Nationals

Nats on pace to be among worst defending MLB champs ever

Nationals

Losers of eight of their last nine games, the Washington Nationals are now 12-22 on the season, a far cry from one year ago when they had turned things around and were en route to a World Series championship.

That 12-22 record is good for a .353 win percentage which, believe it or not, has the Nationals on pace to be one of the worst defending champion teams in MLB history. Only one team - the 1998 Marlins - had a worse win percentage the year after winning it all.

The '98 Marlins had a .333 win percentage and won 54 games after a 1997 season in which they won 92 games and the first World Series trophy in franchise history. Those Marlins, then known as the Florida Marlins, became famous for winning and then tearing their roster down.

In the '97-98 offseason they traded ace pitcher Kevin Brown and Moises Alou. Midway through the 1998 campaign they shipped out Gary Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla. The Nats let Anthony Rendon walk in free agency, but unlike the Marlins, they did not hold a firesale. They kept plenty of talent around to make another playoff run.

The Nationals' demise so far has been part injury-related, as Stephen Strasburg was lost for the season and Starlin Castro for possibly the year as well. But they also just haven't played well despite a roster that still features Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin.

 

Unless things change soon, the Nats could go from merely disappointing the year after a World Series to a historic letdown. Only 14.9 percent of the 114 World Series-winning teams throughout history have had a losing record the year after winning a title.

The second-worst win percentage for a defending World Series-champion team is currently held by the 2014 Boston Red Sox. They won only 71 games the year after winning 97 games and the title. Boston, in fact, won only 78 games the following season, in 2015. And after bottoming out, they won the World Series again in 2018.

The Nats have a good chance at this point to be worse than that 2014 Red Sox team, unless they pick up the pace. The Red Sox had a .438 win percentage, which would equal roughly 26 wins in this 60-game season. In order to be better than that, the Nats would have to go 15-11 the rest of the way.

Whether they finish worse than the 2014 Red Sox or not, the Nats seem likely this season to be one of the rare teams that post a losing record right after winning the World Series. Of the last 15 World Series-winners, only three teams followed with losing years. The 2014 Red Sox are one, the other two are the 2013 Giants (76-86) and the 2006 Cardinals (78-84).

It is really hard to repeat as champions in baseball. It hasn't happened since 2000, and no team has even returned to the World Series after winning it since the 2009 Phillies.

But to go from first to worst and completely bottom out is rare. The Nats may soon be venturing into some exclusive territory.