall of Famers in Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz. The Braves won 15 straight division titles from 1991-2005 (not including the abbreviated 1994 season). But Atlanta won only that one World Series ring during its run of regular-season success.
Nearly half of the teams listed above (21) didn’t get past the Divisional Series. Nine lost the World Series.
No 2003 Cubs; No 2014 Tigers
The 2003 Cubs have served as the definition of “hard luck” baseball since Steve Bartman got in the way of Moisés Alou trying to make a catch in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the NLCS. The Cubs would blow a 3-0 lead in that game and lose Game 7. But the Cubs (97 points) scored lower than any team on our list that finished over .600. They also lost to the eventual World Series champion Marlins.
The emotion of “hard luck” doesn’t always equate with the data.
Nor does it equate with talent.
The 2014 Detroit Tigers won 90 games and the AL Central for the fourth straight season but got broomed by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. This team may have been as cursed as any Cubs squad, given that six starting pitchers on its roster won the World Series with other teams: Max Scherzer, Drew Smyly, Rick Porcello, David Price, Aníbal Sánchez and Justin Verlander. We project Hall of Fame plaques for Miguel Cabrera, Verlander and Scherzer. Still, the 2014 Tigers tally only 97 points here.
1994 Expos Define ‘Hard Luck’
We began this list in 1995 for a significant reason. Any list of hard-luck teams in baseball begins with the 1994 Montreal Expos. When the baseball season stopped due to a strike, the Expos were 74-40 (.649) and held the best record in baseball.
Pedro Martinez and Larry Walker were playing in Montreal at the time during their journeys to Cooperstown. The Expos were scoring 5 runs per game and Martinez had the lowest ERA in the National League. The penny-pinching Expos were poised to eclipse their little brothers in Toronto, who had won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93.
Pennant fever raged throughout Quebec all spring and summer.
When the games stopped, the Expos not only lost an opportunity to win their first World Series, but the franchise also lost all momentum with its fanbase. A fire-sale of players ensued. Fans walked away from baseball across North America. No city was hit harder than Montreal as the Expos finished in last place in 1995. The Expos left Montreal for Washington for the 2005 season, never having reached the playoffs again.