Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
Home     List of Articles



Using Player Won-Lost Records to Evaluate Teams


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.

pWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Teams
          pWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Teams
Team Season pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL           Team Season pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1Seattle Mariners2001278.0208.034.8
59.5
1Seattle Mariners2001278.0208.034.8
59.5
2Cleveland Indians1954268.0200.034.2
56.1
2Cleveland Indians1954268.0200.034.2
56.1
3New York Yankees1998276.0210.033.6
55.8
3New York Yankees1998276.0210.033.6
55.8
4Cleveland Indians1995244.0188.028.2
48.8
4Baltimore Orioles1969271.0215.028.0
51.6
5Brooklyn Dodgers1953260.5204.528.0
50.1
5New York Yankees1961272.5216.527.8
51.3
6Baltimore Orioles1969271.0215.028.0
51.6
6Brooklyn Dodgers1953260.5204.528.0
50.1
7New York Yankees1961272.5216.527.8
51.3
7Baltimore Orioles1970270.0216.026.8
49.6
8New York Mets1986270.0216.027.0
47.0
8Cleveland Indians1995244.0188.028.2
48.8
9Cincinnati Reds1975270.0216.027.0
48.7
9Cincinnati Reds1975270.0216.027.0
48.7
10Baltimore Orioles1970270.0216.026.8
49.6
10New York Yankees1954258.5206.526.2
48.3


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.

eWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Teams
          eWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Teams
Team Season eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL           Team Season eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
1Baltimore Orioles1969252.1221.315.6
38.6
1Baltimore Orioles1969252.1221.315.6
38.6
2Atlanta Braves1998250.0220.215.6
36.2
2Seattle Mariners2001253.6225.514.3
38.5
3Seattle Mariners2001253.6225.514.3
38.5
3New York Yankees2002256.6231.313.4
37.1
4New York Yankees1998255.6228.714.1
36.3
4New York Yankees2003259.5234.013.3
36.8
5Cleveland Indians1954242.4215.413.8
35.3
5Boston Red Sox2003264.9240.112.6
36.8
6New York Yankees2002256.6231.313.4
37.1
6New York Yankees1998255.6228.714.1
36.3
7New York Yankees2003259.5234.013.3
36.8
7Atlanta Braves1998250.0220.215.6
36.2
8Cincinnati Reds1976266.7239.813.3
34.9
8Oakland Athletics2001249.9227.811.5
35.6
9Baltimore Orioles1971245.8220.213.3
33.6
9Boston Red Sox2004257.7233.812.5
35.6
10New York Yankees1953240.0214.013.1
34.4
10Cleveland Indians1954242.4215.413.8
35.3


You can look at the best (and worst) single-season teams in (context-neutral) Player won-lost records by factor (Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding), position, or component on my Leaders page.

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 page.

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.

Factor Team Season eWins eLoss Net Wins
Batting Cincinnati Reds1965127.6110.217.4
Baserunning Oakland Athletics197617.714.33.4
Pitching Chicago White Sox196479.566.712.8
Fielding Seattle Mariners200940.534.95.6


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 finished seventh 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, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding - are the most similar to their overall Player won-lost (pWin) winning percentage.

Factor Winning Pct.
Team Season pWins pLoss pWin Pct. Batting Baserunning Pitching Fielding
Cleveland Indians242.0244.0
0.498
0.4940.4980.4990.502
St. Louis Cardinals247.5241.5
0.506
0.5020.5100.5070.508
Philadelphia Phillies248.0238.0
0.510
0.5060.5100.5060.511
Cleveland Indians241.0245.0
0.496
0.5000.4940.5000.494
Kansas City Athletics230.0238.0
0.491
0.4910.4970.4940.497


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.
Team Season pWins pLoss pWin Pct. Batting Baserunning Pitching Fielding
Toronto Blue Jays251.0235.0
0.516
0.5060.5060.5130.512


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.

Team Season pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
Cincinnati Reds270.0216.027.048.7
Tampa Bay Rays259.0227.016.338.3
New York Yankees259.0227.016.238.2


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-of-Famers. 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 at everything:

Team Season pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
Tampa Bay Rays259.0227.016.338.3




All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.

Home     List of Articles