Player won-lost records are, as the name suggests, tied to specific players. My Leaders
page can be used to look at individual teams as well, however.
Of course, since pWins
are tied to team wins by construction, the best teams in terms of pWins will simply be the best teams in terms of total wins. Although looking at pWins relative to positional average
or replacement level
gives a bit of a boost to teams with higher winning percentages in shorter seasons, so, for example, the 111-win 1954 Cleveland Indians
(0.721 winning percentage) earned more pWOPA and pWORL than the 114-win 1998 New York Yankees
, who only had a winning percentage of 0.704, and the 1995 Cleveland Indians
slip into the top 5 in pWOPA on the strength of a 0.694 winning percentage despite winning "only" 100 games (in a strike-shortened 144-game season).
The first table below shows the top 10 teams in regular-season pWOPA and pWORL for seasons for which I have calculated complete Player won-lost records.
Moving from pWins to eWins
, which are context-neutral, moves us still further from merely a ranking of teams based on regular-season won-lost record. The next table shows the top 10 teams in regular-season eWOPA and eWORL among teams for which I have calculated complete Player won-lost records.
You can look at the best (and worst) single-season teams in (context-neutral) Player won-lost records by factor (Batting
, or component
on my Leaders
For a little variety for this article, the next few sections of this article look at a few analyses of teams that move beyond what can be found on my Leaders
Best Non-Playoff Teams, by Factor
The next table shows the top teams in net batting, baserunning, pitching, and fielding wins who did not make the playoffs.
In theory, it was easier to be great at something and nevertheless miss the playoffs before 1969 when all it took to miss the playoffs was one team that was just a little bit better (or at least won one more game) than you. Yet, interestingly, the four teams in the above table are perfectly evenly distributed across the four playoff systems in major-league history.
The 1965 Cincinnati Reds
outscored the 2nd-best offensive team in the 1965 National League (the Braves
) by more than 100 runs and actually led the 1965 National League
in eWORL (as well as run differential and Pythagorean wins
Their offense was led by Frank Robinson
(.296/.386/.540, 33 HRs, 109 R, 113 RBI), Vada Pinson
(.305/.352/.484, 22 HR, 97 R, 94 RBI), and Pete Rose
(.312/.382/.446, 117 R), with solid additional contributions from Tommy Harper
(.340 OBP, 126 R), Deron Johnson
(32 HR, 130 RBI), and others. They got 11 or more home runs from all 8 of their regulars, as well as backup first baseman Tony Perez
Their pitching wasn't bad - Sammy Ellis
and Jim Maloney
each had 20 pitching wins and 17 pWins - but not very deep (no other pitcher managed more than 9.2 pWins), and the Reds finished in 4th place, 8 games behind the pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers
The 1976 Oakland Athletics
stole 341 bases, more than any team since the 1911 New York Giants (including any team since 1976). They were not merely the best baserunning non-playoff team, they were the best baserunning team, period, of any team for which I have calculated Player won-lost records. Three A's players - Billy North
, Bert Campaneris
, and Don Baylor
- stole more than 50 bases (you have to be pretty old to be able to picture Don Baylor stealing 50 bases in a season). In addition to those guys, the Oakland A's of the 1970s had a deep love of pinch running. In 1976, Matt Alexander
and Larry Lintz
combined for 34 plate appearances, 51 stolen bases, and 37 runs scored. The A's were actually slightly above-average at the other three factors, too - batting, pitching, and fielding, but just barely in all three cases, and baserunning just isn't that big a factor, so the A's were only able to win 87 games, good for second place in the AL West, 2.5 games behind the Kansas City Royals
The best non-playoff pitching performance by a team over the 63 years for which I have full play-by-play data happened just last season. The 2012 Tampa Bay Rays
allowed 51 fewer earned runs than any other American League team and led the AL in strikeouts (by 65) and home runs allowed (by 8). In fact, Tampa Bay's pitching was so good that they allowed 20 fewer earned runs than any National League team, despite facing a DH in the overwhelming majority of their games.
The Rays used eight different starting pitchers in 2012 and all eight of them had a better (context-neutral) winning percentage as a starting pitcher than the positional average
for starting pitchers. The Rays' bullpen was anchored by closer Fernando Rodney
, who allowed 5 earned runs (9 runs total) in 74.2 innings pitched, an ERA of 0.60 (Rodney's WHIP - 0.777 - was higher than his ERA!). But even beyond Rodney, of the nine pitchers who earned at least one player decision in relief, seven of them had a better winning percentage as a reliever than positional average.
