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How championship teams fare the following season

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It is hard to win back-to-back-to-back titles like Tom Emanski.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

To the victor go the spoils, although sometimes the victor gets spoiled. The only championship teams to repeat the next season since 1979 were the 1998-2000 dynasty New York Yankees and the 1992-1993 Toronto Blue Jays. A few more champions over that time went on to at least make the World Series the next season - the 2009 Phillies, the 2001 Yankees, the 1996 Braves, the 1990 Athletics. On average though, World Champions sport just a .538 winning percentage the following season in the Wild Card era, according to Ben Lindbergh at Grantland.

The main culprit for the decline seems to be that it is hard to keep the band together. Championship players are typically in their prime, with many eligible for free agency. Championship players tend to be expensive on the free agent market. Financially, it becomes hard to keep everyone happy.

Simple regression is likely another explanation. Just as a career year can float you to the pinnacle, regression back to career norms can bring you back to .500. Injuries, poor luck, and general malaise can be other factors. Will the Royals fall into this trap or can they buck the trend and make another deep run this fall? Let's take a look at the recent champions and what they did the following season.

2015 San Francisco Giants

84-78 (89-73 pythag)

2014 Championship season: 88-74 (87-75 pythag)

Those pesky Giants with Joe Buck buddy Madison Bumgarner missed the playoffs after besting the Royals in 2015. They lost eight in a row in early April, but won 27 out of their next 36 games after that to pull into first place. They were a streaky team, winning 12 of 13 in July, but also suffering two seven-game losing streaks in July and August, the latter pretty much ending their playoff hopes.

What went wrong: Nothing really. The team was pretty the same in terms of performance, just a bit unluckier in 2015. The bar to make the playoffs was also higher in 2015. The Giants snuck in the playoffs with 89 wins in 2014, but in 2015, it took 97 wins to take a Wild Card spot, and 92 wins to take the division.

2014 Boston Red Sox

71-91 (72-90 pythag)

2013 Championship season: 97-65 (100-62 pythag)

The Red Sox defended their third title in a decade by hovering around .500 until mid-May, when they dropped ten in a row. A record of 10-15 in July convinced management the season was doomed, and they began trading veterans like Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, Jake Peavy, and Andrew Miller.

What went wrong: The team went from veterans to youngsters in 2014, and transition was awkward. The Red Sox lost veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Stephen Drew (although he ended up re-signing in June), and centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to free agency, replacing them with three rookies - Christian Vazquez, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr., none of which hit much. Veteran outfielder Shane Victorino missed all but 30 games due to injury. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks became an atrocious hitter. The Red Sox dropped from the top run-scoring team to the fifth-worst.

2013 San Francisco Giants

76-86 (74-88 pythag)

2012 Championship season: 94-68 (88-74 pythag)

The Giants began their title defense with a good start, and were tied for first place headed into Memorial Day weekend. They would go just 18-37 over the next two months, sinking into last place. The Giants would fall 15 games below .500 before rallying in September to win 76 games.

What went wrong: The starting pitching ERA rose half a run, with Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong all declining terribly. Buster Posey went from the Natioanal League MVP to simply a very good player. Melky Cabrera and his .906 OPS left via free agency for Toronto.

2012 St. Louis Cardinals

88-74 (93-69 pythag)

2011 Championship season: 90-72 (88-74 pythag)

The 2012 Cardinals were still a very good team that came within one win of winning the pennant, falling to the Giants in the National League Championship Game in seven games. They actually held a 3-1 lead in the series, but dropped Game 5 at home 5-0 to Barry Zito. Chris Carpenter was rocked in Game 6 in San Francisco and Kyle Lohse was destroyed in a Game 7 blowout win for San Francisco, 9-0.

What went wrong: The Cardinals were the Wild Card team both years, but in 2012 Major League Baseball implemented the Wild Card game, which caused the Cardinals to have to play an extra game to start, which may have had an impact. The Cardinals got crummy starting pitching in the NLCS in both seasons, but in 2011 the team hit .310/.368/.495 against the Brewers to win the pennant, while in 2012 they hit just .217/.273/.309 against the Giants.

2011 San Francisco Giants

86-76 (80-82 pythag)

2010 Championship season: 92-70 (94-68 pythag)

Hey, these guys keep popping up. The Giants are a bit notorious for their "winning the championship every other year" trend. The Giants were looking like they might be headed back to the World Series, with a 57-41 record in late July and a 4.5 game lead in the West. But they won just 18 of their next 57 games after that, falling to 8.5 games back of a playoff spot. A trade for slugger Carlos Beltran and an eight-game winning streak in September was too little, too late.

What went wrong: The Giants went from a subpar offense, to the worst offense in the National League. Buster Posey missed all but 45 games. Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez, and Aaron Rowand all missed significant portions of the season. First baseman Aubrey Huff, who finished seventh in MVP voting in 2010, saw his career fall off a cliff at age 34.

2010 New York Yankees

95-67 (97-65 pythag)

2009 Championship season: 103-59 (95-67 pythag)

The 2010 Yankees were still a very good team that lost in the American League Championship Series to the Texas Rangers in six games. The Yankees lost  a pivotal Game Four at home when A.J. Burnett surrendered a three-run home run to catcher Bengie Molina, and the Yankees bullpen promptly imploded after that.

What went wrong: Nothing really, they were still a very good team that just pitched poorly in their series with the Rangers. The staff had a 6.58 ERA in the ALCS, and despite having the top offense in the league, the Yankees could not overcome that.


The 2008 Phillies retained much of their core and returned to the World Series the next year, only to lose to the New York Yankees in the World Series.

The 2009 Boston Red Sox won 95 games the year after they won it all, but fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in seven games in the ALCS.

After winning it all in 2006, the 2007 Cardinals lost four members of their starting rotation to free agency, and they suffered their first losing season since 1999, winning just 78 games.

The 2006 White Sox traded for slugger Jim Thome after winning their first championship since 1917. They were still quite good, winning 90 games, but finishing third in a stacked Central Division.

The 2004 Red Sox had a miraculous comeback in the ALCS to win it all, but the 2005 team was very good as well, winning 95 games but getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.