The Little Bit Short Club

February 11, 2021
 

Reggs and Champs

 

1.      Introduction

2.     Method

3.     Results and Conclusions

4.     Teams

5.     Historic Success

6.     Notes

 

 

I. Introduction

We got into a discussion on "Hey, Bill" about teams that were quite good for a number of years, but just could never finish it, could never win the pennant or never win the World Series, or maybe they won once but it didn’t seem like enough for that team.   Quite a few teams were suggested to represent that concept, and eventually a general idea emerged in my head as to how I could identify and isolate those teams.

We will call them LBS teams for "Little Bit Short"; it’s a bad name, but for some reason I can’t come up with anything better.  Of course, the original idea for how to identify LBS teams didn’t work, but I modified it so it worked a little better.   That didn’t work, either, but the fourth or fifth iteration worked reasonably well.  I hope.

 

II.             The Method

Suppose that we could measure two different things:  a team’s success in regular-season play, over a period of several seasons, and the value of their championships won.  Suppose that we measured them on scales that balance.  There are "regular season success points", which we will call Reggs, and Championships won, which we will call Champs.  Over time and for all teams, Reggs will equal Champs.  In the short run and for some teams, however, Reggs will not equal Champs.  That’s what we are looking for:  teams for which the Championship Points (Champs) were significantly less than the Reggs, representing regular season success.

      You want details?  You want details?  OK, I’ll explain the details. 

      A team gets a regular season point for each win they have, above their losses.  A team finishes 81-80, that’s one point; if they finish 82-80, that’s two points, two Reggs.   If they finish 102-60, that’s 42 Reggs. 

      If you’re UNDER .500, that’s a non-event.  We’re not studying bad teams or unsuccessful teams.  We are trying to identify teams which are successful on the one hand, regular season, but not so successful on the other hand, championships won. 

 

      Championship Points (Champs) are more arbitrary.  If a team wins a World Series, that counts as 100 Championship Points. 

      If they win their league but not the World Cereals, they get 65 points.

      If they win their division but not their league, that’s 34 points.

      And if they make post-season play but don’t win the division or the league, that’s 15 points. 

      These points are set so as to create balance. . . .not quite PERFECT balance, off by a little more than 1%.   For all teams in history, there are 26,492 Reggs and 26,160 Champs. 

For illustration, let us take the Cincinnati Reds from 1993 to 2013, a span of 21 seasons.  These are their won-lost records each year:

Year

Tea

m

G

W

L

1993

CIN

N

162

73

89

1994

CIN

N

115

66

48

1995

CIN

N

144

85

59

1996

CIN

N

162

81

81

1997

CIN

N

162

76

86

1998

CIN

N

162

77

85

1999

CIN

N

163

96

67

2000

CIN

N

163

85

77

2001

CIN

N

162

66

96

2002

CIN

N

162

78

84

2003

CIN

N

162

69

93

2004

CIN

N

162

76

86

2005

CIN

N

163

73

89

2006

CIN

N

162

80

82

2007

CIN

N

162

72

90

2008

CIN

N

162

74

88

2009

CIN

N

162

78

84

2010

CIN

N

162

91

71

2011

CIN

N

162

79

83

2012

CIN

N

162

97

65

2013

CIN

N

162

90

72

     

      They were not over .500 in 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 or 2011, so those are zero-value years, and we’ll get rid of them.  In the other years, they get one point for each win that they are over .500:

Year

Tea

m

G

W

L

W - L

1994

CIN

N

115

66

48

18

1995

CIN

N

144

85

59

26

1999

CIN

N

163

96

67

29

2000

CIN

N

163

85

77

8

2010

CIN

N

162

91

71

20

2012

CIN

N

162

97

65

32

2013

CIN

N

162

90

72

18

 

      If you total up the regular-season points, it comes out to 151, 151 Reggs. 

      When we look at Championships in that era, the Reds won their division, but not the league, in 1994, 1995, 2010 and 2012.  (1994, of course, was a strike-stricken season, but the Reds had the best won-lost record in the division, so we’re going to give it to them.)   You get 34 points for winning the division, so that’s four times 34, or 136 points.  Also, they made post-season play in 2013, so that’s another 15 points, so that makes 151, again.   The Reds from 1993 to 2013 were an "even" franchise, 151 to 151. 

Of course, not many teams are exactly even over a period of years, except those that are zero against zero.   In shorter spans of years there are lots of those.  

I figured the Reggs and Champs for every team in baseball history in every 5-, 7-, 9-, 11-, 13-, 15-, 17-, 19- or 21-year period since 1900.   That was a lot of work, but it turned out to be not EXACTLY what I needed.  The reason it wasn’t what I needed is that it presented multiple candidates for the title of the highest LBS Score, but without any way to sort through them.  One team would be the LBS leader on a 9-year look, but then another would be the leader at 11 years, and another at 13 years.   Which was really the leader?

I needed some way to tie the years together, a running score, so that we would have one list, rather than many different lists.   I created a running score in this way.  Actually, since we are measuring two different things—Regular Season Success, and Championships—I needed two different running scores, although the formula for the one is the same as the formula for the other. 

Let us say that last season’s score is L.  This season’s score is:

        L

Times .9,

Plus this season’s Score,

-2 if the team lost more games than they won.

 

So, a Year ago, the Washington Nationals Reg Score was 117.9.  Multiply that by .9; that’s 106.1.  They lost more games than they won, so we subtract 2, since the 2020 Nationals had a Losing record, and that makes their Regg Score 104.1.

A Year ago, their Champ Score, since they had just won the World Series, was 192.0.  Multiply that by .9, you have 172.8.  We Subtract 2, since the 2020 Nationals had a losing record, and that makes 170.8. 

We subtract 2 so that a series of losing seasons will eventually return your score to zero.  Just multiplying by .9 will never get you back to zero, even if you have 100 straight losing seasons.  We subtract 2 so that you get back to zero if you keep losing. 

The LBS Score is the margin between the Regg Score and the Champ Score.   If the organization has had more regular-season success in recent years than championships, then the LBS Score is positive.  If it’s the other way around, then the LBS Score is negative.   If it is HIGHLY positive, then you wind up on the list below, of LBS teams. 

 

III. Results and Conclusions

            I’ll start the list at #15, with the notation that teams #11-15 are not REALLY good examples of LBS teams; they are teams that are kind of like LBS teams, but not quite.  We get to the real LBS teams about #10.

            #15  The Tigers that Squeaked.  (Detroit Tigers, 1949 to 1973).    The Tigers won four pennants and two World Series between 1934 and 1945, so they had a negative LBS Score through 1948.  From 1943 to 1950 they were over .500 every year.  In 1950 a young, aggressive Tiger team almost beat the Yankees, finishing three games back at 95-59.  

            The 1950 Tigers are actually a lot like the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies, known as the Whiz Kids, who won the National League that year with a record 4 games worse than the Tigers.  Both teams had a bunch of good, young players on their 1950 roster, but (for both teams) many of those players reached their highest points at an early age.   Unlike the 1950 Phillies, though, the 1950 Tigers went into a severe and very unusual crisis in 1950-1953 era.   Trying to put a complex series of events into two sentences:  (1) Their manager, Red Rolfe, lost control of his team and lost the respect of his team, and (2) Mickey Cochrane, 1920s/1930s superstar, tried to maneuver himself into the General Managers’ job based on his relationship with the owner, which led to a nasty internal battle, which was resolved by putting 1920s/1930s superstar Charlie Gehringer in the GM’s chair.   Gehringer, who was the nicest man in the world, was massively unprepared for the job and didn’t have a clue what he was doing, which—in combination with Red Rolfe’s self-destruction—led the Tigers into a very unusual three-year maelstrom.

            The post-1950 Phillies settled gently back toward the extreme mediocrity from which they had recently emerged because they failed to build on their talent base.   They didn’t sign or acquire any more good players after the explosion of good signings in the late 1940s.

            But the Tigers did.  Before the 1950 season began, before Gehringer was hired, the Tigers had signed Jim Bunning, Frank Lary and Billy Hoeft, all signed about the same time.   It is hard to imagine that any other organization ever signed three pitchers of that quality in the same group; maybe the A’s of the 1960s.  Once they got past the madness, however, the Tigers continued to make excellent signings and good trades until the mid-1960s.  They signed Frank Bolling in 1951, Harvey Kuenn in 1952, Al Kaline in 1953, Dick McAuliffe in 1957, Mickey Lolich in 1958, and Bill Freehan and Willie Horton in 1961.  They made some good trades, trading for Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito in 1960.  They picked up Denny McLain in the Rule 5 Draft in 1962. 

