The 2021 Dodgers Need to Learn from the 2006 White Sox

Dodgers: Reviewing the Last 27 MLB Champions in Search of “World Series Hangovers”

Studies show that championship teams rarely are hit by any hangover after winning the World Series

The concept of a World Champion Hangover has hit the city of Los Angeles hard in 2021, affecting not just the Dodgers, but also the Lakers in the NBA. Looking back through MLB history, this isn’t a common occurrence, but there are teams to look at in comparing the modern-day Dodgers.

Late, great Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda famously said, “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.

A third of a full 162-game season is 54 games, and if that’s all a team were to lose in a season, they’d win 108.

Last season’s Dodgers not only reached the pinnacle of the baseball world by winning the World Series; they had some all-time comparisons to some of the greatest teams ever.

The problem with it was that only 60 games were played, and with that sample size, Tommy’s theory was debunked because the team went 43-17, losing three fewer games than the 20 games that signified a third of the season.

Did that mean the team would have slumped playing a full 162-game season? It won 71.6 percent of its regular season games, and then went 13-5 in the playoffs, bringing their overall season total to 56-22, a 71.7 win percentage.

Were Kike Hernandez and Joc Pederson that valuable in pumping the team up, or is the catastrophic collapse early on in the 2021 season simply another victim of a World Series hangover?

2021 Dodgers A Much Different Case Than the 2020 Nationals

If comparisons were at an all-time high following the 2020 season, they soared through the roof like a penny stock breaking out to the moon in 2021.

The team added piece after piece, padding its depth to unforeseen levels. It signed the reigning NL Cy Young winner, Trevor Bauer and sent returning veteran David Price into the bullpen to allow for rising star Dustin May to join the rotation.

Then injury after injury has plowed the team asunder.

In 2019 the Washington Nationals were one of baseball’s greatest feel-good stories, starting 19-31 before developing a “Go 1-0 everyday” mentality and finishing the season 74-38 the rest of the way. They willed themselves past the Dodgers in five games in the NLDS, swept the Cardinals in the NLCS and won every road game, including Game 7 against the Astros to win the World Series.

This in a season after the squad watched Bryce Harper sign with the Phillies, their former face of the franchise.

In 2020 though, the magic ran out.

A big story broke throughout the 2020 season about injuries to pitchers being MLB’s underlying problem after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mileage on a pitcher’s arm weighs down on that player much more than a hitter recovering from fatigue. In fact, Astros manager Dusty Baker, who is has a history of demanding a lot from his pitchers, told the Houston Chronicle that, “a lot of the hitters are ready, probably, in about three weeks or so. The pitchers need that extra time. They need that five or six weeks of spring training. This has been abbreviated, and you see it. It’s all around baseball. It’s everywhere.”

That’s concerning not just to the Dodgers in 2021, but to all of baseball going forward.

Among the injuries to the Nationals in 2020: World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and former closer Sean Doolittle.

Perhaps the biggest loss though was watching star third baseman Anthony Rendon sign with the Angels in free agency. His replacement was Starlin Castro.

Hardly a case of a team experiencing a World Series hangover, but instead a team simply getting worse. Their result, expected.

The concept of the next man up didn’t resonate with Washington. Joe Ross opted out for the season because of COVID-19, and it accelerated Erick Fedde’s path to the big leagues and put him in a spotlight of starting every fifth day.

Dustin May went down for the Dodgers, and the conversation has begun that when he returns, Tony Gonsolin will be groomed to take that fifth spot in the rotation.

The Dodgers’ bullpen has been in shambles after losing Corey Knebel, David Price, Scott Alexander and Brusdar Graterol. It has forced guys like Garrett Cleavinger, Alex Vesia, Mitch White and especially Dennis Santana to step their game up and be those next guys up.

Joe Kelly did return Friday night, and gave up four runs on five hits in 0.2 innings no 28 pitches.

Might he have been rushed back? Could that be a slight sign of a team in panic to stop an ugly skid?

Then you have the hitters. The Nationals lost Rendon, who came off a season where he hit .319/.412/.598 with 34 HRs and 126 RBIs.

