MLB roundtable: Picking the best team that didn’t win a World Series in the 2010s

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is on indefinite hiatus because of the threat that is the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Spring training was shut down last month and Opening Day has been pushed back to at least mid-May, and it could be pushed back even further as the situation develops. When will baseball return? No one knows.

Between now and Opening Day, my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed Mike Trout’s reign as the game’s best player. Now let’s get to this week’s discussion.

What was the best team of the 2010s to not win the World Series?  


Several Dodgers teams could fit this question.

Katherine Acquavella: I’ll say the 2013 Detroit Tigers. But, I could easily write the same blurb for really any Detroit Tigers team from 2012-2014. The 2013 team had MVP-level Miguel Cabrera leading the lineup to go along with an impressive rotation, with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer atop. Detroit fell in the ALCS, at the hands of the eventual champion Boston Red Sox. The shaky bullpen and a late-season injury to Cabrera certainly didn’t help their chances at a title, but it is still crazy to look back and be reminded that the group never won a single title together. The crazier part of this might be that once the roster got broken up, a majority of the 2013 Tigers rotation finally won a title: Verlander with the Astros in 2017, and Anibal Sanchez and Scherzer for the Washington Nationals last year.

R.J. Anderson: I’m going with the 2019 Dodgers. Did you know that they had the second-best run differential of the decade? What about that they had the best Base Runs winning percentage? If you just look at that roster, it’s a sight to behold. Yet the Dodgers didn’t win the World Series, or so much as a playoff series, even. It’s hard to call a 106-win season a disappointment, but this is about as close as it can get, right?

Mike Axisa: I’m comfortable dinging the 2018-19 Astros for the sign-stealing scandal, and as good as the Dodgers were from 2017-19, they were always a bullpen arm(s) short come postseason time. It was an obvious weakness. I’m going with the 2017 Indians. They won eight more games than the 2016 team that went to the World Series and had a substantially better run differential (plus-254 to plus-101). The 2017 Indians had peak Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in the rotation, plus Trevor Bauer in the middle of the best stretch of his career (2.42 ERA the final two months). Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez had MVP-caliber seasons and Edwin Encarnacion was still a middle-of-the-lineup masher. Also, the three-headed bullpen monster (Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw) was as good as ever. That team went 42-8 (!) in its final 50 regular season games — that includes their record 22-game winning streak — yet was unable to close out the ALDS after taking a 2-0 series lead.

Dayn Perry: Laying aside the possibility that their sign-stealing carried over into 2019, the 2019 Astros get my nod. They won 107 games, and according to their quality of contact and quality of contact allowed they played like a 109-win team. To be sure, the great teams of 2019 benefited from playing soft schedules thanks to widespread tanking, but the Astros still played like a 90-win team in their games against other above-.500 squads. In related matters, the Astros in 2019 slashed a ridiculous .274/.352/.495 as a team. Bonus points for coming within a handful of outs of winning the World Series.

Matt Snyder: Let’s give a quick nod to the 2011 Phillies. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels pitched like aces and that should’ve been enough for a deep playoff run. Alas, the Cardinals were that year’s postseason buzz saw. I’m going with the 2017 Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen were still at their peaks — which wasn’t the case last year — and I can’t shake how good the team was at its overall peak. They started 10-12 and then flipped a switch to get to 91-36. At that point, they were on pace to tie the Mariners’ regular season record of 116 wins. They then lost 16 of 17, which I’ll write off to lack of motivation since they were always going to have the best record in the NL. They still won 104 games and steamrolled the D-Backs and defending champion Cubs before losing out to the 2017 Astros in a series that really could’ve gone either way. 

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