            After finishing more than 100 games under .500 in the 1951-1954 era, they were back over .500 by 1955, although honestly they were a .500-range team through the late 1950s.  But they won 101 games in 1961, then 85 or more 11  times in 13 years from 1961 to 1973.   Although I introduced it by referencing the things that led up to this, the 1961 to 1973 era is really what I’m talking about.

            Yes, they did win one World Championship, 1968, and one more division championship in 1973.   There was more than that in there.  From 1965, when the Yankees fell apart, until 1969, when the Orioles solidified themselves with Earl Weaver (actually hired mid-season, 1968). . .between that time, the Tigers should have dominated the American League.   They didn’t. 

            As to why they didn’t, I would site four VDD (Very Dumb Decisions):

1)      The hiring of Charlie Gehringer as GM (1950),

2)     Red Rolfe’s decision to platoon Vic Wertz in 1951, which divided the clubhouse and ended Red Rolfe’s managerial career,

3)     The 1963 decision to make a platoon player out of Norm Cash, and

4)     The post-1963 decision to trade Jim Bunning for Don Demeter. 

Bunning was one of the five best pitchers in baseball, and the Tigers really got nothing for him—and, at the same time, traded away Rocky Colavito, who had two outstanding years left after he was traded; Demeter and Colavito were both right-handed power-hitting outfielders, so Demeter essentially replaced Colavito, except Colavito was much better. 

The organization also made many GOOD decisions in that era, but these four stupidoe torpedoes kept them from reaching the level that they should have reached.  The Gehringer/Rolfe fiascoes set the organization backward, really, for almost ten years.  The Cash and Bunning decisions kept the organization from reaching its potential in the mid-1960s.  Their LBS Score peaked at 90.5 after the 1967 season.

 

            #14 Chicago Cubs, 1902 to 1914.   Cap Anson was a great manager in his day, but, like many great managers, he held on a little too long, and when he left the team in the late 1890s, they were trudging along around .500.  After they had losing seasons in 1900 and 1901, the team hired Frank Selee, who had built the great Boston teams of the 1890s, to be their new manager.  In that era, before General Managers and before organized scouting systems, a manager’s number one job was to select young players who could improve the team.  Selee did that brilliantly for a few years, then had to leave the team because of illness.  Frank Chance took over for him, and Chance led the team to its ultimate success. 

            Between 1902 and 1914 the Cubs did win two World Series Championships (1907 and 1908) and two other NL Championships (1906 and 1910).  That level of success would ordinarily disqualify them from a position on this list.  The Cubs, however, were so spectacularly successful in regular season play—more successful than any other major league team in history, in one year or in any period of years—that their four championships are a poor representation of their true greatness, and they wind up in 14th place, with an LBS Score reaching a peak of 93.6.

 

            #13.  The Baby Birds.    Like the Cubs of 1902-1913, the Orioles of 1960 to 1965 are on this list but not really on it, not typical of the teams higher on the list and not representative of the idea that forms the list.  The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1953 as an organization almost entirely bereft of talent.   They had not invested meaningfully in their farm system in the 1930s and 1940s, and their talent base had decayed to almost nothing. Paul Richards took over the team as manager and General Manager in 1955, and, backed by the funding of owner Jerold Hoffberger,  began systematically piecing together a championship organization. 

            Although improving steadily, the Orioles had losing records through 1959.  In 1960 several things happened.  Shortstop Ron Hansen was the Rookie of the Year; had he stayed healthy, Hansen would have been a Bobby Grich/Chase Utley type superstar.  Jim Gentile, acquired for $50,000 and two players who would never play a major league game after the trade, was one of the best power hitters in baseball for a few years, driving in 98 runs in 384 at bats in 1960.  Brooks Robinson, signed as a Bonus Baby years earlier, came into his own in late 1959. 

            Overshadowing those things, at the time, were the Baby Birds.  The Orioles’ 1960 starting rotation was Chuck Estrada, Steve Barber, Milt Pappas and Jack Fisher.   Estrada was 22 years old—and he was the oldest of the four.  Two of them were 22; the other two were 21. 

            And they led the league in ERA. 

            With the Baby Birds and Gentile and Brooks Robinson and other good young players coming along on a yearly basis, the Orioles were 24 games over .500 in 1960, and 28 games over in 1961 (95-67).

            People now think of the Frank Robinson/Milt Pappas trade as the thing that launched founded the Orioles’ powerhouse, but the 1966 Baltimore Orioles won 97 games.  They had won 97 games in 1964, without Frank, and they had won 95 in 1961 and 94 in 1965.   Frank was a great player, but the Orioles were a great team before they got him.

            We would not really classify the Orioles as an LBS, because their years as a very good team that couldn’t quite win transitioned into a very good team that won World Championships in 1966 and 1970 and carried on for more than a decade after that.  But by 1965, before they finally won the World Series in 1966, they had an LBS Score of 94.0, which is the 13th highest of all time. 

 

            #12  The White Elephants.  (Philadelphia A’s, 1903 to 1909.)  Same story as the Baltimore Orioles; they finally broke through as a Dynasty in 1910, so that’s how we think of them, as the perennial winners that they became from 1910 to 1914.   But they had been winning a lot of games all along, with 8 winning seasons from 1901 to 1909.   By 1909 they had an LBS Score of 96.6. 

 

            #11 The Carlton Fisk Red Sox (Boston, 1968 to 1982).   The Red Sox, of course, came out of nowhere in 1967 to win the American League Championship.   But in the 15 years that followed, they had a winning record every single season.  They were ten games over .500 in 11 of the 15 years; they won 99 games, 97, 95, and 91.   They had stars that their broadcasters still talk about endlessly and to the point of annoyance—Rice and Lynn and Dewey and Burleson and Fisk and Hobson and Yaz and Tiant and Bill Lee and Eckersley.   It was an extremely good team, but Remy and Eckersley still talk about them as if it was the greatest team that ever took the field, and I don’t mean they do this once in a while.   I’ll bet you you couldn’t find a Red Sox broadcast in the last three years in which Remy and Eckersley didn’t start talking about those good ole’ days.   I’m not sure that you could find a broadcast in which they didn’t talk about those guys in three separate innings.  It’s endless.  Man, am I tired of that.

            Anyway, it was a really good team that should, by rights, have gotten more than one league championship in there.  After the 1967 championship the Red Sox had a Regg Score of 62.4 and a Champ Score of 65.0, so they had a negative LBS Score.   After that, though, their Regg Score went up almost every year, reaching a peak of 155.1 in 1979, while the Champ Score went down every year except 1975.  By 1982, the end of the 15 straight winning seasons, the Regg Score was 142.9, while the Champ Score was 44.5.  This makes a LBS Score of 98.5—the 11th highest of all time.

 

            #10  The Dead Ball Indians (Cleveland, 1902 to 1919.)  From 1902 to 1913 the Indians were generally a good team, finishing 18 to 26 games over .500 five times.  Nap Lajoie was their big star in that era.  They took a huge step backward in 1914-1915, when the Federal League sent salaries skyrocketing, and forced the Indians to sell off their star players, just as it did the Philadelphia A’s.  The Indians lost Shoeless Joe Jackson and their top two starting pitchers, both of whom were 20-game winners.  After the Federal League folded, however, the Indians rebuilt, finishing 22 games over .500 in 1918, 19 over in 1919.  By 1919 they Indians had a Regg Score of 99.0, while their Champ Score was still at zero, since they had never won a pennant.  This gave them a LBS score of 99.0 (99 – 0), which is the tenth highest of all time.

 

#9—Willie’s Time (San Francisco Giants, 1958-1970).

            After winning the World Series in 1954 the Giants—like almost every team which wins a World Series—were in negative range on the LBS scale, the Giants at -32.  Their last two seasons in New York they were terrible, but Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry joined them in 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1962, and adding one Hall of Famer a year will set you on the path to victory.  This actually understates how productive their farm system was.  Their 1958 rookie class included Felipe Alou, Leon Wagner, Willie Kirkland and Jim Davenport, all of whom were really good players.  Within a very few years they added Jose Pagan, Matty Alou, Tom Haller and others; their scouting network, directed by Carl Hubbell, was kind of out-of-control crazy good.    In 1962 they won the National League and menaced the Yankees in the World Series, which re-set their LBS Score to about zero.

