How often does an 84-win team, like the Diamondbacks, reach the World Series?

Oct 19, 2023, 1:20 PM

Manager Torey Lovullo...

Manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 4-2 NLDS Game 3 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (Felisa Cardenas/Arizona Sports)

(Felisa Cardenas/Arizona Sports)

PHOENIX — Seventeen years ago from Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals became the first club to reach the World Series with fewer than 85 wins in over 30 years.

St. Louis finished the regular season 83-78 but took down the 97-win New York Mets on the road in Game 7 of the NLCS to reach the Fall Classic, where they beat the Detroit Tigers.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ direct connection to the Cardinals is first base coach Dave McKay, who was on ex-manager Tony La Russa’s staff for the title run.

“There were a lot of teams who wanted to play us over the other teams out there, be careful what you wish for,” McKay told Arizona Sports. “I’ve been to six World Series. Two we lost, we had no business losing. Two we won, we had no business winning.”

“It’s not always the best team that wins and that’s the beauty of it. Don’t think, ‘Well these guys got a lot going on right now, their record is better, they’re better now.’ Whoever makes the least mistakes will pull this thing off.”

The D-backs won 84 contests this season and clinched a wild card berth after Game 161. But the underdogs opened the postseason 5-0 to reach the NLCS despite a year of peaks and valleys.

Manager Torey Lovullo brought up the 2006 Cardinals during a press conference in July after McKay shared some lessons with him about that experience. Arizona, at the time, was sliding in the standings.

Now the D-backs face adversity again, trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 0-2 in the NLCS.

How often in MLB history has an 84-win team reached the World Series?

The simple answer is not very, but it has happened more than once.

The only team in the Expansion Era (1961 and onward) to win the World Series with fewer than 85 wins over a full season was those 2006 Cardinals.

That Cardinals team won 100-plus games in each of the previous two seasons, so the surroundings were much different than the Diamondbacks clawing out of a 110-loss campaign to go on a run two years later.

But message of “just get in and see what happens” still stands.

The 1987 Minnesota Twins finished 85-77 and marched to the World Series title. In 2000, the 87-win New York Yankees looking to continue their dynasty succeeded and took down the 94-win Mets for the championship.

The only other team with 84 wins or fewer to reach the World Series in the Expansion Era was the 1973 Mets at 82-79. They took down the perennial contender Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS but fell in seven games to the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. That was before the wild card existed.

Diamondbacks staying confident

The Diamondbacks dropped the first two games at the Phillies, losing 10-0 in Game 2. But the mindset in the clubhouse remains that this is a winnable series. Lovullo said his club isn’t lucky to be here and the Phillies can be beat if the D-backs play to their standard.

First baseman Christian Walker expressed the D-backs have been counted out all year and have a lot of fight left.

“Pressure is your friend, pressure makes you better,” McKay said. “Invite it. … Never give up, when you’re going through something like this and you’re down two games, it’s not over. Young teams tend to think, ‘Well we had a good year, maybe next year is our year.’ No. It’s a really good team, we can turn this thing around in a heartbeat.”

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