Ranking the 10 World Series championship teams of the 2010s: Curse-busting Cubs, 108-win Red Sox and more
Who was the best of the best from the decade?
When Daniel Hudson struck out Michael Brantley to end the 2019 World Series, it was the end of a decade of Major League Baseball action. It's an arbitrary endpoint, sure, but that's how we do things on occasion in this world. With the decade now complete, I thought it would be fun to look back at the 10 World Series champions (only seven franchises won it all, thanks to the Giants and Red Sox) of the 2010s.
It's amazing how things change, right? Heading into the decade, the Giants had never won a title as the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs hadn't won it all since 1908. The Astros never had. The Yankees hadn't gone a decade without a pennant since the 1910s. The Royals hadn't been to the playoffs since 1985. The Nationals/Expos franchise had only been to the playoffs once (1981) and had never won its division in a full season.
Through that lens, it was a decade of turning things on their head. We've now seen Cubs, Astros and Nationals World Series titles in our lifetime. The San Francisco Giants have three rings. The Royals won two more pennants than the Yankees.
Because we like ranking things, let's rank the 10 champions from the decade that was. Please note that this is subjective and every team that wins the World Series is awesome. If your favorite team is ranked low, who cares? Flags fly forever and the memories you have of said championship will never leave you.
10. 2014 San Francisco Giants
Run Differential: +51
Playoff record: 12-5
Playoff run differential: +19
As noted, all champions are great. This was just the least great one of the decade. They were fifth in the NL in runs scored, sixth in OPS and seventh in ERA. In the NLCS and World Series, the non-Madison Bumgarner starters combined for 28 earned runs in 29 2/3 innings. That's an 8.49 ERA. Bumgarner and lots of timely hitting covered up for a team that wasn't the best in baseball but put it all together at the right time.
9. 2011 St. Louis Cardinals
Run Differential: +70
Playoff record: 11-7
Playoff run differential: +23
After a loss on Aug. 24, the 2011 Cardinals were 67-63. Rumors swirled that they had worked Lance Berkman through waivers and were set to do a small sell off. They went 23-9 the rest of the way then took down the mighty 102-win Phillies on the back of Chris Carpenter's Game 5 shutout. After dispatching the Brewers in the NLCS, the Cardinals won an epic seven-game series over the Rangers with Game 6 being one of the most dramatic World Series games of all-time.
It was a great run, but it was a mediocre team through most of the season, and they needed a Braves collapse to even make the playoffs. Also, what if Ron Washington had put in a defensive replacement for Nelson Cruz in Game 6?
Still, flags fly forever and the Cardinals' fans memories of that run will never cease.
8. 2012 San Francisco Giants
Run Differential: +69
Playoff record: 11-5
Playoff run differential: +22
Again, this team just found ways to win. They only had one player with more than 12 homers, ranked seventh in the NL in OPS and fifth in ERA.
A few things stand out to me about the run from this Giants team. Remember Buster Posey's grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS in Cincinnati? Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan reacted immediately in disgust. It was an iconic moment.
I also remember pretty much everyone (Tigers to steamroll the Giants in the World Series. Barry Zito twirled a gem in Game 1 while Pablo Sandoval joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to homer three times in a World Series game and the rest was history.) picking the
7. 2015 Kansas City Royals
Run Differential: +83
Playoff record: 11-5
Playoff run differential: +24
Carrying over from the surprise 2014 run, things just kept turning to gold for the Royals in 2015. Their defense and baserunning were exceptional and the bullpen was great (though the Greg Holland injury was a tough blow). They ranked sixth in the AL in runs scored, seventh in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging. They were 14th in home runs. Yet they always seemed to come through when they needed it most. Lots of people forget, too, that they were almost done in four ALDS games. Down two games to one in Houston, the Royals trailed the Astros 6-2 heading to the eighth inning. Five straight singles and then an error tied things up. An Alex Gordon groundout would score the go-ahead, unearned run.
They would come from behind in Game 5 and then never face elimination again. A very good champion, to be clear, just not an overwhelmingly dominant one like we've seen several times since then.
6. 2010 San Francisco Giants
Run Differential: +114
Playoff record: 11-4
Playoff run differential: +18
Though we once again have to note the mediocre Giants offense (ninth in the NL in runs, eighth in OPS), the pitching staff was legitimately stellar, making this the strongest Giants championship team of the decade. They led the majors with a 3.36 ERA and 1,331 strikeouts. Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and rookie Madison Bumgarner were capable of pitching like aces on any given night and Jonathan Sanchez was no slouch, either. Prime Brian Wilson anchored the strong bullpen with Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla also in prime form. Let's also keep in mind the midseason additions of Bumgarner and Buster Posey helped give the Giants a shot in the arm. They were better than their full season record said heading to the playoffs. From July 3 until the end of the regular season, the Giants went 52-31 (a full season pace of 102 wins). This was a legitimately great champion, even if the 92 regular-season wins don't scream it.
