Beginning with the playoffs this past season, there has been a lot of talk about the World Series and MLB teams that might come out and failed to win it all.
The best team last season in that of the Atlanta Braves couldn’t even make it out of the NLDS. Then, the Los Angeles Dodgers went out and spent over a billion dollars to improve their roster and fans are thinking that nobody else has a chance to win the World Series for the next 10 years.
Here’s the thing: Sometimes the best team doesn’t always win in baseball. In fact, there have been two 116-win teams that didn’t win the whole thing.
Today, let’s take a look at five of the best MLB teams during the regular season that ultimately failed to win the World Series. Maybe it will give the fans of teams that aren’t the Dodgers hope for 2024 and beyond.
Best MLB teams to not win the World Series
2022 Los Angeles Dodgers
Hey, look! It’s the Dodgers! Sometimes we forget just how good the Dodgers have been recently. The reason this season makes the list is because they won 111 games and outscored their opponents by 334 runs. In fact, their Pythagorean record (how many games they should have won) was even better at 116-46. That’s a .715 winning percentage, and the highest Pythag record in Dodgers’ history.
The .685 winning percentage they finished with ranks second behind the 2020 squad that went 43-17 (.717) in the shortened season. That team also ended up winning the whole thing.
Since the 2022 season is barely in the rearview, you’ll likely remember a number of the players from that team. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman led the way with 6.4 and 5.9 bWAR seasons, and Trea Turner put up 4.9 bWAR and a 124 OPS+.
This was also Turner’s last season with the Dodgers before signing on with the Philadelphia Phillies, and following the ’22 campaign, L.A. non-tendered former MVP Cody Bellinger. Julio Urías had his best season in the big leagues, posting a 2.16 ERA en route to a third place finish in the NL CY Young and 14th place finish in the NL MVP.
The Dodgers ultimately lost in the NLDS to the San Diego Padres, who went on to lose in the NLCS to the Phillies. Los Angeles took the first game behind Urías, 5-3, then went on to lose the next three. The bullpen took all three losses and Betts went just 2-for-14 (.143) while Freeman went 5-for-14 (.357). The Padres had finished 22 games behind the Dodgers, but they came through when it mattered most.
2001 Seattle Mariners (among best MLB teams of modern era)
The ’01 Seattle Mariners still hold the American League record for most wins in a single regular season, which is why their playoff performance may hurt the most. Well, that and the fact that they didn’t even reach the World Series.
This Mariners team went 116-46 (Pythagorean record of 109-53), good for a .716 winning percentage. They outscored their opponents by 300 runs. The next-best team in M’s history was the ’03 squad that went 93-69 (.574), but they finished three games back of the A’s in the AL West that year, and two back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card.
The ’01 Mariners won the division by 14 games with Oakland holding the second-best record in the AL having to settle for a wild-card spot. Seattle lost two games in the ALDS to Cleveland, who threw out Bartolo Colón and CC Sabathia, but Jamie Moyer (then just 38) held Cleveland to two runs across 12 innings in two starts and earned wins in games two and five.
The Mariners would run into the Yankees buzzsaw of that time (a common theme on this list), winners of three straight World Series and four of the last five, and Seattle dropped the ALCS four games to one. Yes, Jamie Moyer secured the Mariners’ lone win in the series.
What’s most impressive about this Mariners team is that Ken Griffey Jr., the best player in franchise history, had been traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. Álex Rodríguez had signed with the Rangers before the ’01 season. Randy Johnson had been traded in 1998. Hall of Famer Edgar Martínez was still around and was the team’s best hitter that year, while Bret Boone put together his best offensive season, too.
Oh, and 2001 was also the year that the third-best player in franchise history, Ichiro Suzuki, debuted. He hit .350 and collected a league-leading 242 hits.
What has to sting the most in the aftermath of this remarkable season is that Mariners fans had to wait 21 years to make it back to the postseason, finally playing meaningful games in October in 2022.
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1954 Cleveland Indians
The last time that Cleveland won the World Series was back in 1948, giving them the longest World Series drought in baseball. They’ve made four since that win, and lost them all. The team’s first chance at a championship after 1948 came in ’54 when Cleveland fielded their best team in franchise history. They finished with a 111-43 record in 154 games (.721) and were eight games clear of the New York Yankees in the American League.