One thing that I should note about the 2012 Rays. There has recently been a great deal of research into quantifying the value of catchers at framing pitches
. Based on this research, one of the best catchers in recent major-league history at this skill has been Jose Molina
, who was the #1 catcher for the 2012 Rays. I do not allocate any value to catchers for their pitch-calling or pitch-framing skills in my construction of Player won-lost records. It might, therefore, be more accurate to call the 2012 Rays the best non-playoff team of the past 63 years at "pitching and catching".
The 2009 Seattle Mariners
had the best defensive catcher
and center fielder
in the major leagues as measured by net Fielding wins. They also had the 2nd-best defensive right fielder
in the American League. They were above-average defensively at every position except first base, and, in fact, they were so deep that they had two of the top five
defensive left fielders in the American League, and Ronny Cedeno
in the American League in net fielding wins at shortstop playing only 40 games there for the Mariners that season.
Unfortunately, the Mariners hit .258/.314/.402 as a team, finished last in the American League in runs scored by 46 runs, and were only able to win 85 games, leaving them 12 games behind the Angels
in the AL West and 10 games behind the Red Sox
for the wild card.
Most Balanced Teams, by Factor
Sort of the opposite of the previous section, the next table shows the five most balanced teams for which I have calculated Player won-lost records. By "most balanced" I mean these teams' (context-neutral) winning percentages for the four basic factors - Batting
- are the most similar to their overall Player won-lost (pWin) winning percentage.
Of course, "balanced" doesn't really mean good. And, it turns out (not too surprisingly, if you think about it), the most balanced teams tend to be teams that are basically average at everything.
The most balanced team to actually make the postseason, for seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records, is the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays
||Factor Winning Pct.
|Toronto Blue Jays||251.0||235.0|
Teams above Average at Every Position
The 1998 New York Yankees
won more regular-season games than any major-league team had won in 92 years and won more regular-season plus postseason games than any team ever. At the time, the remarkable thing about the Yankees season was seen to be how exceptionally balanced the team was. There was talk at the time (which seems silly now given how some players
careers have subsequently unfolded) that the Yankees might have no Hall-of-Famers on their roster, a testament to the idea that they won all those games by being solidly above-average everywhere without necessarily being great anywhere.
In fact, as I calculate it, the Yankees were (just barely) below-average at one major position, first base. Their regular first baseman, Tino Martinez
, was a bit above average that season, but he missed twenty games and the Yankees' backup first basemen that year were a pair of over-the-hill middle infielders
who didn't really have the bats to play first base, and they were just enough below average in their playing time to (very slightly) more than offset Martinez's performance.
Still, being above average at 7 of 8 defensive positions as well as DH and having above-average starting and relief pitching is extremely impressive. As, of course, is winning 114 regular-season games and the World Series.
So, how many teams have truly been above-average at everything? The next table shows every major-league team since 1949 which amassed non-negative (context-neutral) wins over positional average
at all 8 non-pitcher fielding positions, DH, starting pitcher, and relief pitcher.
Obviously, if you're above-average at every position, you're going to win lots of games. And certainly, the top three teams here belong on any list of the greatest teams of the past sixty years. The Orioles
won 109 games, although they lost the World Series to the "Miracle Mets"
, but they followed this up with 108 regular-season wins
and a World Series win
the next season. The '75 Reds
won 108 regular-season games and their first of back-to-back World Series
winners. The '84 Tigers
"only" won 104 regular-season games, but started the season 35-5 and ended it with a 7-1 postseason
The next two teams on the list, the '08 Rays
and the 2011
Yankees were certainly very good teams, winning 97 games apiece. But I was sort of expecting teams with no "holes" to do a bit better than that.
Then there's the sixth team on the list: the real "one of these things is not like the other" team here. The 1966 Pirates
were above average at every position, with three positions being manned by Hall
. But all of that was only good for 92 wins and third place in the National League
I calculate positional averages
for three additional "positions": pitcher offense, pinch hitter, and pinch runner. The '66 Pirates, '75 Reds, and '11 Yankees were all at least somewhat below average in pitcher offense. The Yankees were also slightly below average as pinch hitters. Finally, the '69 Orioles, '84 Tigers, and '11 Yankees were below-average pinch runners.
Counting pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running, that leaves one team for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records which was above positional average
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