            After that, though, they started finished second pretty much every year.  The farm system kept churning out players through the 1970s; 1962, Manny Mota;  1963, Jose Cardenal; 1964, Jim Ray Hart and Jesus Alou, 1965, Ken Henderson and Randy Hundley; 1966, Tito Fuentes and Ollie Brown.  They made a lot of bad trades, but it almost didn’t matter; there was always another one just as good coming along the next season. 

            The pitchers they produced were not as good—Ron Herbel, Frank Linzy, Bobby Bolin.  They were not as good, but there was always a steady flow of them, with Marichal and Gaylord to anchor the rotation.  They won 88 games in 1963, 90 in 1964.  Then they got good.  They won 95, 93, 91, 88 and 90 games the five years after that—and finished second all five years.   I think it may be a record for consecutive second-place finishes.   They had winning records their first 14 years in San Francisco.  That’s what this is about, of course—teams that were good, but just couldn’t quite win.   By 1969 they had a LBS Score of 99.3—the 9th highest of all time. 

            They won their division in 1970 and 1972, didn’t go anywhere.  They didn’t win anything MORE than their division until 20 years later, 1989. 

 

            #8  Traynor and the Waners.  (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1928-1938 and, really, 1928 to 1945.)  It is hard to know to what extent your familiarity with baseball history is similar to mine, but when I was young, every baseball fan knew the legend of the 1927 Yankees crushing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. 

            The Pirates had been a strong organization since acquiring Honus Wagner in 1900.  They won the World Series in 1925, and went back to the Series in 1927, when the Yankees destroyed them.  After that they didn’t get back to the Series until 1960. 

From 1928 to 1938 the National League pennants were won by the Cardinals, Cubs and Giants, but the Pirates remained perennial contenders.  Early in that period there were four Hall of Famers on the team—the Waner brothers, Pie Traynor, and Burleigh Grimes—and there were three strong starting pitchers—Grimes, Remy Kramer, and Carmen Hill.   Their managers kept getting fired because they didn’t win. They were 18 games over .500 in 1928, 23 games over in 1929, but Donie Bush got fired.  They were around .500 for two years under Jewel Ens, so he got fired.   They were 18 games over .500 in 1932 and 20 games over in 1933, but around .500 in 1934 (74-76), so George Gibson got fired.  Pie Traynor took over as the Player-Manager.   Under Traynor they were 19, 14, 18 and 22 games over .500.   At that point, not having been in the World Series for eleven years, their Champ Score had declined to 51.9, but, based on the consistently strong performance of their teams, their Regg Score was still 160.3, for an LBS Score of 108.4.  This is the 8th highest of all time.

Of course, the personnel changed over time; the 1938 team still had Big Poison and Little Poison, Paul and Lloyd Waner, but their best player by then was Arky Vaughan.  The Pirates had an off season in 1939, and their LBS Score declined from that point, but really, they remained a relatively strong franchise through 1945, posting records of 80-74, 90-63, and 82-72 from 1943 to 1945. 

 

            #7  New York Giants, 1906 to 1910.   The New York Giants don’t really belong on this list; they’re here as a result of some combination of the National League in that era being an extremely unusual league, and the process of creating this list not working exactly as I had intended it to work. 

            The National League in that era had, essentially, three first-place teams (the Pirates, Cubs and Giants) and three perennial last-place teams (the Cardinals, Braves and Dodgers, as those teams are now known.)   The standard deviation of wins was at a historic high.   In the years 1906 to 1910, when one of those three "good" teams played one of the weak teams, the won lost record of the good team was 583-201, a .744 winning percentage. 

            So the New York Giants were 40 games over .500 in 1906, 42 games over .500 in 1908, and 152 games over .500 over the five-year span—but they did not win a pennant.  They won in 1905 and 1911, but in the five years between they pushed their Regg Score to 203.1, while not winning allowed their Champ Score declined to 93.6.   This makes their LBS Score (their Little-Bit-Short Score) 109.5, which is the 7th largest of all time.  But they don’t really belong on this list.

 

            #6   Waiting for Jackie  (The Brooklyn Dodgers, 1939-1946)

            Through 1938, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a Regg Score of 17.9 and Champ Score of 2.8, which results in a LBS Score of just 15.1. 

Year

Team

L

W

L

W - L

Pennant?

Regg

Champ

LBS Score

1938

BRO

N

69

80

0

0

17.9

2.8

15.1

 

 This means that the Dodger teams before then were NOT good teams that just couldn’t win.  They were bad teams that just couldn’t win.  In 1938 no pitcher on the team won more than 12 games, the team batting average was .257, and they hit 61 homers as a team.  Leo Durocher was their regular shortstop, in 1938, hitting .219 with 1 home run. 

            In 1939 Leo Durocher was hired to manage the Dodgers, and in 1942 Branch Rickey became their General Manager.  The Dodgers started to win every year:

Year

Team

Lg

W

L

W - L

Pennant?

Regg

Champ

LBS Score

1938

BRO

N

69

80

0

0

17.9

2.8

15.1

1939

BRO

N

84

69

       

 

1940

BRO

N

88

65

       

 

1941

BRO

N

100

54

       

 

1942

BRO

N

104

50

       

 

1943

BRO

N

81

72

       

 

1944

BRO

N

63

91

       

 

1945

BRO

N

87

67

       

 

1946

BRO

N

96

60

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Except 1944; they didn’t win in 1944.  They were 15 games over .500 in 1939, 23 in 1940, 100 total in 1941-1942, 9 in 1944, 20 in 1945, and 36 in 1946:

Year

Team

Lg

W

L

W - L

Pennant?

Regg

Champ

LBS Score

1938

BRO

N

69

80

0

0

17.9

2.8

15.1

1939

BRO

N

84

69

15

     

 

1940

BRO

N

88

65

23

     

 

1941

BRO

N

100

54

46

     

 

1942

BRO

N

104

50

54

     

 

1943

BRO

N

81

72

9

     

 

1944

BRO

N

63

91

0

     

 

1945

BRO

N

87

67

20

     

 

1946

BRO

N

96

60

36

 

 

 

 

           

            And these winning records pushed their "Regg" Score steadily upward, reaching 148.6 in 1946:

Year

Team

L

W

L

W - L

Pennant?

Regg

Champ

LBS Score

1938

BRO

N

69

80

0

0

17.9

2.8

15.1

1939

BRO

N

84

69

15

 

31.1

 

 

1940

BRO

N

88

65

23

 

51.0

 

 

1941

BRO

N

100

54

46

 

91.9

 

 

1942

BRO

N

104

50

54

 

136.7

 

 

1943

BRO

N

81

72

9

 

132.0

 

 

1944

BRO

N

63

91

0

 

116.8

 

 

1945

BRO

N

87

67

20

 

125.2

 

 

1946

BRO

N

96

60

36

 

148.6

 

 

 

            They did win the pennant in 1941, which added 65 points to their offsetting "Champ" score:

Year

Team

L

W

L

W - L

Pennant?

Regg

Champ

LBS Score

1938

BRO

N

69

80

0

0

17.9

2.8

15.1

1939

BRO

N

84

69

15

0

31.1

2.5

28.6

1940

BRO

N

88

65

23

0

51.0

2.3

48.7

1941

BRO

N

100

54

46

65

91.9

67.0

24.9

1942

BRO

N

104

50

54

 

136.7

 

 

1943

BRO

N

81

72

9

 

132.0

 

 

1944

BRO

N

63

91

0

 

116.8

 

 

1945

BRO

N

87

67

20

 

125.2

 

 

1946

BRO

N

96

60

36

 

148.6

 

 

 

            But after 1941, they continued to build the organization and continued to win a lot of games, but without getting back to the top of the league:

Year

Team

L

W

L

W - L

Pennant?

Regg

Champ

LBS Score

1938

BRO

N

69

80

0

0

17.9

2.8

15.1

1939

BRO

N

84

69

15

0

31.1

2.5

28.6

1940

BRO

N

88

65

23

0

51.0

2.3

48.7

1941

BRO

N

100

54

46

65

91.9

67.0

24.9

1942

BRO

N

104

50

54

0

136.7

60.3

76.4

1943

BRO

N

81

72

9

0

132.0

54.3

77.7

1944

BRO

N

63

91

0

0

116.8

46.9

70.0

1945

BRO

N

87

67

20

0

125.2

42.2

83.0

1946

BRO

N

96

60

36

0

148.6

38.0

110.7

            Which put their LBS Score, as Jackie appeared on the scene, at 110.7.   This is the 6th largest of all time.