The Dodgers lost Pederson (.190/.285/.397 with 7 HRs and 16 RBIs) and Hernandez (.230/.270/.410 with 5 HR and 20 RBIs), or 12 HRs and 36 RBIs of production.

They returned a starting lineup that didn’t lose a piece of it, and added its stellar Rookie of the Year candidate, Gavin Lux, and impending free agent and also World Series MVP, Corey Seager.

Seager in 2020: .307/.358/.585 with 15 HRs and 41 RBIs in 52 games.
Seager in 2021: .244/.350/.423 with 4 HRs and 18 RBIs in 31 games.

Fatigue? Is Seager injured? Something is going on here.

The Last 27 Champions Reviewed Against Their Season of Defense

Let’s have a look at how the last 25 champions fared the season after they won it all.

2019 Washington Nationals: 93-69 (.574)
2020: 26-34 (.433)

2018 Boston Red Sox: 108-54 (.667)
2019: 84-78 (.518)

*

2016 Chicago Cubs: 103-58 (.635)
2017: 92-70 (.567)
Note: Started 2017 40-40 before finishing 2017 52-30 (.634).

2015 Kansas City Royals: 95-67 (.586)
2016: 81-81 (.500)
Noted: Started 2017 29-22 (.568) before crashing hard and finishing 52-59 (.468) the rest of the way, including a July where they went 7-19 with a run differential of -47.

2014 San Francisco Giants: 88-74 (.543)
2015: 84-78 (.525)

2013 Boston Red Sox: 97-65 (.598)
2014: 71-91 (.438)

2012 San Francisco Giants: 94-68 (.580)
2013: 76-86 (.469)
Note: Began season 29-25, but fell hard from June through August, going 31-50 (.382) with a -85 run differential.

2011 St. Louis Cardinals: 90-72 (.555)
2012: 88-74 (.543)
Note: They saw a rough patch in May and June where they went 26-30 (.464), but got stronger as the season went along. They would take the Giants to seven games in the NLCS and fall.

2010 San Francisco Giants: 92-70 (.567)
2011: 86-76 (.530)

2009 New York Yankees: 103-59 (.635)
2010: 95-67 (.586)
Note: This team was firing on all cylinders, going 82-50 through August (.621), and was on another 100-win pace before things fell apart. In September they would go 12-15 with a -5 run differential, before losing in the ALCS to the Rangers in six games.

2008 Philadelphia Phillies: 92-70 (.567)
2009: 93-69 (.574)
Note: This is the last case of a team improving upon its season prior. It had one bad month in June where it went 11-15, but still had an even run differential. It made it back to the Fall Classic before losing to the Yankees in six games. Dodger fans remember how good this Phillies team was.

2007 Boston Red Sox: 96-66 (.592)
2008: 95-67 (.586)
Note: One subpar month in July saw an 11-13 record, but a run differential of +10. They would lose to a hot Tampa Bay Rays in seven games in the ALCS.

2006 St. Louis Cardinals: 83-78 (.512)
2007: 78-84
Note: This team’s ugly start in 2007 saw them with a run differential of -58 through May. Their record didn’t show how bad they were though at 22-29. It could have been a lot worse. The bats were streaky and pulled this team to a World Series despite its record in 2006, but there was no chance for an encore.

2005 Chicago White Sox: 99-63 (.611)
2006: 90-72 (.555)
Note: A strong 52-27 (.658) start had fans in the south side of Chicago thinking repeat. With 90 wins they didn’t even make the playoffs. That’s because they would go 38-45 (.457) the rest of the way. Proof that no team should ever take their foot off the accelerator. With 90 wins in 2006 they would finish in third place in the AL Central.

2004 Boston Red Sox: 98-64 (.604)
2005: 95-67 (.586)
Note: The year prior to the White Sox not making the playoffs with 90 wins, the Red Sox missed out while winning 95. This was just not a balanced team. It would get hot and then play just OK, but not good enough to see the postseason in 2005.

2003 Florida Marlins: 91-71 (.561)
2004: 83-79 (.512)

2002 Anaheim Angels: 99-63 (.611)
2003: 77-85
Note: Do you believe in magic? The Angels just never got it going in 2003, playing near .500 ball all the way through June before tanking in July and falling off.

