The Year After The Year After

Over the course of a sometimes trying 2016 season, a lot was made about the Royals postseason efforts the previous two years and how they may have been a bit worn down from all of that. And that certainly makes sense. Two straight seasons with 31 additional games, many of them far more pressure packed than a typical regular season game, will cause some fatigue. Maybe the injuries the team suffered had something to do with all that extra work. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe the Royals were just due for a bit of a fall back to reality and the .500 record they posted.

I guess the good news is that we’ll find out soon whether or not it really was just exhaustion or if this is more of a mediocre team than we, as fans, want to believe. I think it’s fair to say that winning consistently is hard. No team has repeated as world champions since the Yankees in the late ’90s and only three teams have even been to the World Series in consecutive seasons. And yes, you might recall that the Royals are one of those three teams. For what it’s worth, those teams won twice in six trips (thanks a lot, Rangers).

What I wanted to look at was nothing scientific, but to see how the champions fared the year after the year after. So that gives them a year to recover from the physical and mental beating that a deep postseason run takes and get back to a more typical baseball schedule. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Giants won the World Series every other year from 2010 to 2014.

Team WS Year Record Postseason Games Year After Year After Year After
2015 Royals 95-67 16 81-81 ?
2014 Giants 88-74 17 84-78 87-75
2013 Red Sox 97-65 16 71-91 78-84
2012 Giants 94-68 16 76-86 88-74
2011 Cardinals 90-72 18 88-74 97-65
2010 Giants 92-70 15 86-76 94-68
2009 Yankees 103-59 15 95-67 97-65
2008 Phillies 92-70 14 93-69 97-65
2007 Red Sox 96-66 14 95-67 95-67
2006 Cardinals 83-78 16 78-84 86-76
2005 White Sox 99-63 12 90-72 72-90
2004 Red Sox 98-64 14 95-67 86-76
2003 Marlins 91-71 17 83-79 83-79
2002 Angels 99-63 16 77-85 92-70
2001 Diamondbacks 92-70 17 98-64 84-78
2000 Yankees 87-74 16 95-65 103-58
1999 Yankees 98-64 12 87-74 95-65
1998 Yankees 114-48 13 98-64 87-74
1997 Marlins 92-70 16 54-108 64-98
1996 Yankees 92-70 15 96-66 114-48
1995 Braves 90-54 14 96-66 101-61

What does it all mean? In all honesty, it probably doesn’t mean much. Every team is different and has different circumstances. For example, the 1997 Marlins had the biggest drop from their World Series winning year to the next season, but that’s because they had a massive fire sale since that’s the way they do business in South Florida, or at least how they used to do business.

There are some trends, though. Of the 21 World Series winning teams since the Wild Card was implemented, 18 of them saw their winning percentage drop the next season. I use that distinction because the Braves won more games in 1996 than in 1995, but they played more games too because of the stupid strike. But I digress.

Now here’s where it gets tricky. Just five of the other 20 teams were in the same situation as the Royals, losing at least 10 games more than the previous season. That’s sort of rarified air. Most champions stay fairly competitive. And two of those four were kind of exceptions to the rule. One was the Marlins and one was the Yankees, who won 114 games in 1998 but couldn’t possibly match that. They still won 98 games in 1999 but that was significantly worse than their historic season.

But now here’s the meat. 14 of the remaining 20 teams improved on their year after record, including the last seven World Series champions who we have data on for these purposes. Two teams posted an identical record the year after the year after while four teams got worse.

The average team over the 20 previous World Series winners before the Royals added about three wins to their year after total in the year after the year after. That would make the Royals an 84-win team if they followed the averages. The average bump for teams that fell by more than 10 wins from their championship season was about five additional wins, and that includes the 2000 Yankees who were 11 wins worse than the previous season.

Every team is different. Just because the Giants have always won more games the year after the year after their World Series championship doesn’t mean the Royals certainly will, but it’s worth noting that teams with enough talent to win the World Series tend to remain competitive in the near term. Sure there are questions about the 2017 Royals. Some of them will likely be answered with some player acquisitions over the next few weeks and some of them will be answered when they take the field for Cactus League play a few weeks after that.

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