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World Champions who dominated the regular season
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and the rest of the teams that dominated a regular season

A truly great team is a team that is great during the regular season ans well as during the post season. Teams that dominate during the regular season do not always win the World Series. How often are they upset? Well, if you consider any team that achieved a regular season W-L record of 5 games greater than any other team in either league, those teams have gone on to win about half of the World Series.

I chose 5 games of superiority over all baseball teams, because I wanted teams that would very likely be favored in any post season match-up that also had a fairly comfortable march to the post season.

 

Teams that had a W-L record at least 5 games better than any other team since 1905:

1905 New York Giants 105-48        + 8 (won W.S.)

1906 Chicago Cubs 116-36           +20 (lost W.S.)

1907 Chicago Cubs 107-45           +14 (won W.S.)

1909 Pittsburgh Pirates 110-42     + 6 (won W.S.)

1913 New York Giants 101-51        + 5 (lost W.S.)

1914 Philadelphia Athletics 99-53  + 6 (lost W.S.)

1918 Chicago Cubs 84-45            + 7 (lost W.S.)

1919 Cincinnati Reds 96-44         + 9 (won W.S.)

1927 New York Yankees 110-44       +16 (won W.S.)

1928 New York Yankees 101-53       + 6 (won W.S.)

1929 Philadelphia Athletics 104-46 + 7 (won W.S.)

1930 Philadelphia Athletics 102-52 + 8 (won W.S.)

1931 Philadelphia Athletics 107-45 +13 (lost W.S.)

1932 New York Yankees 107-47       +13 (won W.S.)

1933 Washington Senators 99-53     + 7 (lost W.S.)

1934 Detroit Tigers 101-53         + 5 (lost W.S.)

1936 New York Yankees 102-51       +10 (won W.S.)

1937 New York Yankees 102-52       + 6 (won W.S.)

1938 New York Yankees 99-53        + 9 (won W.S.)

1939 New York Yankees 106-45       +10 (won W.S.)

1940 Cincinnati Reds 100-53        +10 (won W.S.)

1943 St. Louis Cardinals 105-49    + 7 (lost W.S.)

1944 St. Louis Cardinals 105-49    +14.5 (won W.S.)

1946 Boston Red Sox 104-50         + 8 (lost W.S.)

1954 Cleveland Indians 111-43      + 8 (lost W.S.)

1959 Chicago White Sox 94-60       + 5 (lost W.S.)

1961 New York Yankees 109-53       + 8 (won W.S.)

1963 New York Yankees 104-57       + 5 (lost W.S.)

1965 Minnesota Twins 102-60        + 5 (lost W.S.)

1967 St. Louis Cardinals 101-60    + 9 (won W.S.)

1968 Detroit Tigers 103-59         + 6 (won W.S.)

 

Four team play-offs:

1969 Baltimore Orioles 109-53      + 9 (lost W.S.)

1970 Baltimore Orioles 108-54      + 6 (won W.S.)

1974 Los Angeles Dodgers 102-60    +11 (lost W.S.)

1975 Cincinnati Reds 108-54        +10 (won W.S.)

1980 New York Yankees 103-59       + 6 (lost ALCS)

1984 Detroit Tigers 104-58         + 7 (won W.S.)

1986 New York Mets 106-56          +10 (won W.S.)

1989 Oakland Athletics 99-63       + 6 (won W.S.)

1990 Oakland Athletics 103-59      + 8 (lost W.S.)

1993 Atlanta Braves 104-58         + 7 (lost NLCS)

 

Eight team play-offs:

1995 Cleveland Indians 100-44      +10 (lost W.S.)

1998 New York Yankees 114-48       + 8 (won W.S.)

2001 Seattle Mariners 116-46       +14 (lost ALCS)

2009 New York Yankees 105-57       + 8 (won W.S.)

 

Interestingly, the frequency of a so-called dominant team winning everything didn’t change based on matter how many rounds of play-offs there have been. There was only a decrease from 58% to 50% going to divisional play – and no additional decrease at all when another round was added in 1995. That is hard to explain. Perhaps, it is just a small sample size situation.

