The Houston Astros capped off the 2022 MLB season by winning their second World Series title in six years. Heading into 2023, they have their eyes set on being crowned back-to-back World Series Champs. Two questions come to mind when thinking about that possibility:
- Just how rare is winning back-to-back World Series championships?
- How will they get it done?
Back-to-Back World Series Champs?
How Rare is it to win Back-to-Back World Series Championships?
To find the last team to accomplish this feat, you have to go back to when the New York Yankees did it in 1999-2000. They not only won back-to-back titles during that time span but completed a three-peat by winning the 1998, 1999, and 2000 World Series titles. Their chance at pulling off four titles in a row came up just short by losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games during the 2001 World Series.
To take it a step further, since 2001 there has only been one defending champion to even get back to the World Series. The 2009 Philadelphia Phillies returned to the Fall Classic the following year after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the 2008 World Series. Their hopes of back-to-back World Series titles came up short after getting beat by the New York Yankees in six games.
Looking at every defending champion from 2000-2022 (except the 2019 Washington Nationals in a shortened 2020 Covid season) all teams have an average win total of 89 games in their title-defending seasons.
Winning games in the regular season haven’t been an issue for title-defending teams. Winning back-to-back, and even getting back to the World Series, has been much more difficult. The next question is, does Houston have the answer to crack the seemingly impossible challenge?
How can Houston capture Back-to-Back Titles?
Houston comes off a 2022 season that had 106 wins, five All-Stars, a Cy Young award winner, two Gold Glove winners, and two Silver Slugger Award winners. Of all those accolades, all but the 106 wins and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, who signed a 2yr/86.7 million dollar contract with the New York Mets, return for Houston in 2023. If there was any negative area for Houston in 2022, it was their lack of production from the first base position. Houston ranked 27th for rWAR at first base in 2022.
They were able to address that issue on November 28th when they signed free agent José Abreu to a 3yr/58.5 million dollar deal. Abreu, who had a 4.2 rWAR in 2022 with the Chicago White Sox, brings a big-time right-handed bat into the middle of the Houston lineup.
With the addition of Abreu, bringing back seemingly everyone on offense, and having a deep talented pitching staff, even with the loss of Verlander, Houston should be the early favorites to win their division once again in 2023. Not only should they be the front runners of the AL West, but it would also be assumed Houston’s biggest competition in the American League would only be the New York Yankees. Other teams have gotten better, but as of now Houston and New York are in a class of their own.
Like many before them, on paper Houston should be around the top as favorites to once again win the World Series in 2023. With key additions and bringing back key players from a championship team, Houston will have a shot at being the first team since 2000 to win back-to-back World Series titles.
I haven’t been able to see why the prior 21 teams have not been able to accomplish winning two titles in a row. Has it been unlucky breaks, lack of focus, or possibly running into the hot team at the wrong time? Whatever the case may be, Houston is a team that is set up to win. Now all that’s left is to go out and do it.