 

            5.  The Cleveland Indians, 1929 to 1940. 

            When a team has been successful for several years without winning a pennant or without having post-season appearances commensurate with their regular-season success, that can be resolved in either of two ways: 

(1)   That they win something, or

(2)  That they no longer are a successful franchise. 

On this list of teams, teams number 13, 12, 10, 7 and 6 resolved the situation by winning pennants.  Teams 15, 11, 9 and 8 resolved it by dropping out of the "consistently competitive" category.   Team 14 (the Cubs, 1902-1913) is an aberration, a team that made this list despite being successful within the time period. 

The Cleveland Indians, although they did win the world in 1948, had already resolved their status by dropping out of competition for several years.   The Indians staggered ineffectually through the mid and late 1920s.  In 1929 they jumped the line to become sort-of competitive due to a career year from Lou Fonseca and two Hall-of-Fame quality rookies:  Earl Averill and Wes Ferrell.  Ferrell didn’t make the Hall of Fame, but he was Hall of Fame quality for eight years.   Mel Harder, on the team in 1929, developed later into one of the best pitchers in the league.   Joe Vosmik had an outstanding rookie season in 1931, and was outstanding for several years after that.  Odell (Bad News) Hale joined the team in 1933, and hit .300 with 101 RBI in 1934 and 1935.  Hal Trosky drove in 142 runs as a rookie in 1934; like Ferrell, his Hall of Fame train jumped the tracks a little bit short of the station, but he was there for several years.  In 1936 the Tribe added two outstanding pitchers: Johnny Allen, who was traded to Cleveland by the Yankees mostly because of his erratic behavior, and the sensational rookie of all sensational rookies, Bob Feller.

Feller’s development into the best pitcher of his generation completed a team that was already of a high quality, but they never got to 90 wins.  89 wins (1940), 87, 87, 86, 85, 83, 82, 81, 81, 80.  They won 80 to 89 games 10 times in 12 years, but never got to 90.    By 1940—the year of the Cleveland Crybabies, which was the toughest year of all—by 1940 their LBS Score was 117.9.  It was the 5th highest of all time.

                       

.           #4 The Other Babe’s team (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1904 to 1924)

            Babe Adams was the only player in baseball nicknamed "Babe" before the Big Fella.  He was the hero of the 1909 World Series, a rookie pitcher who was pitching well at season’s end, was assigned to start the opening game and wound up throwing three complete-game victories in the series. 

            After 1909 he stayed with the Pirates until 1926, his career ending in a nasty team imbroglio about failure to support the manager.  He was a very calm, well-liked man, and one of the greatest control pitchers of all time.

            But back to the Pirates.  The Pirates were the third team in that weird, imbalanced league that gave us #14 on this list (the Cubs) and #10 (the Giants.)  The Pirates won the National League in 1901, 1902 and 1903, which put their LBS score at Negative 41.  Basically, when the American League drained most of the talent in the National League off, the Pirates did a better job of keeping their stars than any other team had.  In 1904, however, they were 87-66 without winning, and then they won 91 to 98 games every year for four straight years. Without winning.

            This stunning series of non-winning seasons—163 games over .500 in five years—pushed their LBS Score to 112.1,which would put them 5th on this list, but they weren’t done yet.   After winning the World Series in 1909 they had three MORE very good/non-winning seasons, a 93-58 season in 1912 moving them up to 115.0.   The Pirates did have a four-year downturn (1914-1917) as Honus Wagner finally grew old, and that cost them 50 points, but by 1920 they had won only one pennant in 17 years, despite having 13 winning seasons in there. 

            In 1921 they got serious about it, finishing 27 games over .500 (90-63), then 16 games over, then 20, they 90-63 again.  By 1924 they had had 17 winning seasons in 21 years, totaling a whopping 410 games over .500, but with only one pennant to show for it.   By 1924 their LBS Score was 119.4, the 4th highest ever. In 1925 and 1927 they finally reached the top of the league, only to enter a brand new series of frustrating years in 1928. 

            The Babe was still there in 1921 and still a very good pitcher; after winning 17 games in 1919 and 17 more in 1920, he was 14-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 1921, and 13-7 in 1923.  By that time, though, the star of the team was Wilbur Cooper, on the mound, plus two Hall of Famers in the infield (Rabbit Maranville and Pie Traynor) and two more in the outfield (Kiki Cuyler and Max Carey.) 

            The Pirates in that era were a very stable organization.  For the most part, they kept their stars until they just couldn’t play anymore.   This loyalty may be related to their failure to break through.  The Tigers were like that, in the Kaline/Cash era,  and perhaps other teams on this list, as well.  Sometimes you have to shake things up to get short-term results.

           

            #3 The Cleveland Indians:  1949 to 1956.

            Of course you all know that the Cleveland Indians won the American League in 1954 with one of the best won-lost records of all time.  But when you go 111-43 in the regular season and then don’t win the World Series, that’s actually a post-season UNDER-performance. 

            The Indians won the World Series in 1948, which essentially brought them up to even at that time.  They won in 1948, but the franchise had that one coming to them.  It had been almost 30 years since they had won, and there were a lot of good teams in there; we covered that earlier in the article.   The 1948 World Series just knocked their LBS Score down to about zero.

            Jim Hegan, Catcher; Bobby Avila, Second Base; Al Rosen, Third Base, Larry Doby, Center Field, and one of the greatest starting rotations of all time:   Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Bob Feller.  Whoever didn’t win 20 was the odd man out.   After winning 97 games in 1948 they won 89, then went 92-62, 93-61, 93-61, 92-62, 111-43, 93-61 and 88-66.    Their LBS Score was going up by 25 points a year, reaching a peak of 143.0 in 1956.   It was the third highest ever. 

            Up to 1956, the Indians history had been an almost unbroken series of good but disappointing teams.  The Indians had good teams under Lajoie, but never won, and good teams with Shoeless Joe, but never won, and they had good teams with Tris Speaker.  The Indians of the 1901-1919 era are on this list, but then the Tris Speaker teams won one time.  After a few subpar seasons the Indians were good again, from 1929 to 1940; those teams are high on this list, but they never won.  From 1901 to 1956 the Indians were on that "good but not good enough" list more years than they were not. 

            What essentially happened to the Indians post-1956, which kicked them out of the class of "Good" teams, was Frank Lane.  In 1958 Frank Lane replaced Hank Greenberg as the Indians’ GM; my memory is that Greenberg left on his own, although you’d want to double-check that.  Anyway, the best Indians position players of the 1949-1956 era, Al Rosen and Larry Doby, grew old; Rosen was forced into an early retirement by back injuries.   That really was not a prohibitive problem; players grow old.  Hank Greenberg had left them with a strong enough farm system to move ahead.  The 1957 Indians had Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito.   If the Indians had just left them alone, by 1961 they would have had 106 homers and 282 RBI in left and right fields.  Unfortunately, Lane had traded both of them away in his endless efforts to show everybody how clever he was, so by 1961 their leading power hitter was Willie Kirkland. 

            And then, of course, Herb Score got hurt.   Herb Score was supposed to replace Bob Feller as the dominant pitcher of his era, but it didn’t happen.   The Indians farm system had had Sam Jones, who became an outstanding starting pitcher in the National League, but they had let him get away.   They had reached an agreement with the 19-year-old Luis Aparicio, but they tried to re-negotiate the agreement and they let him get away. 

            But that wasn’t the whole story, either.   From 1958 to 1965, the Indians produced a long list of very good pitchers—Mudcat Grant, who can be considered the 1965 AL Cy Young Award Winner, although there was no such Award, and Jim Perry, who won that Award in 1970 and won 216 games, and Gary Bell and Luis Tiant and Sam McDowell and Tommy John and Steve Hargan and Sonny Siebert.  But they had lost that. . ..something.  They had lost their organizational confidence.  They were always trying to FIX the team, rather than trying to BUILD the team.   They had Tommy Agee in the minor leagues, but they traded him away without giving him a real chance to play.  Later on they had a young Graig Nettles and George Hendrick and Chris Chambliss and Buddy Bell.  But for the next 20 years, 30 years, they were always shuttling pieces in and out, not placing the right value on the young players that they had, giving up too soon on players who had a bad season, not really understanding or not really trusting the concept of a team:   a group of young athletes who believe in one another and who trust one another and who are working together to try to share success.   There was too much activity and not enough direction.   They had too many players who were coming and going and not enough who were staying.  They needed a Gil Hodges manager, or an Al Lopez, or an Earl Weaver or a Whitey Herzog or a Terry Francona.  They needed somebody who understood what a team is and how you build it.   They finally found that in the 1990s, with Mike Hargrove.  But it took a long time. 