Five is a nice round number, but had I picked 6 games of superiority, the results would have been much closer to what one would have expected. Since divisional play, there still would be a 50% chance that the dominant team  would go on to win the championship, but going back before 1969, the odds of them winning it shoots up to 69%.

The most dominant teams – those with W-Ls >= 10 games greater than any other won 9 of the 14 possible World Series – or 64%. That breaks down to 7 out of 9 before play-offs and 2 out of 5 since then - which is as you would expect. The most dominant team in history by W-L superiority of all others in the same year – the 1906 Cubs - lost their World Series. The most dominant team since Jackie Robinson's debut lost, too: the 2001 Seattle Mariners didn’t even make it to the World Series.

A dominant team by my definition arose almost half the time during the 1905-1968 pre-divisional play era: 48 %. Using the six game threshold, dominant teams arose 40% of the time. There were no dominant teams between the 1919 Reds and the ’27 Yankees, then we had 13 in a row. In the pre-expansion ‘50s, there were only two dominant teams only one of which makes the 6 game requirement. In fact, the Go-Go White Sox of 1959 had the weakest record of all the teams on this list by 6 games under the next weakest team (Senators of 1933).  In the 42 seasons we’ve completed since we’ve had play-offs, there have been 14 dominant teams, which is one-third of the seasons.

I didn’t realize the Yankees’ greatest era of dominance was during Joe DiMaggio’s first four years. You read more about the ‘27 Yankees or think of the ’49-’64 Yankees who started off with a record 5 championships in a row, then won 103 games as a second place team before winning 9 of the next 10 pennants. However, the only team to both dominate the regular season and win the World Series for three years in a row was the 1936-1939 Yankees – and in case you aren’t counting, that’s four years in row. The twenty-one year old Joe DiMaggio was an instant superstar. Bill Dickey was the best catcher in baseball and Lou Gehrig had two years left as the best hitter in baseball – plus another very good year as unbeknownst to himself he was starting to fight off the disease that would be known by his name. Outfielder Charlie Keller and secondbaseman Joe Gordon became Yankee stars as Gehrig so eloquently announced his retirement. Starters Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez, shortstop Frank Crosetti, thirdbaseman Red Rolfe, and outfielder George Selkirk were important constants during this streak.  

From the largest market to, perhaps, the smallest market, the 1919 Cincinnati Reds have to be one of the all-time most overlooked great teams in history. Despite the seemingly universal claims the Black Sox were favored, based on their record the chances were 55% against Chicago. Why were they overlooked? It makes a better story to say Chicago would likely have won. They were a good team and you can speculate about Shoeless Joe and Eddie Collins all you want, but they were 88-52 compared to Cincy’s 96-44. Ninety-six isn’t all that an impressive amount of wins until you take another look at the number of losses: just 44. That was a 140 game season shortened by the Great War. That would have been 106 wins in a 154 game schedule or 111 wins in a 162 game schedule. They did have two stars. Ed Roush led the league in batting average and had led the league in slugging the year before despite playing in a pitcher’s park.  Heine Groh had the league’s top OPS and the highest OBP the previous two years. He was also known as the best fielding thirdbaseman of his era. However, sandwiched between the great Cubs and Pirates teams from the end of the previous decade and the dominant-as-no-team before Yankees of the next decade, the 1919 Reds became lost in history – especially since Black Sox narrative overwhelms and taints their achievement.

But then, who remembers the 1940 Cincinnati Reds? They were dominant both in the regular season and in the World Series. That team had one of the most unsung pitching stars in history: Bucky Walters. They had two outstanding hitters in catcher Ernie Lombardi and firstbaseman Frank McCormick. Paul Derringer, Junior Thompson, and Jim Turner rounded out their outstanding rotation supported by an excellent 29 year old rookie reliever Joe Beggs.

Some say the ’75-’76 Reds were the greatest team of all-time, but there is no question the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings (not the same franchise) was the most dominant  team  ever – winning 57 games without a loss. But that’s another story.

John Carter