5. 2019 Washington Nationals
Run Differential: +149
Playoff record: 12-5
Playoff run differential: +17
It's good to pick up here where I left off with the 2010 Giants. The Nationals -- as we've all heard about a million times at this point -- started last season 19-31. From that point until the end of the season, the Nats played like a 107-win team. We can't ignore the first 50 games, so the Nats will have to settle for the fifth spot. Still, this team was much better than its record looks. A trio of aces (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin) headlines the staff while Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto led the offense. The team wasn't overly deep, but they had some excellent clutch moments in the playoffs and Dave Martinez was masterful with his pitching staff. Another great champion, but four were better.
4. 2013 Boston Red Sox
Run Differential: +197
Playoff record: 11-5
Playoff run differential: +28
Worst to first! They had the look of a team of destiny pretty much from the time David Ortiz said "this is our (effing) city!" right? An incredibly well-rounded offense led the AL in runs, doubles, on-base percentage and slugging. Many players grew massive beards for the playoffs and, of course, who could forget Torii Hunter fell over the wall and Boston's favorite officer celebrated.? The Red Sox were in danger of going to Detroit down two games to none when David Ortiz roped a grand slam into the bullpen while
Tie game. They'd walk it off next inning and would never face elimination.
Now, they did face a bit of adversity in the World Series, too. They trailed the Cardinals two games to one and in Game 4 were down 1-0 heading to the fifth. They'd tie it with a sac fly and then Jonny Gomes' three-run homer in the sixth turned things around for good.
An excellent champion, this Red Sox team, but there were a clear cut three elite champions in the decade.
3. 2017 Houston Astros
Run Differential: +196
Playoff record: 11-7
Playoff run differential: +4
After starting 4-4, a switch flipped for the Astros and they would win 38 of their next 50. Come the playoffs, the 104-win Dodgers were all the rage and the Astros flew into the Fall Classic under the radar given their talent. They boasted three MVP-caliber players in Jose Altuve (who won it), George Springer and Carlos Correa along with an up-and-coming Alex Bregman. Dallas Keuchel came into the season as an ace (he won the 2015 Cy Young), but what really put the Astros over the top was the last-minute, Aug. 31 addition of Justin Verlander. He was 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in his five regular season starts and then went 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in 36 2/3 postseason innings. The seven-game World Series was amazing, particularly Game 5, when the Astros took a 13-12 seesaw battle in 10 innings with the Astros getting 11 runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings combined. They hit seven homers in the game after trailing 4-0 in the fourth inning. For fun, let's look at all the homers from that one.
2. 2018 Boston Red Sox
Run Differential: +229
Playoff record: 11-3
Playoff run differential: +33
While the Cubs get a bump for breaking a "curse," we have to ding the Red Sox just a bit here when looking at the regular season record. They were 16-3 against the 47-win Orioles. They were still great and one of the best teams we've seen in years, I'm just saying the win total gets skewed a bit there.
How about this offense, though? Led by MVP Mookie Betts, the Red Sox ranked first in runs, hits, doubles, average, OBP, slugging, OPS, total bases and more. Ace Chris Sale led the rotation that also had past Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello. New manager Alex Cora was outstanding with how he deployed his staff in the playoffs, using starters for extended relief stints at times. The result was an incredibly dominant run through the playoffs when they were barely even challenged. In another decade, they'd possibly grab the top spot. They lose out here due in part to a reason that should feel pretty familiar in Boston.
1. 2016 Chicago Cubs
Run Differential: +252
Playoff record: 11-6
Playoff run differential: +18
There's certainly an argument that the 2018 Red Sox were better and I'm sure some Astros fans like their 2017 club as well, but the Cubs get bonus points for breaking their "curse." That's such a weight on the collective chests of any team that has to hear about it. The Cubs were the punchline of the sport for years and any team that would break through had to be special. Just look at how the 2008 team choked in the NLDS. This time around, the Cubs wouldn't be stopped, no matter the circumstances. They were a combination of dominant and resilient from the get go.
Dominant: They started 25-6.
Resilient: After losing eight of their next 12, they would rip off 10 wins in 11 games.
Resilient: The Cubs lost 15 of 20 before winning their final game of the first half. They would win six of nine out of the break.
Dominant: From July 27-Sept. 5, the Cubs went 29-8.
In the playoffs, they had an amazing comeback in Game 4 to seal the NLDS and were down 2-1 to the Dodgers before ripping off three straight wins, including a dominant clincher in Game 6. They then faced a 3-1 deficit to the Indians, only to come back and win it all. Aroldis Chapman blew the save in Game 7, only to see the Cubs win in extra innings on the strength of Ben Zobrist's clutch knock.
And who could forget Kris Bryant looking like he was smiling as he slipped while making the throw that won the title?
This was your champion of the decade. The Cubs were punchlines no more.
Here's to the 2020s being just as fun.
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