 

            #2  The Ted Williams Red Sox  (1937-1958). 

            Between 1937 and 1958, the Boston Red Sox had winning records 17 times in 22 years, and were a total of 364 games over .500 in those 17 seasons.   They won one pennant, and lost in the World Series.  Their LBS Score peaked at 143.5 in 1951. 

            I assume that you know the essential story of this team.  The Red Sox went through a period of extreme failure after selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  Their Regular Season Success Score (Regg) declined from 202 in 1918 to 19 in 1936, while their Championship Success Score (Champ) declined from 341 to 37.

            Tom Yawkey bought the team and began to re-build, purchasing or trading for expensive players like Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Wes Ferrell, but also investing enough in scouting and player development that within five years the system had kicked out Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams, as well as several other players of high quality. 

            The Red Sox Regular Season Success Score (Regg) began to build back up, from 19 in 1936 to 75 in 1940, 85 in 1944, 146 in 1948, and 188 in 1951.  By 1951 their regular season success score was back close to where it had been in 1918, but in the seasons running up to 1918 they had won five World Series.   In getting back to that level they had won none.  By the time they finally did get back to the World Series (1946), their post-season success score (Champ) had actually reached zero.  

            Like the Indians, the Red Sox rolled from one series of frustrating seasons into another, first 1937 to 1958 and then 1968 to 1982.  In between there, 1959 to 1966, there was a period when the Red Sox were just bad, so you can’t really say it is one continuous period of good teams that didn’t win, and 1937 and 1982 are not one team in the sense that we mean it here.  The first series of teams is held together by Ted Williams, more or less, and the second group by Carl Yastrzemski. 

 

            #1  The Chicago White Sox, 1951 to 1967

            There is a theme, you will note, among the top three teams, and 6 of the top 15.  They’re the teams that were really good, but they couldn’t get past the Yankees.  

            The Chicago White Sox in the 1950s were still owned by the Comiskey family.  Charles Comiskey, the 1880s player who founded the White Sox, left the team to his only son.  The son died in 1939, and left the team to his widow, Grace.  Grace Comiskey appears to have been a very nice lady, but she ran the team as a family business, in the worst sense.  Several of her relatives were on the payroll and in the front office, doing jobs that they may not have been highly qualified to do.   The team was not successful.

            Near the end of the 1948 season, Frank Lane was hired to be the White Sox General Manager.  Lane was generally regarded more as a gadfly or a character than as a potential General Manager.   53 years old when he got the job, he had worked for a couple of years in the 1930s as the Cincinnati Reds farm director, and had been President of a few minor leagues.  Front offices were smaller then; many teams in the 1930s didn’t HAVE a farm director.  It wasn’t anything like the job that it is now, and being President of a minor league was like a side hustle; a guy could be President of several minor leagues at the same time. 

            Lane would be the General Manager of five major league teams over the years, the other four after the White Sox.  It is one of the enduring mysteries of baseball.   Frank Lane, based on his trading record with the White Sox, was brilliant beyond description.   He made what might rank as the greatest series of one-sided trades in baseball history.  Later on he would be the GM of four other teams, and his performance in all four cases was wretched beyond description.  He was horrible, destructive, pathetic, erratic, unreliable, and, apparently, stupid.  With the White Sox, he was spectacular.   No one can really understand this, or explain it. 

            But it happened. On November 10, 1948, he traded for Billy Pierce.  On December 13, 1948, he traded for Sherm Lollar.  Some time in October, 1949, he traded for Chico Carrasquel. On October 19, 1949, he traded for Nellie Fox.   In all four cases, he got something for nothing—something really good for basically no cost in terms of talent. 

            After the 1950 season he hired Paul Richards to be his manager.  Paul Richards, as a catcher, had a reputation for being a wizard at working with pitchers.   In 1942 Dizzy Trout, pitching for Detroit, was 12-18 with a 3.43 ERA, which gave him a career record of 33-44—and he had been pitching for good teams.  In 1943, his first season working with Paul Richards, he was 20-12 with a 2.48 ERA.  In 1944 he was 27-14 with a 2.12 ERA. 

            That was Richards’ lesser success.  The big one was Hal Newhouser.  Through 1943 he was 34-52.  In 1944 he was 29-9.  He followed that up with seasons in which he was 25-9 and 26-9.   He was Koufax before Koufax was.  In 1944 and 1945 Newhouser was the MVP, and in one of those years, Trout was the runner-up.  That’s how Paul Richards built his reputation:  he was the guy who turned around the careers of Trout and Newhouser. 

            And it wasn’t fake news; Richards really was a very smart guy, in his day.  Richards and Lane continued to make excellent personnel moves.  In late April, 1951, they traded for Minnie Minoso.  The trade was made at Paul Richards’ insistence. They had to give up an actual player in that transaction—Gus Zernial—but they gave up one of the best power hitters in the major leagues for a guy who was stuck in the minors at age 27—and they were right.  You talk about guts; that was gutsy. 

            A month later, May of 1951, they traded for Eddie Robinson, another good trade.  Robinson drove in 100 runs for them in 1951 and 1952, replacing Zernial in the batting order without Zernial’s defensive issues.  Two years later they traded Robinson for Ferris Fain.  In 1952 they signed Jim Landis; in 1953 they signed Earl Battey.   In May, 1953, the traded for Sandy Consuegra; in September, they traded for Jack Harshman.  In 1954 they traded for Dick Donovan.   In 1954 they signed the 19-year-old Luis Aparicio. 

            The talent base got stronger and stronger.  In 1951 they had their first winning record in 8 years, jumping from 60-94 to 81-73.  They stayed at 81-73 in 1952, then went 89-65, 94-60, 91-63, 85-69, 90-64, and 82-72.  Without winning a thing.   They were competing with the Yankees, but also with the Cleveland Indians of that era, who were pretty damned good themselves. 

            At the end of the 1954 season Paul Richards resigned as manager of the White Sox to become manager and general manager of the Orioles, where he continued to perform brilliantly, doing the same thing with the Orioles that he had done with the White Sox, transforming them from a weak franchise to a strong one.  After that, he moved on to Houston, where, in just a few years, the Astros signed Rusty Staub, Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker and others. 

            A year after Richards moved on, the White Sox fired Frank Lane, due to his erratic behavior and difficulty getting along with others.  In 1957, however, the White Sox were able to hire Al Lopez, one of the best managers of his time if not one of the best of all time, and they continued to win.  In 1959, finally, they won the American League, with a record of 94-60.  The Yankees had an off year.

            After the 1959 World Series loss to the Dodgers, the White Sox had what must be the worst off-season in the history of baseball, trading away Norm Cash, Johnny Callison, Earl Battey, John Romano and Barry Latman in the space of a few weeks.  In spite of this, they continued to win.   In the next eight years they were 87-67, 86-76, 85-77, 94-68, 98-64, 95-67, 83-79 and 89-73. 

            Al Lopez was a great manager, and, while I have told the story of the disastrous winter of 1959-1960 several times, the point I perhaps should have made is that the White Sox also made many GOOD trades in that era, bringing in players like Pete Ward, Hoyt Wilhelm, Juan Pizarro, Ray Herbert and Joe Cunningham, while their farm system added guys like Floyd Robinson, Joe Horlen and Gary Peters. 

            Eventually Lopez grew old and it fell apart on them, and they returned to the ashes from which they had come.  But from 1951 to 1967 they had a winning record every year, averaging just short of 20 games a year better than .500.  Their LBS Score peaked in 1965 at 143.6, the highest of all time.  And subjectively, I would agree with that judgment.  If you are looking for THE team that had the most regular season success paid off with the least opportunity and success in post-season play, I think that this would have to be the team. 

