Last year, the two most prolonged active postseason droughts in Major League Baseball came to an end.
The Phillies, who had gone more than 10 years since losing to the Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS, returned to the postseason, got revenge on St. Louis and went on a roll that lasted all the way to the World Series. And an even longer skid — the longest drought in the four major North American men’s sports — was snapped by the Mariners, who hadn’t made the postseason since their glorious 2001 season. They won a playoff series themselves, before Yordan Alvarez and the eventual World Series champion Astros got them in the ALDS.
That alleviates the pressure from those two teams, but it increases it for those that have replaced them atop the Postseason Drought leaderboard. There are now six clubs that have gone at least six seasons since reaching the postseason: two that have waited eight years, two more at seven years and two at six. With the expanded postseason field now in place, their absences grow even more stark. Surely, they should be able to get in at some point soon, right?
For some of these clubs, that time might even come this year. So today, we take a look at the six teams with the longest active postseason droughts and rank them by the likelihood they will break through in 2023.
(Current postseason odds come via FanGraphs. All stats and odds updated entering Friday’s action. ^Indicates team is in Wild Card position.)
Last appearance: 2016 ALDS (Lost to TOR)
Current record: 31-18 (1st in AL West)
Current postseason odds: 72.5%
Jacob deGrom has started only six games as a Ranger and is back on the injured list. Corey Seager missed 31 games on the IL before returning on May 17. The other three ambitious contenders in the division are over .500. You’d think, considering all those circumstances, that the Rangers would be in trouble.
But they are not in trouble. Thanks to a deep lineup — they’ve got eight regulars with an OPS+ over 100 — a rotation that’s going five deep without deGrom and a big season from the other big-ticket free agent from the past couple years (Marcus Semien), the Rangers are in first place, semi-comfortably. The division is unlikely to get much easier (the other contenders in the West are desperate to win right now), but their depth has the Rangers looking like a team that’s in this for the long haul. And if you can line up deGrom for a Game 1 postseason start? Look out.
Last appearance: 2016 Wild Card Game (Lost to TOR)
Current record: 33-17 (2nd in AL East^)
Current postseason odds: 51.0%
It will not surprise you that there are exactly zero current Orioles who also played for that 2016 postseason team — that feels like roughly 100 years ago. That Orioles club felt like it was just barely on its last gasp and ultimately suffered an infamous Wild Card Game loss in Toronto.
But this Orioles team feels like the exact opposite: They are just getting started. There are still questions about this team, specifically its pitching, but it is absolutely loaded with young talent, and there is more on the way. The AL East is the best division in baseball, which means every day is going to be stressful for the Orioles all year, but it is very much to their credit that they are hanging right with the Rays, despite the AL East leaders’ historic start. Have they taken the Rays’ best punch? Are they ready to throw their own? Call me a believer: This team’s making it to the postseason … and will be an extremely difficult out when it gets there.
Last appearance: 2014 ALDS (Lost to KC)
Current record: 28-23 (3rd in AL West)
Current postseason odds: 30.1%
Will any team’s postseason fortunes be watched more closely by the rest of baseball? Right now, the Angels are hanging in (one game out of a Wild Card spot), largely for the reasons you’d expect: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. (The bullpen and Patrick Sandoval haven’t been half-bad either.) But we’ve seen the Angels hang around the race before, only have it fall apart on them.
If that happens — and if Trout and especially Ohtani are still healthy — we could see a Trade Deadline feeding frenzy the likes of which we haven’t seen since … well, OK, what we saw with Juan Soto last year. Trout famously has never won a postseason game, and you have to sort of wonder, if it doesn’t happen this season, whether he (and Ohtani) may have a chance to get one with another team, and soon. The postseason odds cited above are reasonable. But there may be no team in the league that needs it to be 100% more than the Angels.
Last appearance: 2015 NL Wild Card Game (Lost to CHC)
Current record: 25-24 (2nd in NL Central^)
Current postseason odds: 11.3%
There was no better story over the first three weeks of the season than the Pirates’ hot start. This is one of baseball’s best fanbases — remember how loud PNC Park got during their postseason run nearly a decade ago, when it even got the Reds’ Johnny Cueto to drop the ball on the mound? Combine that with a young, likable team alongside the returning franchise favorite that is Andrew McCutchen, and how could you not fall in love with that?
The Pirates have come back to earth since then, but it is worth remembering that .500, in the NL Central, still puts you very much in contention. The Brewers are already running out of starting pitchers, the Cubs and Reds are a mess, and the Cardinals, for all their talent, have starting pitching issues of their own and are still climbing out of the hole they dug for themselves. If the Pirates can keep hovering around .500, they can win this as well as anyone. But can they keep hovering around .500?
Last appearance: 2014 ALDS (Lost to BAL)
Current record: 23-25 (2nd in AL Central)
Current postseason odds: 5.4%
The first month of the season made it look like 2023 was going to be the exact same sort of struggle that 2022 was for the Tigers. They were 2-9 on April 12 and 10-17 on April 30. But then they rattled off five straight wins and, impressively, have been the best team in the AL Central since then, climbing within two games of .500 twice.
“Within two games of .500” may end up being the competitive threshold in the AL Central; they’re only two games out. The Guardians and probably the White Sox will surely pass them at some point, but the fact that the Tigers have generated some hope this year is certainly a dramatic improvement.
Last appearance: 2015 World Series (Beat NYM)
Current record: 15-36 (5th in AL Central)
Current postseason odds: 0.1%
The Royals, in a period of transition, knew it was going to be a long year. It has been a long year so far. There are some good young hitters around here, and potentially some trade bait, but this is a team a long way from ending its postseason drought. The good news? Kansas City’s last October memory, unlike every other team on this list, is an excellent one.