Coming close to a championship helps shape World Series futures for the following autumn, but it is not necessarily a predictor of success.
One week after the Washington Nationals raised the Commissioner’s Trophy, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees have opened as +600 co-favorites on the 2020 World Series odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Los Angeles Dodgers (+800), Atlanta Braves (+1200), Boston Red Sox (+1200), Cleveland Indians (+1500), the aforementioned Nationals (+1500), Philadelphia Phillies (+2000) and St. Louis Cardinals (+2200) are also high on the board at online betting sites.
Most casual fans are probably aware that no team has gone back-to-back since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three championships in a row. Something that might be lesser known is that recent World Series champions have not necessarily come off gangbuster seasons. The last eight champions averaged 84.5 wins in the season prior. Only the 2016 Chicago Cubs were coming off a season with 95-plus wins, while the 2018 Boston Red Sox are the only one who came into the season defending a division title.
With that said, the Astros have at least reached the ALCS round in three consecutive seasons and will, give or take Gerrit Cole, retain a nucleus that includes pitchers Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke and a high-scoring lineup. The Yankees may elicit wariness after a lack of high-end starting pitching was exposed in the playoffs, but that could change through both free agency and a healthy season.
The dynamic of the board is interesting. Not only are the Nationals a veteran team whose two best players, third baseman Anthony Rendon and righthanded pitcher Stephen Strasburg, are approaching free agency, but fellow National League stalwarts such as the Cubs and Dodgers might also be past the apex of their championship window. The Cubs will also be operating under a rookie manager in David Ross.
The Braves and Red Sox both have everyday lineups full of players in their prime years, but neither team’s pitching staff rated near the top of their respective leagues last season. Atlanta’s lack of recent playoff success might make them a team to fade, while it is worth noting the Red Sox have seldom stayed down for long in recent years.