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Mailbag: Winning 95+ Games and Not Finishing in 1st Place

Posted by Neil Paine on July 6, 2011

B-R reader Andrew asks:

"The Braves could win 100 games and finish behind the Phils this year... How many times has this happened?"

The Braves are currently on pace for 95 wins, but unfortunately for them, the Phillies are on pace for 102. Here's every instance of a team winning at least 95 games and not finishing in 1st place (whether in the division or, prior to divisional play, the league):

Year Team Lg Div Rank W L WPct R RA Pyth
1909 Chicago Cubs NL 2 104 49 .680 635 390 .709
1942 Brooklyn Dodgers NL 2 104 50 .675 742 510 .665
1954 New York Yankees AL 2 103 51 .669 805 563 .658
1993 San Francisco Giants NL W 2 103 59 .636 808 636 .608
1962 Los Angeles Dodgers NL 2 102 63 .618 842 697 .586
2001 Oakland Athletics (WC) AL W 2 102 60 .630 884 645 .640
1961 Detroit Tigers AL 2 101 61 .623 841 671 .602
1915 Detroit Tigers AL 2 100 54 .649 778 597 .619
1980 Baltimore Orioles AL E 2 100 62 .617 805 640 .603
1978 Boston Red Sox AL E 2 99 64 .607 796 657 .587
2002 Anaheim Angels (WC) AL W 2 99 63 .611 851 644 .625
1908 New York Giants NL 2 98 56 .636 652 456 .658
1908 Pittsburgh Pirates NL 2 98 56 .636 585 469 .600
1928 Philadelphia Athletics AL 2 98 55 .641 829 615 .633
1964 Chicago White Sox AL 2 98 64 .605 642 501 .612
1974 Cincinnati Reds NL W 2 98 64 .605 776 631 .594
1985 New York Mets NL E 2 98 64 .605 695 568 .591
2004 Boston Red Sox (WC) AL E 2 98 64 .605 949 768 .596
1962 Cincinnati Reds NL 3 98 64 .605 802 685 .572
1941 St. Louis Cardinals NL 2 97 56 .634 734 589 .599
Year Team Lg Div Rank W L WPct R RA Pyth
1951 Brooklyn Dodgers NL 2 97 60 .618 855 672 .608
1977 Baltimore Orioles AL E 2 97 64 .602 719 653 .544
1977 Boston Red Sox AL E 2 97 64 .602 859 712 .585
1985 New York Yankees AL E 2 97 64 .602 839 660 .608
1999 New York Mets (WC) NL E 2 97 66 .595 853 711 .583
1964 Baltimore Orioles AL 3 97 65 .599 679 567 .582
1898 Baltimore Orioles NL 2 96 53 .644 933 623 .677
1905 Pittsburgh Pirates NL 2 96 57 .627 692 570 .588
1906 New York Giants NL 2 96 56 .632 625 510 .592
1920 Chicago White Sox AL 2 96 58 .623 794 665 .580
1935 St. Louis Cardinals NL 2 96 58 .623 829 625 .626
1946 Brooklyn Dodgers NL 2 96 60 .615 701 570 .594
1948 Boston Red Sox AL 2 96 59 .619 907 720 .604
1949 Boston Red Sox AL 2 96 58 .623 896 667 .632
1949 St. Louis Cardinals NL 2 96 58 .623 766 616 .598
1977 Pittsburgh Pirates NL E 2 96 66 .593 734 665 .545
1987 Toronto Blue Jays AL E 2 96 66 .593 845 655 .614
1997 New York Yankees (WC) AL E 2 96 66 .593 891 688 .616
1999 Cincinnati Reds NL C 2 96 67 .589 865 711 .589
1899 Boston Beaneaters NL 2 95 57 .625 858 645 .628
Year Team Lg Div Rank W L WPct R RA Pyth
1909 Philadelphia Athletics AL 2 95 58 .621 605 408 .673
1945 St. Louis Cardinals NL 2 95 59 .617 756 583 .617
1950 Detroit Tigers AL 2 95 59 .617 837 713 .573
1965 Chicago White Sox AL 2 95 67 .586 647 555 .570
1965 San Francisco Giants NL 2 95 67 .586 682 593 .564
1973 Los Angeles Dodgers NL W 2 95 66 .590 675 565 .581
1979 Milwaukee Brewers AL E 2 95 66 .590 807 722 .551
1979 Montreal Expos NL E 2 95 65 .594 701 581 .585
2002 San Francisco Giants (WC) NL W 2 95 66 .590 783 616 .608
2003 Boston Red Sox (WC) AL E 2 95 67 .586 961 809 .578
2005 Boston Red Sox (WC) AL E 2 95 67 .586 910 805 .556
2006 Detroit Tigers (WC) AL C 2 95 67 .586 822 675 .589
2008 Boston Red Sox (WC) AL E 2 95 67 .586 845 694 .589
2009 Boston Red Sox (WC) AL E 2 95 67 .586 872 736 .577
2010 New York Yankees (WC) AL E 2 95 67 .586 859 693 .597
1892 Brooklyn Grooms NL 3 95 59 .617 935 733 .610
1920 New York Yankees AL 3 95 59 .617 838 629 .628
1961 Baltimore Orioles AL 3 95 67 .586 691 588 .573