The Yankees at this time were just collecting trophies. They won in 1947, then Cleveland got their title in ’48, and New York went on to win every World Series from 1949-1953, giving them six in seven years. From 1936 to 1962 the Yankees won 16 titles in 26 years. The ’54 Cleveland team had to think that the hard part was done in escaping the Bombers.
Yet, the National League squads also weren’t winning many titles in this span, and the New York Giants wanted to make the most of their own opportunity. This World Series is remembered mostly for “The Catch” by Willie Mays in Game 1. The Giants swept Cleveland in four games, outscoring them 21-9, with Hall of Famer Bob Lemon taking two losses in the series and Early Wynn, another Hall of Famer, taking another.
Cleveland’s best player that season, Bobby Ávila, went just 2-for-15 (.133) with a pair of walks after he won the batting title in the regular season. Hall of Famer Larry Doby led all of baseball in home runs (32) and rbi (126) during the regular season, but was also held to two hits. Those four Cleveland players would take up four of the six top spots in the AL MVP voting, but it would be Yogi Berra that won the award.
Fun fact: Dick Tomanek, who tossed just 1 2/3 innings that season and shares a birthday with Wynn, was part of the trade that sent Roger Maris to the Kansas City A’s in June of 1958. The A’s would then trade Maris to the Yankees where he went on to win two consecutive AL MVP awards and set the home run record with 61 homers in 1961. He also helped the Yankees win Series titles in ’61 and ’62.
1942 New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have 27 World Series titles in their franchise’s history, and if you sort their Baseball Reference team page by winning percentage, almost all of their best teams have ended up winning the Series at the end of the season. One exception is the ’54 team that we just talked about that finished eight games back of Cleveland.
The other was arguably better.
The 1942 squad finished with the same 103-51 record as the ’54 team, but their Pythagorean record was 107-47 (.698) with the team outscoring opponents by 294 runs. By Pythagorean record, this Yankee team is the third-best in franchise history–and they didn’t win the World Series.
This team won the American League by nine games over the Boston Red Sox and boasted five future Hall of Famers, including a 27-year-old Joe DiMaggio and the AL MVP that season, Joe Gordon. While not a Hall of Famer, it was also Tiny Bonham’s best season.
The right-hander went 21-5 with 22 complete games, six shutouts, and held a 2.27 ERA in the regular season. One of the underrated players from Yankee history, Tommy Henrich was also on this club and went by the nicknames “The Clutch” and “Old Reliable.”Henrich ended up winning six World Series titles with New York.
They met the St. Louis Cardinals for the title in 1942, and New York won the first game 7-4 behind Red Ruffing. The Cardinals went on to win the next four and secure their fifth title in franchise history.
It’s not often that a juggernaut Yankees team gets taken down, and that’s why this team makes the list.
1906 Chicago Cubs (Best MLB regular season team ever)
The Cubs could have been the first team to three-peat in Baseball history, but it was the World Series loss in 1906 that prevented that from happening. The team went on to win in 1907 and 1908, losing just one game combined, but it was the 1906 club that boasted the most talent.
That may be why their 116 wins in a 154 game season still cements them as the best regular season team of all time, after they finished with a 116-36-3 record, good for a .763 winning percentage.
The ’06 Cubs boasted four future Hall of Famers, including right-hander Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, who posted a MLB-best 1.04 ERA and 253 ERA+. Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, and Johnny Evers were the other three.
The Cubs had no problem taking the National League that season, besting the second-place New York Giants by 20 games. Their opponents in the World Series, the cross-town White Sox, finished with a 93-58 record and took the American League by just three games over the New York Highlanders, who switched their name to the Yankees in 1913.
Brown started games one, four, and six. He took a tough loss in Game 1, tossing a complete game but allowing two runs (one earned) in the Cubs 2-1 loss. He was nearly un-hittable in Game 4, tossing another complete game, this time a shutout, while allowing just two hits and two walks in the Cubs 1-0 win.
With the season on the line and the Cubs down three games to two, they turned to him again. In what had to be the biggest surprise of the season, the right-hander gave up seven earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings, and the Cubs dropped the final game of the World Series 8-3.
Chicago’s World Series win in 1908 would be their last until the curse was broken in 2016, when the Cubs defeated the still-cursed Cleveland club four games to three.