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    Friday, November 17, 2017

    2017 World Series Wrap-Up & Trivia: Best Active Players Without a World Series, 2017 Edition

    It took a little while to finish, but another yearly tradition is done: once again, Can You Name the Best Active Players Without a World Series? This is fully updated through 2017, including a few players who hung it up for next year. Click over to Sporcle to try this out, then come back and click “read more” for some spoiler-filled extra thoughts.

    First, the Houston Astros’ title win clearly shook up a lot. First of all, it ended a couple of pretty major droughts. Houston had one of the longest active championship droughts across Big 4 sports, with the Astros serving as the team’s first champions since the 1994-5 Rockets finished off their repeat, although measuring degrees of “worst” involved for city-droughts can be messy.*

    *How do you compare, say, two-team city that hasn’t won in 30 years versus a three-team city that hasn’t won in 20? How do you account for teams moving, or cases like Milwaukee, which technically hasn’t won a title since 1971 but who semi-shares a market with much more recent champions the Green Bay Packers? In any case, the only cities with as many teams and less recent titles than Houston were the Twin Cities (1991 Twins), Washington (1992 Redskins), and Toronto (1993 Blue Jays).
    It also, of course, ended one of the longest remaining droughts in Major League Baseball. With no titles in 55 years, the Astros had taken over third place in the active drought list, behind just Cleveland (now 69 years) and Texas (57). That 55 year mark will stand tied for the ninth longest in baseball history, with the Giants’ recently ended drought.

    Speaking of, looking back at the last 13 years, it’s a little crazy to think about how many historically-cursed teams have turned things around. Going into the 2004 postseason, the “Longest World Series Droughts” leaderboard looked like this:

    Cubs, 1908
    White Sox, 1917
    Red Sox, 1918
    Indians, 1948
    Giants, 1954
    Rangers, 1961 (never)
    Astros, 1962 (never)

    Now, over half of those teams have ended their droughts, not to mention other teams like the Royals (who had a 30-year drought that included one of the worst 20-year stretches ever) and the Phillies (who in 2008 won Philadelphia’s first title across all four sports since 1980, the last time they won it all). Now, the leaderboard looks thusly:

    Indians, 1948
    Rangers, 1961 (never)
    Brewers, 1969 (never)
    Padres, 1969 (never)
    Nationals, 1969 (never)
    Mariners, 1977 (never)
    Pirates, 1979

    Of course, while ending team droughts is nice, it’s also nice to see some players end their personal bad luck streaks. Most notably: Carlos Beltran, the long-time postseason hero who finally earned his first ring. With 69.8 career WAR, he would have placed second on the active list behind just Adrian Beltre. Instead, he got the perfect thing to cap off a Hall of Fame career; with his recently-announced retirement, we can only hope to see him at Cooperstown come 2023.

    But just behind him is Justin Verlander (56.6), one of the best pitchers of his generation and someone who should also generate Hall of Fame discussion. Few midseason pickups have been as important to a title run as the ALCS MVP, and now, in his sixth postseason and third World Series, he can finally check winning it all off of his list.

    The lower end of Baseball-Reference’s Top 100 Active WAR Leaders is also littered with Astros, though. Brian McCann, over thirteen steady seasons of production, sits in 59th place with 30.2 Wins. In contrast, newly-anointed MVP Jose Altuve has rocketed up to just behind him (29.6, 62nd place). And with his strong finish, Josh Reddick just narrowly climbed to 100th place, his 4.4 Wins on the year (the nine-year veteran’s second-best total ever) giving him 22.9 overall.

    And this isn’t counting all of the young stars on the roster who were spared ever appearing. I don’t know if anyone looks at the list as closely as I do while assembling this list, but it’s worth a skim, just to get a skim of the variety of different players and careers who haven’t won a World Series yet, or to reminisce about the ones who have. Carlos Correa, World Series MVP George Springer, and Dallas Keuchel will almost certainly move into the top 100 in the next two or three seasons, sitting at 16.3, 15.7, and 16.4 Wins Above Replacement right now. Even younger stars like Alex Bregman and Lance McCuellers are similarly set, assuming their careers take off with even some of the promise they’ve shown. Even solid bit players, like Marwin Gonzalez or Jake Marisnick, may make it some day if they hang around long enough (and if you doubt, just look at some of the names on the bottom half of the list).

    Overall, 71 players from the top 100 active players have never won a World Series. Even for the best of the best, this is an impressive feat. Congratulation to the Astros, and thanks to them for such an amazing postseason.

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