Team with Best Record Seldom Wins World Series

I wanted to title this post "The Best Team Seldom Wins..." but determining the best team is a much more complicated endeavor. And in any case, we are most interested in the Phillies, and the one thing we know about the Phillies, as laid out by David S. Cohen, is that they have the best record: At the Trade Deadline - Are We Forgetting The Phillies Have the Best Record in Baseball? and More on the Phillies' Best Record in Baseball

Which is great, and I'd much rather have the best record than not, but it's by no means a guarantee of success in the postseason, and as additional rounds have been added to the playoffs, the chance that a lower-winning team will win the World Series has increased substantially.

1903-1968 (Before Divisions)

57% = Team with most wins in regular season wins the World Series (37 of 65)
2.5 = Average difference in wins between the WS Champion (98.0) and the team with most wins (100.5)
1.6 = Average ranking in wins for the WS Champion

1969-1993 (LCS but no LDS)

28% = Team with most wins in regular season wins the World Series (7 of 25)
4.7 = Average difference in wins between the WS Champion (95.7) and the team with most wins (100.4)
2.9 = Average ranking in wins for the WS Champion

1995-2010 (Current format - LDS and LCS)

19% = Team with most wins in regular season wins the World Series (3 of 16)
7.1 = Average difference in wins between the WS Champion (94.9) and the team with most wins (102.0)
4.3 = Average ranking in wins for the WS Champion

1903-68 1969-93 1995-2010
Team with most wins is WS Champion
Yes 37 7 3
No 28 18 13
Yes % 57% 28% 19%
Total 65 25 16
Average wins
WS Champion 98.0 95.7 94.9
Team with most wins 100.5 100.4 102.0
Difference 2.5 4.7 7.1
MLB ranking in wins
WS Champion 1.6 2.9 4.3
Team with most wins 1.0 1.0 1.0
Difference 0.6 1.9 3.3

and graphically:

Bestwins_medium

(see full table for 1969-2010 below)

This doesn't mean a team shouldn't try to improve itself. Only that in the playoffs there are no guarantees that a team will advance no matter how good it was in the regular season.

Does being dominant in the regular season hellp? Yes, it does, but it's still far from a guarantee -- 4 of the 7 teams that won at least 108 games went on to win the a WS Championship:

Most Wins WS Champ No % Champ
108-116 4 3 57%
103-107 2 7 22%
95-102 4 21 16%
(Wins extrapolated to 162 games for the shortened seasons)

Playoffs are a Crapshoot

That phrase SHOULD be a cliche, but unfortunately it's not used nearly enough. You can try to improve your team to improve your chances in the postseason, but in the end you're only moving the needle slightly, and you're doing so at a cost. If you do it by trading good prospects, the cost is that you're reducing the chances that you will reach the playoffs in the future, and you're adding cost by replacing young cost-controlled players with much more expensive veterans, which in turn limits your flexibility in building a future contender.

World Series Champion Most Wins
Year Team Wins Rank Most W's Teams Wins
2010 SFG 92 5 No PHI 97
2009 NYY 103 1 Yes NYY 103
2008 PHI 92 5 No ANA 100
2007 BOS 96 1 Yes BOS, CLE 96
2006 STL 83 13 No NYM, NYY 97
2005 CHW 99 2 No STL 100
2004 BOS 98 3 No STL 105
2003 FLA 91 7 No ATL, NYY 101
2002 ANA 99 4 No OAK, NYY 103
2001 ARI 92 6 No SEA 116
2000 NYY 87 9 No SFG 97
1999 NYY 98 3 No ATL 103
1998 NYY 114 1 Yes NYY 114
1997 FLA 92 4 No ATL 101
1996 NYY 92 3 No CLE 99
1995 ATL 90 2 No CLE 100
1993 TOR 95 4 No ATL 104
1992 TOR 96 2 No ATL 98
1991 MIN 95 2 No PIT 98
1990 CIN 91 4 No OAK 103
1989 OAK 99 1 Yes OAK 99
1988 LAD 94 3 No OAK 104
1987 MIN 85 9 No DET 98
1986 NYM 108 1 Yes NYM 108
1985 KCR 91 6 No STL 101
1984 DET 104 1 Yes DET 104
1983 BAL 98 2 No CHW 99
1982 STL 92 4 No MIL 95
1981 LAD 63 3 No CIN 66
1980 PHI 91 6 No NYY 103
1979 PIT 98 2 No BAL 102
1978 NYY 100 1 Yes NYY 100
1977 NYY 100 3 No KCR 102
1976 CIN 102 1 Yes CIN 102
1975 CIN 108 1 Yes CIN 108
1974 OAK 90 4 No LAD 102
1973 OAK 94 4 No CIN 99
1972 OAK 93 3 No PIT 96
1971 PIT 97 3 No OAK, BAL 101
1970 BAL 108 1 Yes BAL 108
1969 NYM 100 2 No BAL 109
Shortened seasons (G): 1995 (144), 1981 (111), 1972 (156)
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