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Greatest Teams Ever: Part I  Part II Part III Part IV Greatest Non-Champion Teams Ever


The sabr-l discussion of the greatest 64 teams ever began in response to curiosity over the tournament setup by and whatifsports. They made sure to include at least one team from each franchise. Good for fan appeal, but it keeps out some more deserving teams.

Another limitation they imposed was including only one team from a dynasty. Hence, the 1936 through the 1939 Yankees only had one team. Arbitrarily they chose the 1937 team. This was a poor choice, as my analysis will show.

In my first attempt to identify the greatest 64 teams ever, I limited the choices to the 194 World Series teams through 2001. I found the very satisfying, but there were some objections to it, so I recalculated the list with a larger pool of eligible teams.

First, one person asked the legitimate question, "What about the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates?"

They played only one year before the first World Series and were dominant (led by Honus Wagner). I calculated their score to be 1.746, which would have place them 2nd all time wedging them in between the 1939 Yankees and the 1927 Yankees.

Taking it a baby step further, I decided to include teams back to 1893, the first year of modern baseball rules. This allows the inclusion of the 1894 Baltimore Orioles with a score of 1.896 (led by six Hall of Fame batters!). They would have finished second, ahead of the 1902 Pirates.

The second question that came up was "What about the 2001 Seattle Mariners and their 116 wins? Maybe they were the best team ever."

I calculated their score to be 1.326, which would have placed them 6th behind the 1998 Yankees or 8th if you include the 1902 Pirates and the 1894 Orioles. Will they be able to hold on to that spot?

As it turns out, by adding seasons back to 1893 only 14 teams have been added. Big whoop. So, I decided to play along with the Mariners scenario.

Statistically speaking, the post season is irrelevant anyway; so post-season teams other than just World Series teams deserve to be included. So, all division champions are eligible. This legitimizes the Mariners are they rightfully deserve.

I did not to include wild card teams because to do so would not adhere to the original format of AL champ versus NL champ. It's just that there are three champs from each league now. Plus, it prevents recent teams from being over weighted in the sample. The beating of course is that the 2000 New York Mets were excluded this time. But keep a stiff upper lip Mets fans, they would not have come anywhere close to making the ultimate list anyway. Heck, with the expanded list of eligible teams, the 1986 Mets slipped off of the superlative 64.

For those keeping score, we added two teams each year from 1969 to 1993 and four teams per year from 1994 through 2001. This makes a sample of 294 regular season champion teams spanning 109 seasons.

Before I get down to the final list of 64, I want to point out that in a separate effort, I grouped the top World Series teams from the previous list, into sets of cards for my baseball simulation board game. (It's very much like APBA or Strat-O-Matic). This way you can actually play the games and find out which team really is the "Best Ever."

For example, one set, which I called the "Best Teams Ever," is based on my personal best 16. It tracks closely with the original World Series with a couple of exceptions. I added the 1902 Pirates and otherwise limited it to WS winners. I swapped the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals for the 1942 cards because "Stan the Man" once said that the 1942 team was the best he ever played on. And, I did not include the 1894 Orioles because they were a key part of the "Teams of the 1800's" set already.

To do justice to the 1906 Cubs, the 1954 Indians and the 1919 Chicago Black Sox, I made a set of the 8 greatest World Series upsets along with the 8 teams that beat them. I omitted the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers (my favorite team) from the set because I included them in a special "Complete History of the Subway Series" set. This way, if someone wanted all of the teams for an exhaustive tournament, they could ultimately get them all.

Again, in case you did not read the Part I of this analysis, to determine the rank order of teams, I applied the following formula:

regular season winning pct * [(runs scored - runs allowed) / Games played]

I sorted them in descending order, giving us a list of teams by best winning record weighted by average margin of victory.

Interestingly, besides the 2001 Seattle Mariners, only three other teams that did not play (DNP) in a World Series, during a year when one was held, made the list.


Rank TeamLg Year WS Score

1 NY A 1939 Won 1.893

2 BAL N 1894 NA 1.883

3 BOS N 1897 NA 1.867

4 BAL N 1895 NA 1.815

5 PIT N 1902 NA 1.746

6 BAL N 1896 NA 1.741

7 NY A 1927 Won 1.722

8 CHI N 1906 Lost 1.589

9 NY A 1936 Won 1.422

10 NY A 1998 Won 1.335

11 SEA A 2001 DNP 1.326

12 PHI A 1929 Won 1.307

13 NY A 1937 Won 1.295

14 NY A 1942 Lost 1.26

15 NY A 1932 Won 1.23

16 STL N 1944 Won 1.221

17 NY N 1905 Won 1.206

18 STL N 1942 Won 1.19

19 PIT N 1909 Won 1.186

20 NY N 1904 NA 1.17

21 BRO N 1953 Lost 1.167

22 BOS N 1898 NA 1.154

23 BOS A 1912 Won 1.143

24 PHI A 1911 Won 1.129

25 CLE A 1954 Lost 1.117

26 CLE A 1995 Lost 1.116

27 NY N 1912 Lost 1.113

28 PIT N 1901 NA 1.106

29 NY A 1953 Won 1.093

30 BAL A 1969 Lost 1.084

31 CLE A 1948 Won 1.081

32 BOS N 1893 NA 1.073

33 PHI A 1931 Lost 1.061

34 BRO N 1899 NA 1.061

35 NY A 1938 Won 1.06

36 DET A 1934 Lost 1.055

37 CHI N 1935 Lost 1.039

38 CIN N 1975 Won 1.035

39 DET A 1935 Won 1.019

40 PHI A 1910 Won 1.018

41 NY A 1921 Lost 1.004

42 ATL N 1998 DNP 0.983

43 HOU N 1998 DNP 0.972

44 BOS A 1903 Won 0.94

45 CHI N 1910 Lost 0.927

46 NY A 1956 Won 0.925

47 LA N 1974 Lost 0.922

48 BRO N 1949 Lost 0.921

49 CHI N 1929 Lost 0.919

50 NY A 1947 Won 0.919

51 NY A 1950 Won 0.906

52 PHI A 1914 Lost 0.905

53 BRO N 1941 Lost 0.893

54 NY N 1911 Lost 0.889

55 BAL A 1970 Won 0.888

56 NY A 1961 Won 0.884

57 STL N 1943 Lost 0.884

58 NY A 1928 Won 0.882

59 CLE A 1920 Won 0.88

60 ARI N 1999 DNP 0.874

61 CIN N 1976 Won 0.871

62 BRO N 1955 Won 0.86

63 PHI A 1930 Won 0.857

64 CIN N 1919 Won 0.855

65 BOS A 1946 Lost 0.85

I added #65 for you Red Sox fans :)

Greatest Teams Ever: back to Part I   Continue to Part III

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