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks: 92-70 (.567)
2002: 98-64
Note: The second team on our list really crashed hard. They were 84-51 (.622) through August, and then fell off in September and got swept in three games by the Cardinals in NLDS.

1998 New York Yankees: 114-48 (.703)
1999: 98-64 (.604) *Champions
2000: 87-74 (.537) *Champions
2001: 95-65 (.586)
2002: 103-58 (.635)
Note: This team was special and the epitome of a dynasty, and it started with a 114-win season in ’98 that was very ’20 Dodger-like. It had some hiccups in 2000 though, going 10-15 in June and 13-18 in September, the latter of which its run differential was -51. But they figured it out and finished their three-peat. What World Series hangover?

1997 Florida Marlins: 92-70 (.567)
1998: 54-108 (.333)
Note: The first of the famous Marlins fire sales saw the champions diminish into dust. They started the season 17-38 (.309) and a run differential of -82. The bleeding never stopped. Bad management was the cause of this one.

1996 New York Yankees: 92-70 (.567)
1997: 96-66 (.592)

1995 Atlanta Braves: 90-54 (.555)
1996: 96-66 (.592)
Note: A slow 12-15 month of September didn’t stop this team from willing its way back to the World Series in 1996. It just ran into the makings of a Yankees juggernaut.

1992 Toronto Blue Jays: 96-66 (.592)
1993: 95-67 (.586) *Champions
1994: 55-60 (.478) *Strike-shortened Season
Note: The ’94 Blue Jays started 6-1 before dropping four straight and then winning six straight and then losing 4 of 5. It was a team of streaks. It hit May and went 18-34 (.346) through the end of June. It caught fire in July, going 17-10 (.629), but went 6-6 in August before the season was called. They weren’t catching the Yankees, and stood 11 games behind the Indians. They could have caught fire, but we never will know if it would have mattered.

1991 Minnesota Twins: 95-67 (.586)
1992: 90-72 (.555)
Note: A 9-12 start was quickly forgotten about in 1992 when the Twins would go 52-30 (.634). One thing to read into though was how in May they had a run differential of +57, in June of +48, and in July it dropped to just +8. In August it fell to -28, and in September it finished at -1. The then-two division winners were taken into the playoffs meaning the Twins could not repeat.

1990 Cincinnati Reds: 91-71 (.561)
1991: 74-88 (.456)

1989 Oakland Athletics: 99-63 (.611)
1990: 103-59

1988 Los Angeles Dodgers: 94-67 (.580)
1989: 77-83 (.475)

Verdict

There is no World Series hangover. Teams either come back and use what they had the season before and will itself to the pinnacle once more.

Certainly there are going to be cases of a team that was hot and then crashed suddenly. The ’02 Diamondbacks fit the mold.

However, it’s the ’06 White Sox that come to mind when thinking about what could happen to the ’21 Dodgers.

The White Sox knew they were going to be good, and even added some more pieces to ensure that good could become great, signing Jim Thome to add to its imposing lineup, and Javier Vasquez for the rotation. The Dodgers added Bauer and Price to pad an already-stellar pitching staff that has depleted a little more with each passing game.

Chicago watched a good Detroit Tigers team leapfrog it into the playoffs as the Wildcard. Winning 90 games was just not good enough.

Today’s Dodgers have heard all the hoopla about the Padres and how they’re the second-best team in baseball. The standings actually show the Giants having the best record in the NL, with the Padres a game and a half behind them.

If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Dodgers do not get in after starting the season 13-2.

Only 33 games have been played though, and the law of averages says it’s time for the Dodgers to turn things around.

We’ve looked through the last quarter century of baseball champions, and some faltered really bad like the ’98 Marlins, but others flourished in their repeat campaign, only to fizzle out in October.

If the Dodgers are going to go through any sort of “World Series Hangover,” they want it to happen in April or May. However, if it’s a precursor to what the rest of the season holds for the team, this team goes from being one of the most hyped all time to one of the great letdowns ever.