If the current NL East situation holds up through season's end, the 2011 Braves would become the 59th team in baseball history to win 95 games and not finish in 1st place (then again, like 12 other teams on this list, they would avail themselves of the wild card and still make the playoffs).

If they manage to win 100 games -- which they are not on pace to do, but is still a possibility -- Atlanta would be just the 10th team ever to reach that mark without winning their division/league.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 at 2:14 pm and is filed under History, Mailbag. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

39 Responses to “Mailbag: Winning 95+ Games and Not Finishing in 1st Place”

  1. Wow. Win 104 games and NOT make the playoffs. Can we now coin that as a "Cubsian" season?

  2. El Dandy Says:

    I can't believe that 98 wins in 1962 wasn't even enough for second. I'm assuming that part of it was everyone in the National League beating up on the Mets and Colt 45s.

    I'm curious as to the best fourth place finish of all time now...

    Also, fun fact: the 1892 Bridegrooms finished in third, even though they had *more* wins than the second place (93-56) Cleveland Spiders.

  3. Oakland in 2001 won 102 games, I believe. They came in second to those 116-win Mariners.

  4. Detroit Michael Says:

    It doesn't really matter how one gets into the post-season (unless they introduce the first round bye concept). The wild card method works just as well as the division champion method. We've seen from their conduct that the teams themselves perceive no difference.

  5. stan cook Says:

    " can't believe that 98 wins in 1962 wasn't even enough for second. I'm assuming that part of it was everyone in the National League beating up on the Mets and Colt 45s."

    Although the Mets had the worst record in the league, the colt 45s were not second-the cubs were.

  6. El Dandy Says:

    @5 -- I knew that someone finished between the Mets and Colt 45s, but couldn't remember who it was. Thanks!

    (Also, as an unabashed Mets fan, I didn't want to recognize them as the sole incompetent expansion franchise of 1962.)

  7. @2.

    The Dodgers and Giants tied for first in '62 with 101 wins. It was an interesting playoff series.
    - Game 1: Giants knock out Koufax in the 2nd inning and cruise to 8-0 win
    - Game 2: Dodgers squeak out an 8-7 win on a 9th inning sac fly in a 4 hour 18 minute marathon that would remain the longest game by time for many years
    - Game 3: Dodgers have game in hand, but bullpen blows it in the 9th as Giants score 4 to win 6-4.

  8. Last team to get 100 wins and not make the playoffs was the '93 Giants, who were beat out by....Atlanta, of course.

    It does seem like the Braves would be in good shape for the WC if they get to 95 or 100 wins.

  9. Beating a dead horse here, but 7 out of the last 12 occurrences, since the current divisions were instituted, were in the AL East. Considering that there are six divisions, the AL East has to be disbanded to level the playing field!

  10. El Dandy Says:

    @8 -- The 95 win plateau should certainly be enough. Since the implementation of the Wild Card, only one team on this list did not make the playoffs -- the '99 Reds, who lost a one-game playoff with the Mets for the final spot.

  11. @Neil...if they disband the AL east wouldn't it make the Yanks and Sox MORE powerful?

  12. Fantusta Says:

    The first thing I thought of when reading the quote at the top was the Braves/Giants #8 referenced myself.