 

 

 

IV.   Teams

            The most successful team in Post-Season Play has, of course, been the New York Yankees.   For all of their history we credit the Yankees with 2,888 Reggs and 3,871 Champs, which makes them 983 points better in terms of Championships earned than in terms of regular season performance, or 38% better.  We can split the histories of the 30 teams into 55 teams; if you’d like I could whomp out a few more, but let’s not.   Comparing the Reggs to the Champs, these are the five franchises or locales which are furthest ahead of the game in the post-season:

Team

Begins

Ends

Years

Reggs

Champs

Difference

Bal-NY AL (Yankees)

1901

2020

120

2888

3871

983

LA Dodgers

1958

2020

63

990

1428

438

All Dodgers

1900

2020

121

1762

2113

351

Cardinals

1900

2020

121

1607

1956

349

Oakland A's

1968

2020

53

733

964

231

 

            Comparing the Champs to the Reggs, there are 23 teams which have done better in the "Champs" category:

Team

Begins

Ends

Years

Reggs

Champs

Difference

Bal-NY AL (Yankees)

1901

2020

120

2888

3871

983

LA Dodgers

1958

2020

63

990

1428

438

All Dodgers

1900

2020

121

1762

2113

351

Cardinals

1900

2020

121

1607

1956

349

Oakland A's

1968

2020

53

733

964

231

A's in all three cities

1901

2020

120

1484

1659

175

Royals

1969

2020

52

321

481

160

Atlanta Braves

1966

2020

55

747

903

156

Marlins

1993

2020

28

71

215

144

Twins

1961

2020

60

501

620

119

Hous AL

2013

2020

8

152

229

77

Was Nationals

2005

2020

16

164

236

72

Mets

1962

2020

59

464

528

64

Diamondbacks

1998

2020

23

188

251

63

Padres

1969

2020

52

190

247

57

Bos-Mil-Atl Braves

1900

2020

121

1185

1233

48

Houston, AL and NL

1962

2020

59

482

528

46

SF Giants

1958

2020

63

672

714

42

Rockies

1993

2020

28

94

125

31

Texas Rangers

1972

2020

49

322

349

27

Blue Jays

1977

2020

44

341

366

25

Senators-Rangers

1961

2020

60

332

349

17

Tampa Bay

1998

2020

23

195

209

14

 

            There are four teams which are/were exactly even in the two categories:

Team

Begins

Ends

Years

Reggs

Champs

Difference

Brewers National Lg

1998

2020

23

113

113

0

KC A's

1955

1967

13

0

0

0

Original Brewers

1901

1901

1

0

0

0

Seattle Pilots

1969

1969

1

0

0

0

 

            And there are 28 teams, led by the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose Regular Season Performance might have justified more appearances or more success in Post Season Play:

Team

Begins

Ends

Years

Reggs

Champs

Difference

Pirates

1900

2020

121

1437

745

-692

Indians

1901

2020

120

1268

728

-540

White Sox

1901

2020

120

1139

745

-394

Mil-StL-Bal AL

1901

2020

120

974

741

-233

Chicago Cubs

1900

2020

121

1322

1103

-219

Tigers

1901

2020

120

1200

1025

-175

Original Senators

1901

1960

60

393

230

-163

Baltimore Orioles

1954

2020

67

818

676

-142

Expos

1969

2004

36

201

68

-133

Mariners

1977

2020

44

244

117

-127

Reds

1900

2020

121

1125

1025

-100

Brewers American Lg

1970

1996

27

176

80

-96

Pilots, Mil A and Mil N

1969

2020

52

289

193

-96

Milwaukee Braves

1953

1965

13

256

165

-91

Browns

1902

1953

53

156

65

-91

Brooklyn Dodgers

1900

1957

58

772

685

-87

Red Sox

1901

2020

120

1576

1504

-72

NY Giants

1900

1957

58

1215

1150

-65

Montreal-Washington

1969

2020

52

365

304

-61

Phil A's

1901

1954

54

751

695

-56

Phillies

1900

2020

121

734

679

-55

Wash-Minn

1901

2020

120

894

850

-44

Astros National League

1962

2012

51

330

299

-31

Angels

1961

2020

60

434

406

-28

NY-SF Giants

1900

2020

121

1887

1864

-23

Boston Braves

1900

1952

53

182

165

-17

Expansion Senators

1961

1971

11

10

0

-10

1901-02 Orioles

1901

1902

2

3

0

-3

 

            You will note that teams, over a long period of time, tend to come out about even in Championship Points, as defined by this method, and Regular Season Points.  The New York and San Francisco Giants, over 121 years, are 1864/1887, and the Washington Senators-Minnesota Twins are 850/894.  The Red Sox, despite their long drought, are 1504/1576, and the Braves in all three cities are 1233/1185.  I would suggest that the aberrations from this pattern are largely due simply to baseball history not yet being long enough for ALL of the teams to have found balance. 

V.  Historic Success

            I compiled this chart to look at the balance for each team, between regular season and championship success, but having done that, I notice that there is something else on the chart of perhaps more interest, which is the sum total of success for all teams, combining regular-season success with Championships:

Franchise

From

Until

Years

Reggs

Champs

Success Per Year

Yankees

1901

2020

120

2888

3871

56.33

Dodgers

1900

2020

121

1762

2113

32.02

Giants

1900

2020

121

1887

1864

31.00

Cardinals

1900

2020

121

1607

1956

29.45

A's

1901

2020

120

1484

1659

26.19

Red Sox

1901

2020

120

1576

1504

25.67

Cubs

1900

2020

121

1322

1103

20.04

Braves

1900

2020

121

1185

1233

19.98

Diamondbacks

1998

2020

23

188

251

19.09

Tigers

1901

2020

120

1200

1025

18.54

Pirates

1900

2020

121

1437

745

18.03

Reds

1900

2020

121

1125

1025

17.77

Rays

1998

2020

23

195

209

17.57

Astros

1962

2020

59

482

528

17.12

Mets

1962

2020

59

464

528

16.81

Indians

1901

2020

120

1268

728

16.63

Blue Jays

1977

2020

44

341

366

16.07

White Sox

1901

2020

120

1139

745

15.70

Royals

1969

2020

52

321

481

15.42

Senators-Twins

1901

2020

120

894

850

14.53

Browns-Orioles

1901

2020

120

974

741

14.29

Angels

1961

2020

60

434

406

14.00

Expos-Nationals

1969

2020

52

365

304

12.87

Phillies

1900

2020

121

734

679

11.68

Senators-Rangers

1961

2020

60

332

349

11.35

Marlins

1993

2020

28

71

215

10.21

Brewers

1969

2020

52

289

193

9.27

Padres

1969

2020

52

190

247

8.40

Mariners

1977

2020

44

244

117

8.20

Rockies

1993

2020

28

94

125

7.82

 

            I am printing the chart, really, so that you can see where "your" team ranks on the chart.  The Yankees over a long period of time have enjoyed almost twice as much success per season as any other team, which is not surprising.  But this is surprising, to me.   The average level of success for all teams, per season, is 20.5 LBS points.  But only six teams—three in each league—meet that standard.   The only teams that have an "average" level of success, over time, are the Yankees, Red Sox and A’s in the American League, and the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals in the National League.  All other teams, over time, have been below average.

            If you take the Yankees out of it, the average for the other 29 teams drops to 18.8 LBS points per team per season.   But even at 18.8 points per team per season, only 9 teams are "average".  Only the Cubs, Braves and Diamondbacks move over the line if we exclude the Yankees in calculating the average. 

            Let’s look at the sixteen "original" franchises; I know that there are not 16 original franchises, but you know what I mean.   Of the 16 original franchises, by far the least successful, over time, has been the Philadelphia Phillies:

Franchise

From

Until

Years

Reggs

Champs

Success Per Year

Yankees

1901

2020

120

2888

3871

56.33

Dodgers

1900

2020

121

1762

2113

32.02

Giants

1900

2020

121

1887

1864

31.00

Cardinals

1900

2020

121

1607

1956

29.45

A's

1901

2020

120

1484

1659

26.19

Red Sox

1901

2020

120

1576

1504

25.67

Cubs

1900

2020

121

1322

1103

20.04

Braves

1900

2020

121

1185

1233

19.98

Tigers

1901

2020

120

1200

1025

18.54

Pirates

1900

2020

121

1437

745

18.03

Reds

1900

2020

121

1125

1025

17.77

Indians

1901

2020

120

1268

728

16.63

White Sox

1901

2020

120

1139

745

15.70

Senators-Twins

1901

2020

120

894

850

14.53

Browns-Orioles

1901

2020

120

974

741

14.29

Phillies

1900

2020

121

734

679

11.68

 

            And these are the multi-year success levels of the 14 expansion teams:

Franchise

From

Until

Years

Reggs

Champs

Success Per Year

Diamondbacks

1998

2020

23

188

251

19.09

Rays

1998

2020

23

195

209

17.57

Astros

1962

2020

59

482

528

17.12

Mets

1962

2020

59

464

528

16.81

Blue Jays

1977

2020

44

341

366

16.07

Royals

1969

2020

52

321

481

15.42

Angels

1961

2020

60

434

406

14.00

Expos-Nationals

1969

2020

52

365

304

12.87

Senat-Rangers

1961

2020

60

332

349

11.35

Marlins

1993

2020

28

71

215

10.21

Brewers

1969

2020

52

289

193

9.27

Padres

1969

2020

52

190

247

8.40

Mariners

1977

2020

44

244

117

8.20

Rockies

1993

2020

28

94

125

7.82

 

            Take that for whatever you think it is worth.  Which means, in plain English, don’t try to argue with me about, and don’t try to tell me how I could have done it better.  Believe it if you want to believe it and don’t believe it if you don’t, but don’t try to talk to me about it; I’m done here. 

