Ranking The List of World Series Champions, From Best to Worst
Over 100 years of history, and we have thoughts on all of it.
What was the best Major League Baseball winning team of all-time? The World Series Champions rankings takes multiple factors into account in order to answer that question.
Through 2018, a total of 114 teams have won the World Series. Some were legitimately excellent, while others left you wondering how they got there. Those teams know who they are, not that they should be ashamed for winning it all. When we measure them to the rest of the competition, however, the numbers may be lacking.
Some of the factors used in our evaluation: win-loss record, Pythagorean win-loss record, team OPS, team ERA, and team wins above average (WAA). This is not an exhaustive list. All the statistics aren’t necessarily a substitute for the eyeball test, but that’s not exactly a thing these days when it comes to the old-timey baseball teams from the Taft Administration. You’ll forgive me if I don’t wax poetic about teams like the 1910 Athletics with titanic baseball figures like Home Run Baker, Topsy Hartsel, and Stuffy McInnis. We did not see them play, nor is it feasible, so all we have are numbers. Statistical analysis is the only constant.
Without further ado, the most comprehensive ranking of World Series champions you will see.
World Series Champions Rankings, #114: 1987 Minnesota Twins
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .525 (.488)
Team WAA (Rank): -0.7 (Worst)
The 1987 Twins were objectively the worst team to ever win the World Series. Most champions are at least decent to good teams; Minnesota was average at best. They were the only World Series champion in history to allow more runs than they scored. At 4.63, they had the third-worst team ERA of any World Series winner. Only the 2006 Cardinals had a worse win percentage, and that’s because they tanked in September. Minnesota had a losing record in the second half in 1987, and won the AL West at just 85-77.
Yet, hey, they can’t take the trophy away.
World Series Champions Rankings, #113: 2006 St. Louis Cardinals
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .516 (.509)
Team WAA (Rank): 2.7 (113th)
Granted, the 2006 Cards were not a bad team most of the way. They were never a great one, but without their September swoon, they might have been about 70th to 80th on this list. Instead, they are second from the bottom. At 82-79, you won’t find a World Series champion with a more unimpressive record. Albert Pujols helped this group mash, saving them from the final spot. They did not have a great season as an overall pitching staff; the bullpen pulled them through from their underwhelming starting pitching. The 2006 Cardinals were painfully average but the hurt ended in October.
World Series Champions Rankings, #112: 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .564 (.526)
Team WAA (Rank): 4.9 (111th)
On paper, the ‘59 Dodgers had some recognizable names, some of whom went to the Hall of Fame. In spite of that, this team underwhelmed in the regular season but still managed to win 88 games. Even at that, their win percentage was 11th-lowest out of the group. The Dodgers had one of the smallest run differentials among the World Series champs. Even with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, their 3.79 staff ERA is on the high end compared to other winners.
World Series Champions Rankings, #111: 2014 San Francisco Giants
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .543 (.537)
Team WAA (Rank): 6.0 (110th)
The 2014 Giants got into the last NL playoff spot and pushed their way through the playoffs, beating the Royals in a Wild Card battle. Though their World Series was fun, the team that emerged wasn’t going to be high on this list. San Francisco’s team OPS was below .700, making them one of the most inferior offensive teams among the champions. Madison Bumgarner and Jake Peavy were personally brilliant, but the pitching staff was also average as a whole.
World Series Champions Rankings, #110: 1985 Kansas City Royals
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .562 (.531)
Team WAA (Rank): 7.9 (T-100th)
The lone championship from this strong era of Royals baseball came in 1985. Don Denkinger may have had something to do with it. This was not a consistent team that blew everybody away; their biggest division lead was three games. They did turn on the jets in the second half to make up for a lackluster start to the season. George Brett was by far the most complete hitter on the team, part of an offense that had the second-lowest average in the American League in 1985. Their pitching got them through.
World Series Champions Rankings, #109: 2000 New York Yankees
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .540 (.528)
Team WAA (Rank): 3.9 (112th)
The 2000 Yankees won the franchise’s fourth World Series in five years, but this was the least thrilling team of the dynasty. Offensively, this team was more than fine. Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada got the job done, and David Justice was a big addition. Their top three rotation of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and El Duque pitched well. Where they got hung up was with a bad September, and that they gave up over 800 runs. Still, when October came, this team knew what to do.
World Series Champions Rankings, #108: 2011 St. Louis Cardinals
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .556 (.543)
Team WAA (Rank): 6.5 (109th)
You’ll realize soon, if you don’t already, that baseball had a stretch of about three years where the eventual champion wasn’t that great. The 2011 Cardinals staged an epic World Series comeback that David Freese and the fans will remember forever. Was this a terrific team, however? Not compared to dozens of other champions. This team was only 53-47 at the 100-game mark and did not win the NL Central. St. Louis’s starting pitching this year was just okay.
World Series Champions Rankings, #107: 2003 Florida Marlins
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .562 (.537)
Team WAA (Rank): 9.0 (T-94th)
Another Wild Card special in the Fall Classic. Three men helped win it all for them: Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano, and AJ Burnett. One of those three went on to hurt the Yankees again from another team, and the other two damaged the Yankees from within. This was a grinding, steal-a-base kind of team. Offensively, Florida did not do much, but thanks to the above pitchers plus Dontrelle Willis, the Marlins were champions. All they had to do was fire the manager mid-season to sneak into the field.
World Series Champions Rankings, #106: 2012 San Francisco Giants
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .580 (.543)
Team WAA (Rank): 7.9 (T-100th)
Unlike the 2014 Giants, the 2012 Giants at least won 94 games and their division. What wasn’t to like is that their offense lacked power, and you’d think their pitching was better than it actually was. The Giants were fifth in the NL in ERA that year, but third in batting average in sixth in runs. Here’s another team that needed to have a big second half to get to the playoffs. The teams that are high up this list crushed their leagues across the board; the 2012 Giants won, but weren’t bruisers.
World Series Champions Rankings, #105: 1964 St. Louis Cardinals
Win Percentage (Pythagorean): .574 (.543)
Team WAA (Rank): 9.0 (T-94th)
The ‘64 Cardinals actually bear some resemblance to the 2012 Giants. Both teams had slow starts and strong late-season pushes. It was a different era of baseball, and power hitting wasn’t what it is now. In that time, a .716 team OPS was good for the National League, as was their 3.43 team ERA, but neither are anywhere near the top of the champions’ list. St. Louis had neither the best pitching staff or offense in the NL that year, despite some Hall of Famers in their ranks.