The 2019 Astros Join a List of Great Failures

The list of baseball’s winningest teams is one that any franchise would want to be on, but if we take that list and remove the World Series champions, it becomes something of a bummer. Everyone remembers the 2001 Mariners more for what they didn’t do than what they did. It’s not clear how history will remember the 2019 Astros. It seems likely this club will simply get tossed in with the 2017 team that did win it all, taking some of the sting away from not being able to claim a second championship this season. Though perhaps difficult for Houston and its fans right now, we should remember just how great this team was. There’s a reason the Astros’ World Series odds were so high for so long, and it’s because they put together a roster that, over the course of the regular season and much of the postseason, was a lot better than everyone else.

The table below feels almost obligatory, but here’s a list of the teams to win least 105 games, with how their seasons finished:

Teams with the Most Wins in a Season
Season Team W Result
2001 Mariners 116 Lost ALCS
1906 Cubs 115 Lost World Series
1998 Yankees 114 Won World Series
1954 Indians 111 Lost World Series
1927 Yankees 110 Won World Series
1909 Pirates 110 Won World Series
1969 Orioles 109 Lost World Series
1961 Yankees 109 Won World Series
1970 Orioles 108 Won World Series
1975 Reds 108 Won World Series
1986 Mets 108 Won World Series
2018 Red Sox 108 Won World Series
2019 Astros 107 Lost World Series
1932 Yankees 107 Won World Series
1931 Athletics 107 Lost World Series
1907 Cubs 107 Won World Series
1939 Yankees 106 Won World Series
1998 Braves 106 Lost NLCS
1904 Giants 106 No World Series
2019 Dodgers 106 Lost NLDS
1942 Cardinals 106 Won World Series
1905 Giants 105 Won World Series
1944 Cardinals 105 Won World Series
1943 Cardinals 105 Lost World Series
1953 Dodgers 105 Lost World Series
1912 Red Sox 105 Won World Series
2004 Cardinals 105 Lost World Series

Ahead of the Astros on the list are the 2001 Mariners, the 1906 Cubs, the 1954 Indians, and the 1969 Orioles, with the 1931 A’s also winning 107 games. Looking just at wins can skew things a little because teams haven’t always played 162 games and doesn’t give us a great sense of their underlying talent level. To provide some of that perspective, let’s first take a look at WAR. I went back to 1903 and separated every team’s WAR by pitching and hitting, and put it on this scatter plot:

The Astros are one of just nine teams to hit 60 WAR in a season. Of those teams, only three won the World Series. Here are the teams with the most WAR produced in a season:

Teams with the Most WAR in a Season
Season Team W Pos Player WAR Pitcher WAR Total WAR Result
1927 Yankees 110 49.3 17 66.3 Won World Series
1969 Orioles 109 44.6 20.5 65.1 Lost World Series
1998 Braves 106 37.6 27 64.6 Lost NLCS
2019 Astros 107 40.8 23.7 64.5 Lost World Series
2001 Mariners 116 44.4 18.9 63.3 Lost ALCS
1905 Giants 105 40.3 21.1 61.4 Won World Series
1976 Reds 102 45.9 14.6 60.5 Won World Series
1974 Dodgers 102 37.4 22.9 60.3 Lost World Series
1997 Braves 101 31.8 28.5 60.3 Lost NLCS
1944 Cardinals 105 36.9 22.5 59.4 Won World Series
1939 Yankees 106 44.7 14.6 59.3 Won World Series
1931 Yankees 94 45 14.3 59.3 Lost Pennant
2019 Dodgers 106 34.8 24.1 58.9 Lost NLDS
1998 Yankees 114 36.1 21.2 57.3 Won World Series
1970 Orioles 108 36.9 20.4 57.3 Won World Series
2017 Indians 102 26.7 30.4 57.1 Lost ALDS
1943 Cardinals 105 33.3 23.6 56.9 Lost World Series
1942 Yankees 103 39.4 17.3 56.7 Lost World Series
2002 Yankees 103 28.5 28.2 56.7 Lost ALDS
1971 Orioles 101 39.3 17.3 56.6 Lost World Series