VI.  Notes

            I think I have only three notes here to finish up.

           1.  I said about the Orioles in this article, that "before they finally won the World Series in 1966, they had an LBS Score of 94.0, which is the 13th highest of all time.    Of course this is not literally true.  94.0 is not the 13th highest score of all time, it is the 60th highest of all time. 

            Every team which posts a high score in one season posts a score almost as high in several surrounding seasons, but only the highest score from a team within an era counts.   The 1965 White Sox, the 1951 Red Sox and the 1956 Indians have the highest three scores of all time.  The 4th, 5th and 6th highest are actually the 1967 White Sox, the 1950 Red Sox, and the 1955 Indians.  But since those are actually the same teams, we don’t count the second entry. 

 

         2.  In the "Reggs" section of the point-count system, we use a straight-line system; one game over .500 is 1 point, 2 games over is 2 points, and 20 games over is 20 points. 

This is not a perfect representation of the strength of the effort.  A team which is 88-74 is 14 games over .500; a team which is 95-67 is 28 games over, but their chance of winning their division or the pennant does not double; it something more than doubles.  You could make the Reggs match the Champs somewhat better if you, for example, gave an extra 5 points for winning more than 90 games, or gave an extra 8 points for being 20 or more games over .500, or something like that.  The more games you win, the more impact each win has on your chances of winning a championship, up to a limit of about 100 games.  (It makes little difference whether you win 100 games or 110, since you will win your division either way.)  You could do this by raising the "Wins over .500" to the power 1.05, or something like that.  The failure to do this IS the reason that the Yankees have 983 more "Champ" points than "Regg" points.  But (a) it would take a week’s work to figure out exactly the best way to do that, and (b) then you’d have to re-balance the system by taking the added points out somewhere else.  I don’t have time for that. 

 

            3.  This system may not be perfectly balanced over time, I don’t know.  I expected that the 1990 Mariners would be on this list, or the 1980s Expos or somebody.  They’re not.   The Reggs and Champs balance over time, but I didn’t establish that they would balance in each era.   They’re pretty CLOSE to balanced in each era, but I didn’t establish that.   You might get a different list if you re-did the study but balanced the Reggs and Champs in each era.  

           

            Thanks for reading.

 
 

COMMENTS (34 Comments, most recent shown first)

arnewcs
The Mariners are unique because 1995-2003 is the franchise's only sustained winning stretch. The M's won 90 games five times in those nine years, but haven't won 90 games in any season outside that stretch.
1:29 PM Feb 21st
 
DaveNJnews
Reading the segment on the San Francisco Giants made me think of the San Francisco 49ers. They were clearly the second-best team in the AAFC from 1946 to 1949, but couldn't get past the Cleveland Browns. In 1948, for instance, they were 12-2, losing twice to the Browns, who went undefeated.

For much of the 1950s, they were very strong but never won a championship. It wasn't until the 1980s that they finally won it all.
10:48 AM Feb 18th
 
bhalbleib
John-Q, I note that your "improved" post 1969 division plan in 1987 would replace the 85 win Twins team with the 83 win Royals team in the playoffs, which as a Royals fan, I'm OK with, but it does show that any plan is going to have its drawbacks.
10:37 AM Feb 16th
 
Robinsong
Like others, I loved the article. There is a timeline bias that starts in 1969 and grew over time. The points for winning the division and making the playoffs add championship points but not regular season points. In addition, the draft started in 1965 and meant that no team stayed as bad as the bad teams of earlier generations (there were also lessons learned from the original round of expansion). The combination means that it is rare to be 18 games over 500 without piling up championship points and rare to be over 40 games over 500. To make it more consistent over time you would award points only for championships and pennants with the championship points totals for those accomplishments perhaps rising in proportion to the number of teams in the league. If you wanted to emphasize championships over pennants, you could change that ratio. You might need to do both to have the great Cox Braves teams make the LBS list.
5:00 PM Feb 15th
 
ForeverRoyal
Fantastic article. Thanks for doing this. :)
3:55 PM Feb 13th
 
jrickert
I'd call it the threshold club and say that the
1950s-60s White Sox, 1930s-50s Red Sox, 1950s Indians, 1930s Indians, 1930s Pirates, did not cross the threshold and the
1920s Pirates, 1940s Dodgers, 1900s Giants, 1910s Indians, and arguably the 1960s-70s Giants did cross the threshold.
1:38 PM Feb 13th
 
bhalbleib
I know this comment has made before, but I just love the fact that Al Lopez was the only manager to not wear pinstripes to win an AL pennant from 1949-1964.

This was a really cool project. Thanks Bill
5:48 PM Feb 12th
 
phorton01
I don't know if it is cause or effect, but I found it interesting how unstable the manager job was for those Detroit Tigers. In the middle stretch of that period (from '52 to '66) the Tigers had 12 different managers over those 15 years.

And after that (in '67) they hired Mayo Smith, who won 363 games over the next 4 years, and a World Championship, and then he was gone.
4:19 PM Feb 12th
 
Gfletch
Man, that looks like a lot of work, Bill. Thanks for that.

And thanks for this - it was a real fun read, too.
3:03 PM Feb 12th
 
hotstatrat
TJNawrocki
There is some serious era bias here, since the most recent club on the list is the 1982 Red Sox. I suspect that winning the division in the era of the Wild Card(s) should be devalued a bit, since nobody cares who wins their division any more.

Geesh. I guess I'm a nobody.

Since George Steinbrenner there has been a deficiency of respect for division winners or just making the play-offs. I think it is something to brag about. The lack of teams since 1982 is due to the fact that with so many more titles teams do have more to brag about.

It seems right to me. You could use this system to see which teams have been the most Little Bit Short since a particular play-off format.
2:38 PM Feb 12th
 
John-Q
They’re not listed on here because they won in 1983 but the 1977-1983 Orioles was really a great group that gets lost in the shuffle. They really should have made the playoffs in 1977, ‘80, ‘81 and ‘82.

I always thought MLB should have gone to a Three 4 team division league with a wild card in 1969. That’s basically what the NFL did around that time to great success.

Something like this:
1969-92
N.L. East: Mets, Phillies, Expos, Braves
N.L. Central: Reds, Pirates, Cubs, Cardinals
N.L. West: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Astros

1969:
A.L. East: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Senators
A.L. Central: Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Indians
A.L. West: A’s, Angels, Pilots, Royals

1970-71:
Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Senators
Tigers, Brewers, White Sox, Indians
A’s, Angels, Royals, Twins

1972-76
Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Indians
Tigers, Brewers, Whites Sox, Twins
A’s Angels, Royals, Rangers

1977-93
Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays
Tigers, Brewers, White Sox, Twins, Indians
A’s Angels, Royals, Rangers, Mariners
12:30 PM Feb 12th
 
TJNawrocki
There is some serious era bias here, since the most recent club on the list is the 1982 Red Sox. I suspect that winning the division in the era of the Wild Card(s) should be devalued a bit, since nobody cares who wins their division any more.
12:01 PM Feb 12th
 
evanecurb
Loved it. Thanks Bill. I wonder if it might make sense to differentiate between eras depending on the types of playoff structures. Most of the teams on this list predate divsional play, and there is no one from the era of expanded playoffs represented here. I guess that's the point of expanded playoffs, perhaps? The 1960s White Sox, Tigers, and Giants certainly would have been in the playoffs a few times as wild cards.
11:50 AM Feb 12th
 
hotstatrat
Somebody, please, remind us of the Bill James quote from one of his mid 1980s Abstracts about the Indians always trying to fly by putting wings on a bus.
11:37 AM Feb 12th
 
John-Q
The 1970’s-early 80’s are a fascinating group. I never understood why they traded Fergie Jenkins after the 1977 season. Was it a salary dump or was he pending free agency? Jenkins might have put them over the top in the late 70’s-early 80’s. They also had T. Perez in the early 80’s. They also developed J. Tudor and B. Ojeda in the early 80’s and then traded them away for nothing. Then they traded away Carney Langford for T. Armas.

