This year’s World Series will feature the team with the most regular season wins (Houston-106) against the team that barely made the playoffs as the 6th and final seed in the National League bracket (Philadelphia) with 87 wins.
The Astros’ 106 wins and Phillies’ victories 87 is the second largest difference in regular season wins (19) for World Series opponents. The largest was in 1906 when the two teams from Chicago faced off in a Windy City World Series. The 116-win Cubs took on the 93-win White Sox for that ’06 title (more on that series in a minute).
Looking at the World Series history since 1901, there has been a total of 32 World Series where the regular season win discrepancy between the two opponents was 10 victories or more (this year’s matchup will be the 33rd with a 10-win difference).
The last time this happened was in 2019 when the 107-win Houston Astros faced the 93-win Washington Nationals. What makes that series even more interesting is that the 93-win Nationals won that series. It was the third time in baseball history that a team with 14 or more fewer regular season wins than its World Series foe won the World Series; it happened in 1954 when the 97-win New York Giants defeated the 111-win Cleveland Indians, and in the 1906 series when the 93-White Sox surprised the 116-win Cubs.
Of the 32 times in World Series history when the win-difference was 10 or more victories for the Fall Classic opponents, the team with the fewer regular season wins won the World Series that year 12 times (37.5% of the World Series). Since 2000, it has happened three times: in 2019 with the Nationals over the Astros, in 2006 when the 83-win Cardinals beat the 95-win Tigers, and in 2003 when the 91-win Marlins beat the 101-win Yankees.
Up until 1969, there was only the American League and National League. There were no divisions, so only the two teams that won the A.L. and N.L. faced off in the World Series. In the 15 World Series from 1901 to 1968, there were 15 times when one World Series team won 10 or more regular season games than their opponent. The team with 10 or more fewer wins won the World Series only three of those 15 times (20%).
From 1969 to 2021, more teams qualified for the post-season with additional divisions within each league and Wild Card opportunities. During that time (1969-2021) there were 17 times when the World Series featured a team that had 10 or fewer regular season wins than their World Series opponent. Of those 17 times, the team with 10+ fewer wins won the title nine times (53%).
What will happen this year when the second-largest win difference for World Series opponents is played out with the Astros and Phillies? The Astros enter the series undefeated in this year’s postseason, while it appears the Phils are playing with house money as they have beaten three National League teams that were seeded higher than them when the playoffs started.
If history has anything to say about this seemingly “mismatched” series, you never know what can happen. The Astros have already been on the wrong side of a mismatch World Series, and it happened just three years ago. If the Phillies need any more history on their side, all they must do is look at what happened in the 1906 World Series and the trend that has developed going back to 1969.
It should make for an interesting end to the 2022 baseball season.