  13. Mets Maven Says:

    That 1954 Yankee team is the only Yankee team between 1949 and 1958, a 10-year stretch, that didn't win the pennant. Ironically, it won the most games of those 10 Yankee teams, and was the only one to reach 100 wins. Also, it was the only team Casey Stengel managed that reached that milestone (Casey's Mets teams came up somewhat short as well). It took an historically great Indian team to unseat the 1954 Yankees.

    On another note, the 1909 Cubs have the distinction of being the first of 102 Cubs teams (and counting) to not win the World Series.

  14. Larry R. Says:

    @1

    Or, perhaps, a "Bum"mer.

  15. @2, @5, @7.

    The '62 Dodgers provided a sneak preview of the '64 Phillies collapse.

    The Dodgers finished 1-6 while the Giants went 5-2 to arrive at a 101-61 tie after 162 games. Interestingly, both teams played the same opponents (St. Louis and Houston) in the last week of the season.

  16. Downpuppy Says:

    The Red Sox really dominate this list. Headed for 10th appearance this year, 6th since 2003 & nobody else has more than 5.

    It might be time to move about 6 teams out of the majors. Seattle, Milwaukee, KC, & 3 more from a fairly obvious list of cities that have given in to the ridiculous economics.

  17. In 1994, the Expos or Braves would have likely won 95 with one of them finishing in 2nd place. What a huge loss that season was.

  18. Mustachioed Repetition Says:

    That 1954 Yankee team is the only Yankee team between 1949 and 1958, a 10-year stretch, that didn't win the pennant.

    The only other teams to win the AL pennant from '49 through '64 were managed by Al Lopez ('59 ChiSox being the other).

  19. #17 - Very true. The 1994 Braves were on pace for 97 wins, and the Expos were on an unbelievable 105-win pace when the season died on the table.

  20. Mustachioed Repetition Says:

    And the Yankees now play spring training games across the street from Al Lopez Park. Coincidence? I think not.

  21. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    #2: I'm curious as to the best fourth place finish of all time now...

    In terms of winning percentage:

    1892-1900 NL: Orioles, 1899, 86-62, .581

    Pre-1969 NL: Pirates, 1962, 93-68, .578
    Pre-1969 AL: Indians, 1950, 92-62, .597

    Best winning percentages for teams finishing fourth within a division are the 1969 Cardinals, 87-75, .537, and the 1978 Orioles, 90-71, .559.

  22. Ahhhh, the 1993 NL West race was heaven as a Braves fan. Good times.

    That race was a major factor (in addition to expansion) in the inception of a wild card in 1995.

  23. Well, I guess the WC would have been implemented in 1994 if not for the strike.

  24. The Sox are on the list 9 times (excluding the Beaneaters) and that's 9 times they came in second to the Yanks. Ouch...

  25. Mike Gaber Says:

    Having season tickets with the Dodgers from 1981 thru 1997, I was at the final 3 game series between the Giants and the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium

    Giants squeaked out an 8-7 win on Friday.
    Beat the Dodgers on Saturday 5-3

    So it all came down to the Sunday game.
    I believe the Giants just had to win or go home.
    If Both team's (Giants or Braves) win they tie at 104 wins apiece.

    In the Sunday day game the Dodgers jumped all over the Giants starting in the 3rd inning.
    Mike Piazza hit 2 homers, drove in 4 runs. Raul Mondesi and Cory Snyder hit 1 homer each. Eric Karros was 3-4 with 2 RBI's

    Dodgers won the game 12-1.

  26. Mike Gaber Says:

    @ 25 mg

    Sorry forgot to mention the year was 1993.

  27. There's something to be said for either expanding to 4 eight team divisions or contracting to 4 seven team divisions and eliminating the wild card. I know growing up in the 60's you followed the standings every day all summer long if your team was in contention.

  28. Not sure if it has been mentioned, but Red Sox are also on pace to win 95+ games and fail to win the division.

  29. @11
    Pardon, Ahab, but I don't quite catch your meaning. Putting the Yankees and Red Sox in different divisions would allow them to win division titles and would leave the wild card more up for grabs. They would both still be big spenders, but how would they be "more powerful"? The AL wild card almost always comes out of the east.

