Once the champagne has dried and the celebrations move to the players’ homes, one of the annual traditions in any American sport following the end of a championship game is to begin the speculation concerning the favorites to win the next season’s title.
The Los Angeles Dodgers fell in seven games to the Houston Astros in the 2017 Fall Classic, but the sportsbooks have installed the Dodgers as favorites to win the World Series in 2018, listing them as 11/2 odds to win the title next season. Should the Dodgers prove the oddsmakers correct, they would become world champions for the first time in 30 years.
The Astros were installed as the favorites to win the American League in 2018 and were listed as a 7-1 choice to claim the World Series for a second straight year. No team has won consecutive World Series since the New York Yankees completed a run of three straight championships in 2000.
While the Dodgers have a wealth of talent returning from the 2017 team that led the majors in victories, history is not on their side as they head toward the 2018 campaign. Of the past 25 champions, the only one that lifted the trophy the year after losing the World Series was the Kansas City Royals, who fell to the San Francisco Giants in 2014 before beating the New York Mets in 2015.
Before the Royals did that, the most recent example was in 1989, when the Oakland Athletics shook off a loss to the Dodgers in 1988 — Los Angeles’ most recent World Series title — and defeated the Giants the following year.
The history of the Dodgers pulling off such a feat gets even worse when looking at only the National League. The last time that a National League team won back-to-back pennants came in 1992, when the Atlanta Braves won their second straight trip to the World Series. However, the Braves lost in both instances, falling in seven games to the Minnesota Twins in 1991 and losing in six to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992.
To find the last team to win the World Series on the National League side after losing the previous season, you’d have to go all the way back to 1944. With the leagues hampered by World War II and playing with depleted rosters, the St. Louis Cardinals were able to cobble together enough of their roster to make a return to the World Series after losing in five games to the Yankees in 1943. The Cardinals ended up facing the St. Louis Browns in the first and only World Series to ever be played entirely within the city of St. Louis, and won the series in six games to claim their sixth world championship in the process.
Historical trends aren’t much better for the Astros — or anyone else in the American League, for that matter. Although the Cleveland Indians (15/2), the New York Yankees (15/2) and the Boston Red Sox (10/1) all begin 2018 as reasonable choices to claim a World Series title, the leagues have been remarkably balanced in terms of sharing the championship. Since the Yankees’ run in 2000, 14 of the past 17 world champions came from the opposite league of the previous champion, including each of the past six champions.
If past trends are any indications, that would make the Chicago Cubs (15/2) or the Washington Nationals (10/1) among the smartest gambles to take in 2018. The lowest odds for a team that missed the playoffs in 2017 belong to the St. Louis Cardinals, who enter 2018 as a 20-1 choice to win the title.