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Three 90+ win teams in the same division

Posted by Andy on April 6, 2010

Lots of folks feel that the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays are the three best teams in baseball. Of course it's not possible for more than 1 of them to win the AL East division or for more than 2 of them to make the playoffs. It's possible that they might be the three best teams but since they play each other so much (more than 5o games among these 3 teams) it limits the ability of all three teams to rack up high seasonal win totals. For example, even if these 3 teams split their games against each other, they'd all have to play about .565 win% against everybody else to all reach 90 wins for the season, and 90 wins doesn't even necessarily make you a playoff team.

So the bottom line is that by the end of the 2010 season, the true ability of these 3 teams might be masked by the fact that they played each other so much. This is a sort of strength-of-schedule issue that is mentioned in other sports (such as college basketball) but rarely mentioned in professional sports (with the exception of the NFL, which tailors each team's schedule to try to counterbalance the previous season's performance.)

Anyway, all of this got me to thinking--since divisional realignment in 1994, how many times has one division featured 3 teams with 90+ wins?

Nobody did it in 1994 or 1995 because of the strike-shortened seasons but no division was on pace for 3 90-win teams even if full schedules had been played.

In 2002, it happened in the AL West, with the Athletics totaling 103 wins, the Angels 99, and the Mariners 93. These high win totals were possible because only 3 other teams in the American League were over .500 and the Rays and the Tigers both lost 106 games. Amazingly, the feat also occurred in the NL West, with the Diamondbacks winning 98, and Giants winning 95, and the Dodgers winning 92.

The AL Central did it in 2006, with the Twins at 96, Tigers at 95, and White Sox at 90.

So that's 3 times in 16 seasons, meaning 96 total divisional races. That suggests that even if this year's versions of the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees are all pretty good, there's a pretty low chance that they'll all finish with 90 or more wins.

6 Responses to “Three 90+ win teams in the same division”

  1. Fireworks Says:

    Interesting post. There has been a lot of talk about these teams all winning a lot of games. How bad the other AL teams are, especially Baltimore and Toronto, will have a lot to say about whether these three teams can all get over 90.

    One nitpick, though: the NFL really doesn't have much of a strength-of-schedule equalizer anymore; teams in the same division play 14 of 16 games against the same exact opponents. SOS only accounts for a meager two games now. Not to say that two games doesn't mean much in the NFL season, just that the whole SOS argument is an ol' chestnut analysts like to throw out when discussing why a previously good team performs poorly--especially within the trend of the previous year's Superbowl loser being mediocre the next season--and the reality is SOS isn't much of a factor in explaining why Superbowl losers can't put it together the next season.

  2. Djibouti Says:

    "These high win totals were possible because only 3 other teams in the American League were over .500 and the Rays and the Tigers both lost 106 games"

    I think that's the key right there, how many really bad teams are there in the AL this year? I don't think there's anyone in the league this year that we can say for sure will lose 100 or close to it. The Royals are pretty bad, but they also have the reigning Cy Young winner pitching every fifth day. The Indians could land anywhere between 80-110 losses depending on how good the young talent is. The Orioles are a perennial threat for 100 losses, but they're also a bit of mystery. The entire AL West is in playoff contention, there are 3 good teams in the Central, and the Blue Jays are middle of the road. So I think they'll fall short of 3 90-game winners, but it will have more to do with how good the rest of the league is than how good those 3 teams are.

  3. Devon & His 1982 Topps blog Says:

    That makes me wonder now, how many times have there been 3 90-loss teams in a division? Probably never? But it seems like it is possible. Maybe 3 80+ loss teams in same division are more reasonable...

  4. Gerry Says:

    I don't know how many times there have been 3 90-loss teams in a division, but it has happened at least once. The 2001 NL Central featured the Brewers at 94 losses, the Reds at 96, and the Pirates at an even 100. It hasn't happened in the NL since then.

  5. Gerry Says:

    The last time the AL had 3 90-loss teams in a division was 1999, when the Tigers, Royals, and Twins all stank up the Central.

  6. Ruben Amaro Says:

    Three best teams in the league? Don't waste my time.