Over the past four years, I've become something of a connoisseur of World Series final-out celebrations. Beginning with the last play of the 2016 World Series -- the little grounder hit by Cleveland's Michael Martinez that the Cubs' Kris Bryant turned into a historic clinching out -- I've taken a smartphone video of those climatic moments from the press box.
In those ecstatic moments, there is no hierarchy. Every player in that pile of ballplayers rolling around on the field has accomplished the No. 1 goal of that campaign -- to be the last team left standing. And yet, we know that all champions are not created equal. Some are good-but-not-great teams who got hot at just the right time. Some are powerhouses that dominated their leagues. These days, the population of the former group is growing thanks to the ever-expanding format of baseball's postseason. Now more than ever if the best team in a season ends up in that Series-ending dogpile, it's kind of a coincidence.
On Monday, Sam Miller unveiled his ranking of all 115 World Series ever played. Now I'm going to place those 115 champions into a hierarchy based on my estimate of just how good each title team really was. To do this, I've employed a little art and a little science. The rankings are based entirely on statistical ratings (the science), but the choices made to build the system employed a good bit of subjective judgment (the art).
Before getting into the tiers and highlighting some of the teams within each one, let me walk through some of the choices I made in building the system. Some general criteria:
1. What did they do? That is, how many games did they win? How many runs did they score and allow? Teams are rated in this general category for both one-year and three-year performance. The three-year measurement works against flash-in-the-pan champions, such as the 1987 Twins or the 1914 Braves, and aids the teams who validated their dominance over a multiyear stretch.
2. How much talent did they have? To answer this, I combined two methods. Using the new version of AXE (awards index estimate), I created updated best-in-game ratings for every player back to 1901. Then by weighting the AXE scores for each player by playing time, I generated a team AXE score. This gives us an estimate of how much in-their-prime talent each team has had.