If someone tried to tell you that WAR doesn’t matter since only seven of the top 20 teams won the World Series, keep in mind only 11 of the top 21 teams by wins won the World Series. Also, look at this scatter plot that shows win percentage and WAR by team for every season since 1903:

There’s pretty clearly a strong relationship between a team’s WAR and how many games they win. Because both WAR and wins matter, I wanted to put the two together to give this Astros season greater context. To that end, I created an IQ-like score for win percentage and WAR, where 100 is average and each standard deviation away from the average was worth 15 points:

Best Regular Seasons in MLB History
Season Team W% W% IQ WAR WAR IQ W%/WAR IQ AVG Result
1927 Yankees .714 139.2 66.3 146.2 142.7 Won World Series
2001 Mariners .716 139.5 63.3 142.1 140.8 Lost ALCS
1906 Cubs .762 147.9 54.8 130.5 139.2 Lost World Series
1969 Orioles .673 131.6 65.1 144.5 138.1 Lost World Series
1939 Yankees .702 136.9 59.3 136.6 136.8 Won World Series
1905 Giants .686 134.1 61.4 139.5 136.8 Won World Series
2019 Astros .660 129.4 64.5 143.7 136.5 Lost World Series
1998 Braves .654 128.2 64.6 143.8 136.0 Lost NLCS
1998 Yankees .704 137.3 57.3 133.9 135.6 Won World Series
1944 Cardinals .682 133.3 59.4 136.8 135.0 Won World Series
1909 Pirates .724 140.9 53.2 128.3 134.6 Won World Series
1943 Cardinals .682 133.3 56.9 133.4 133.3 Lost World Series
1904 Giants .697 136.1 54.8 130.5 133.3 No World Series
1954 Indians .721 140.4 50.8 125.1 132.7 Lost World Series
1932 Yankees .695 135.6 53.7 129.0 132.3 Won World Series
1953 Dodgers .682 133.3 55.4 131.3 132.3 Lost World Series
1970 Orioles .667 130.5 57.3 133.9 132.2 Won World Series
2019 Dodgers .654 128.2 58.9 136.1 132.2 Lost NLDS
1931 Athletics .704 137.3 52.0 126.7 132.0 Lost World Series
1942 Yankees .669 130.9 56.7 133.1 132.0 Lost World Series
1942 Cardinals .688 134.4 53.5 128.8 131.6 Won World Series
1976 Reds .630 123.7 60.5 138.3 131.0 Won World Series
1974 Dodgers .630 123.7 60.3 138.0 130.9 Lost World Series
1975 Reds .667 130.5 55.1 130.9 130.7 Won World Series
1997 Braves .623 122.6 60.3 138.0 130.3 Lost NLCS
1910 Athletics .680 132.9 52.5 127.4 130.2 Won World Series
1986 Mets .667 130.5 54.1 129.6 130.0 Won World Series

The Astros aren’t the best team not to win the World Series; that “honor” still goes to the Mariners. And they aren’t the best team to make it to the World Series and lose. Even if you throw out the 1906 Cubs because it was so long ago, the 1969 Orioles probably have the better case. But after those teams, the Astros stand out. Also standing out on this list, the Washington Nationals, who just beat two of the greatest teams of all time on their way to winning the World Series. The Astros had a great season, great enough that they are now on the list no team wants to be on.

We hoped you liked reading The 2019 Astros Join a List of Great Failures by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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shumway
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shumway

Congrats to the Nats for taking down 2 of the top 18 of all time in one go. Even more impressive without the benefit of any injuries sidelining those teams’ elite players. (sans Stanton)

nathanj
Member
nathanj

The Nats were fortunate to miss Yelich in the WC. Also, Stanton was on the Yankees this season, not an NL team.

lemurine
Member
Member
lemurine

Just sour grapes even though of course true that Yelich wasnt there.

johnforthegiants
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johnforthegiants

I think that the implication was the the Astros were helped by Stanton’s injury problems.