The A.L. Was so unbalanced lopsided during the late 70’s-mid 80’s. You had all those great teams in the East: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and even the Brewers. In the West you basically only had the Royals. Teams would win 90 games in the East and finish 3rd or 4th.

The ‘87 Twins would have been a 5th place team in the East. The ‘85 Royals would have been a 3rd place team in the East. The ‘84 Royals would have been a 6th place team in the East. The ‘82 Angels would have been a 3rd place team in the East. The ‘81 Royals had an overall losing record and made the payoffs. The ‘80 Royals would have been a 3rd place team in the East. The ‘79 Angels would have been a 5th place team in the East. The ‘78 Royals would have been a 4th place team in the East.
11:27 AM Feb 12th
 
hotstatrat
Love this, thanks.

Insignificant error: Tigers won their division in 1972, not '73.

Detroit made another very bad trade before the 1966 season. They gave up Phil Regan, who became one of the best relievers in baseball over the next four years for Dick Tracewski a utility infielder who weighed them down with a .516 OPS (.188 batting average) over the same period.

They made up for that mid-season, however, by dumping Demeter on the Red Sox for Earl Wilson, who was almost as good as Bunning over the next four years averaging 242 IP, 3.13 ERA (109 ERA+), 176 K, 75 BB, 27 HR, per year (1966-1969) compared to Bunning's 247 IP, 2.89 ERA (118 ERA+), 189 K, 59 BB, 18 HR.

I've always blamed the Tigers for trading Bunning because he was a fighter for more player's rights and for giving up too soon on Jake Wood and Gates Brown as regulars. Brown was the fastest runner on the team. Couldn't he have been their centerfielder until Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup were ready a couple years later? Demeter was not much help out there - no better than George Thomas. Al Kaline ended up playing many games in centerfield in 1965, when Northrup and Willie Horton first came up. So, they could have kept Brown & Horton in left, Colavito in right, and had Kaline play center those two seasons.

With all those outfielders, what they really neeeded was a shortstop. Even if Jake Wood was given up on too soon, Dick McAuliffe was evidently better suited for second-base. Instead, the Tigers traded Colavito for second-baseman Jerry Lumpe and pitching depth they were planning to lose by trading Bunning. Lumpe was 30 at the time of the trade - clearly a better second-baseman than Wood, but four years older and no all-star.

Bert Campaneris would be called up mid-season in '64. It would be nice to get in a time machine and convince the Tigers to keep Bunning and trade Colavito for Wayne Causey and Dave Wickersham (with Kansas City willing). Better yet, trade Colavito for Campaneris - if the A's would have been so foolish. How different the 1972 play-offs would have been with Campineris playing for the Tigers instead!
11:14 AM Feb 12th
 
John-Q
It seems like much of this is attributable to the lack of playoff teams pre Divisional era and pre Wild Card era. There’s only one team (1970’s-early 80’s Red Sox) from the Divisional era and no teams from the Wild Card era.

It stands to reason that the Yankees wouldn’t have dominated so thoroughly from the 1930’s-1964 had there been an AlCS with the top 2 teams playing for the A.L. Title.

The biggest casualty of those Yankee Dynasties (DiMaggio’s 1930’s-40’s Yankees and Berra/Mantle’s late 40’s-1964 Yankees) were the Cleveland Indians.

The Pirates had quite a few underrated “hard luck” teams. I remember reading about those old Pirates teams when I was a kid and I never understood why they only had 2 WS titles (1909, 1925) before 1960. I would go to Cooperstown and see so many great former Pirate players and wonder why they didn’t win more WS.
11:04 AM Feb 12th
 
John-Q
Quick correction, the Giants won the West in 1971, the Reds won the division in 1970 & 72. The ‘71 Giants were the only non Dodger or Reds team to win the N.L. West in the 1970’s.
10:41 AM Feb 12th
 
RexLittle
Bill, the term "short club" comes from the game of bridge. Are you a bridge player?

9:03 AM Feb 12th
 
DavidHNix
So the team I grew up on was the all-time “not quite good enough” leader? That explains so much ....,

Great article, fascinating methodology.

Is there a full-length biography of Trader Lane?
8:23 AM Feb 12th
 
Mjh821
Eddie Robinson is the only player in the “100/100” (age/rbi) club.
4:16 AM Feb 12th
 
MarisFan61
Answering part of the below post:
Whitey Ford for sure was targeted against whichever were the main rival teams in any given year, markedly so. (We've looked at that in detail on Reader Posts.)
I don't know about any of the other pitchers, but in view of that, it seems a fair guess that Stengel would have done similarly with other pitchers each year, at least to some extent although I'd guess it wasn't as extreme with anyone else.
2:38 AM Feb 12th
 
FrankD
This also leads to the question: How in heck did the Yankees keep just winning enough to stay ahead of the contenders in the '40s-'60s? Was it just luck? Was it Stengel putting his top pitchers against the best teams instead of just having a steady rotation? The Yankees were a great team in that time period, but somehow they outperformed in getting championships.
1:34 AM Feb 12th
 
FrankD
Great article. I thought that the Williams Red Sox of just not quite getting to the mountain top by losing last game each season in '46, '48, and '49 would be number one on LBS or maybe could be the Almost Great list..... I also thought the Twins of the '60s would be higher on the LBS - but that maybe just me as a young fan being disappointed in the '60s and early '70s, 1 Pennant in '65 but losing in 7 games to the Dodgers, near miss in '67, '69 and '70 wining division but no pennants, having a very good team for quite a while but no World Championship ring.
1:27 AM Feb 12th
 
3for3
Which teams would be on the opposite list? I’d guess the second Marlins WS win and the recent Giants with 3 WS would be candidates.
12:42 AM Feb 12th
 
LesLein
Great article. It confirms that the Phillies are the worst of the original 16.

One mistake: The Giants didn’t win their division in 1970 and 1972. The Reds did. The Giants won in 1971.​
10:48 PM Feb 11th
 
MarisFan61
Love it too!

About Frank Lane, who BTW was not the Frankie Laine who sang the "Rawhide" theme: :-)
That is so interesting. I never knew of his having been GM of those White Sox, and certainly not that he had been certainly good anywhere, to say nothing of brilliant. I only knew of his later seemingly "me" stuff, starting when he was with Cleveland, which did indeed seem coupled with cluelessness. His story is more complicated and more interesting than I knew.

BTW, as many of you probably know, Eddie Robinson is still with us, and now the oldest living player, at 100.
10:48 PM Feb 11th
 
abiggoof
Those Indians of the 30s and 40s and Pirates of the 20s and 30s are two teams I had in mind. Just incredible talent, tons of wins, and so little concrete legacy for it.

Thanks so much for breaking this down!
10:20 PM Feb 11th
 
W.T.Mons10
Re: the Pirates being tops on the underperforming list, they get hurt somewhat because Bill started with 1900, when there was no World Series, instead of 1903 or 1905. Those pennants they won in 1901 and 1902 certainly add to their underperformance.
9:58 PM Feb 11th
 
Manushfan
This was great. Always love it when Bill goes 'time travelling' thru baseball history like this. Really good reading.
8:46 PM Feb 11th
 
michaelplank
"The first thing they do in Cleveland, if you have talent, is trade you for three guys who don't."

-- Jim Kern, circa 1978
8:23 PM Feb 11th
 
gendlerj
Thanks. This is fabulous reading. I care much more about that than the question of whether you should have used a slightly different scale. As a Minnesotan, it is not that surprising to see that the Senators-Twins are the third least successful franchise of the originals.
8:06 PM Feb 11th
 
BobGill
The system itself is interesting and (I think) pretty accurate in measuring what you set out to measure, but to me the little sketches of the 15 teams would be great if you had just picked them out at random. I love that kind of stuff.
5:22 PM Feb 11th
 
archieleach
WOW!
That is a fun read. And I know I will come back to it several times.

I'm about your age. And I have read many of the books you refer to. So I am familiar with many of the teams and players. Alway have been been an NL fan. But, secretly rooted for the Red Sox Indians and Tigers while I was growing up. This article explains "why". Part of me knew it. But, your explanation helped me understand it much, much better. Thank you for all your work.
5:22 PM Feb 11th
 
 
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