  30. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    In the [1993 closing-day] Sunday day game the Dodgers jumped all over the Giants starting in the 3rd inning. Mike Piazza hit 2 homers, drove in 4 runs. Raul Mondesi and Cory Snyder hit 1 homer each. Eric Karros was 3-4 with 2 RBI's. Dodgers won the game 12-1.

    I attended that game too! Mondesi's home run, only the fourth of his career, was an absolute moon shot to left field. One of the longest homers I ever witnessed at Dodger Stadium . . . and that includes several Dave Kingman homers.

  31. @ #8.... Braves won't make it, 'cause of Pittsburgh ;-) haha

    @ #13... I had to look it up, 'cause you got me curious. The Yanks went 11-11 against that Cleveland team. Those Indians really lambasted the Orioles & Red Sox, going 39-5 against them. The Yanks had a 30-14 record against those teams. That's a 9 game difference in the Tribe's favor. New York finished the season 8 GB of Cleveland.

  32. birtelcom Says:

    Top four win loss-records in MLB right now are East Coast teams, and the Rays are just a half-game behind for the 5th spot. East/West imbalance replacing AL/NL imbalance?

  33. Mustachioed Repetition Says:

    Those Indians really lambasted the Orioles & Red Sox, going 39-5 against them.

    Yeah, Cleveland did a number on the second division teams that season. Going into the Series vs the Giants they were considered heavy favorites, but perhaps they should not have been. The NL was probably a better league by that point, due to integrating quicker, and CLE hadn't been that great against other good teams.

    I don't know if anyone's studied this. Of course, great teams *should* beat weaker teams. But (without looking closer myself) it's been my understanding that '54 CLE boosted their record to an absurd extent at the expense of the weak teams. Given two teams with 100 wins, can one project their postseason success, or reach any other conclusions about their quality, based on their record against the best teams?

  34. @33.

    "it's been my understanding that '54 CLE boosted their record to an absurd extent at the expense of the weak teams."

    How right you are, MR. Here's how "absurd":
    - against sub-.500 teams: 89-21, .809
    - against .500+ teams: 22-22, .500

  35. John Autin Says:

    On a tangent ... Have the Red Sox really crossed into the same zone as the Yankees, who are so profitable that only gross mismanagement and/or bad luck with injuries can keep them from contending?

    I think the Yankees are still alone in that department, but I could be persuaded otherwise.

  36. Nash Bruce Says:

    @4- It would be great, if there were some sort of reward, for regular season success. With how things stand now, just about any team that makes this list, is going to the playoffs, just like the division winner. Looking at the pre-'94 teams, though, is more intense. Some great teams, that just weren't great enough!!

    (As I'm sure many of you noticed, since the WC began, only the '99 Reds, made this list, and failed to go to the playoffs......)

  37. @ 25

    1993 NL West Race, final game:

    It was actually a 4-game series in LA, and the Giants had won the first three games. The Giants had a tough decision for the final game. Either go with fragile-armed starter Bill Swift (21-game winner) on 3 days rest or go with rookie Solomon Torres. The Giants went with Torres, who got lit up by the Dodgers, and chased in the 4th.

    The Dodger Starter was Kevin Gross, who ran a complete-game victory giving up one run. The SAME Kevin Gross, journeyman pitcher extraordinaire, who had No-Hit the Giants the year before.

    The Braves, meanwhile, closed the season with a 3-game sweep against the expansion Rockies. In fact, the Rockies failed to win ANY of the 12 games they played against the Braves in 1993.

    I have been a Giants fan for 35 years, and the 1993 defeat was absolutely exhilarating and crushing.

    This whole race would have been eliminated by the existence of the Wild Card in '93.

    But, what fun would that have been?

    I'm not a fan of the Wild Card.

    BTW, Solomon Torres was absolutely destroyed by the season-ending defeat. He bounced around in the majors for a few years, then washed out of baseball. He didn't pitch for 5 years and was coaching in the Pirates organization. While instructing other pitchers, the Pirates realized that he was a better pitcher than the kids he was teaching. He ended up back in the majors in 2002, and was fairly decent middle reliever for 4 or 5 years.

  38. ...and after all that, the Braves lost to the Phillies in the NLCS.

  39. David Gee Says:

    The most games a team has won in the wild card era and not made the playoffs is 93. Done by the Seattle Mariners. In 2002. AND 2003. I, a Mariner fan, shall now light myself on fire.