The Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks are two of the more unlikely World Series participants in recent memory. They could be the most unlikely, depending on if you’re wearing your Diamondbacks cap or Rangers jersey while reading this.

Bettor not

Hindsight is always 20/20, and that is particularly relevant with sports betting odds. Just like Biff in Back to the Future, it is easy to make a decision when you know the results. But if you were one of the bold few to place any amount of money on the Rangers or Diamondbacks, you could be sitting in a pretty enviable position right now.

Consider this: prior to the season, the betting odds for the Texas Rangers to win the World Series were sitting at an eye-popping +5000. That means for your crisp hundred-dollar bill, you could theoretically walk away with $5,000 if you were willing to put that on the line the whole season. Sounds hard to believe, right? Well, this next number will blow that out of the water. Before the season, the Diamondbacks were sitting at +12500 to win the World Series. That’s right, a Benjamin could get you $12,500 — or a broken-in but very durable Camry. 

Fast-forward a little and even before the playoffs, the Rangers’ and D-backs’ odds were +1800 and +4000, still a very worthwhile chunk of change if you were feeling daring. 

How rare are those preseason odds? Well since the preseason odds began being tracked in 1985, the heaviest preseason underdog to win the World Series was the 1991 Minnesota Twins (more on them later) who sat at a mind-boggling +8000! Bigger underdogs than the Rangers, but still a much better chance than the D-backs. The D-backs, should they take home the Commissioner’s Trophy, will have set a record as the highest odds since at least 1985. Those odds of +12500 would be by far the largest of any World Series winner. 

180 degrees of separation

It seems like a long time ago at this point, but these two teams were both recently afterthoughts around the league. Think back to this time last year. The Diamondbacks finished 74-88 and earned a fourth-place finish, their third time finishing fourth or worse in the NL West in the previous three seasons. The Rangers finished 68-94 and placed fourth in the AL West. It was hard to fathom either team making the World Series in the next five seasons, let alone in 2023. 

So if both teams were well under .500, how rare is it to expect a turnaround from both World Series participants? Well, in the history of the World Series, including this season, there have been 41 teams that were under .500 the season before making the World Series, but this is just the fourth time two such teams met in one World Series! The last World Series to feature two such teams was in 1991, when the Twins defeated the Braves.

Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll find this specific turnaround is incredibly rare. The combined win percentage from 2022 for the Rangers and Diamondbacks was a paltry .438. That stands as the second-lowest combined win percentage of the two teams the year before their meeting in a World Series. The only matchup with a lower win percentage was the aforementioned 1991 World Series, when the Twins and Braves combined for a .429 win percentage in 1990. The four lowest win percentages are listed below:

  • 1991 World Series: Braves vs TwinsBraves were 65-97 and Twins were 74-88 (.429)
  • Braves were 65-97 and Twins were 74-88 (.429)
  • 2023 World Series: Rangers vs D-backsRangers were 68-94 and D-backs were 74-88 (.438)
  • Rangers were 68-94 and D-backs were 74-88 (.438)
  • 1987 World Series: Twins vs CardinalsTwins were 71-91 and Cardinals were 79-82 (.462)
  • Twins were 71-91 and Cardinals were 79-82 (.462)
  • 1965 World Series: Twins vs DodgersTwins were 79-83 and Dodgers were 80-82 (.491)
  • Twins were 79-83 and Dodgers were 80-82 (.491)

Wild, Wild West

For those looking for similarities between the two teams, you won’t have to look very deep! Both teams are part of their league’s west division, just the third time since 2000 that each World Series features each league’s west division, joining 2017, 2010 and 2002. 

However, their resume similarities do not stop there. Each team is also a wild card, guaranteeing this will be the eighth wild-card team to win the Commissioner’s Trophy and the first since the 2019 Nationals. 

Unlike that year though, this year is just the third since 1995, when the playoffs were expanded, that both World Series participants were wild cards. The last time this happened was back in 2014, which coincidentally, was also the last time a wild-card team from the American League made the World Series. That if you remember correctly was the breakout year for the Royals, who came up just short in 2014 before returning to win it in 2015.

Flashing Leather

One underplayed aspect of these two teams has been the startling defensive efficiency of the two teams. When including seasons with a minimum of 100 games played, Arizona and Texas made just 56 and 57 errors respectively, the second and third-fewest in a single season all-time. In fact, for Arizona, it was the first time an NL team (minimum 100 games) posted a season with fewer than 60 errors! 

That success has very rarely come up among World Series teams and there is a reason for it. Up until this season, the two teams who committed the fewest errors hadn’t met in a World Series since 1946, over 85 years ago, when the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in seven games for the title. 

They also graded out well by advanced metrics, coming in second and third in Fangraphs’ combined defensive score.

Adolis Slugging Towards History

Perhaps the biggest story for the Rangers, at least recently, has been the outrageously hot play of Adolis Garcia. Garcia pounded the Astros in the ALCS and put on quite a show, racking up 10 hits, 25 total bases, and 15 RBIs in just seven postseason games. How rare is his performance? Well, we haven’t seen anything like it… ever! Garcia’s 15 RBIs are the most in a single series in MLB postseason history. He now has racked up 20 RBIs for the entire playoff run for Texas, which places him just one RBI behind the most for a single postseason in MLB history. The record belongs to David Freese, who in 2011 put the Cardinals on his back and helped deliver the city its 11th World Series title.

Most of those RBIs have come off extra-base hits — specifically the long ball. After slugging five homers in the ALCS, the second most in a single series in MLB history behind the six delivered by fellow Ranger Nelson Cruz during the 2011 ALCS, he is now just one behind the previously mentioned Cruz for most in a single playoff in the Rangers’ franchise history. And should he have an unprecedented power surge in the World Series, the MLB single postseason record of 10 by Rays’ outfielder Randy Arozarena is not out of the question, either!

No matter what happens in the World Series (and remember road teams are all the rage this year) expect the unexpected. Let’s face it, that is what we have gotten this year anyway!

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