Back in 1906, the Chicago Cubs won 116 games, lost just 36, and put up a .763 win percentage equivalent to 124 wins in a 162-game schedule. Over the next 50 or so years, three other teams won at least 110 games, and another 11 posted at least 105 wins in a season. In 1961, Major League Baseball added eight more games to the schedule, giving us the 162-game schedule that we have today. Over the next 55 years, only two teams won more than 110 games, with more teams equaling greater parity, making it tougher to put up gaudy win totals. The New York Yankees put up a modern-day record 114 wins in 1998 on their way to a World Series title, but they were bested by the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who tied the all-time record by winning 116 games on their way to not winning the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers are perhaps the first team since with a shot at topping the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners. The Dodgers have a shot at 117.
After all the moves at the trade deadline, the Dodgers’ record stood at 74-31, a .705 winning percentage, best in all of baseball by a healthy margin over the Houston Astros. If we assume the Dodgers would just win games at the same rate going forward, the team would end up with 114 wins. Here are a few different scenarios for LA going forward:
- If they go roughly .500 (28-27), they will finish with 102 wins.
- If they hit their rest-of season projections (34-23), they will finish with 108 wins, which would be tied for fifth since 1961, and also behind the 1927 Yankees and a few teams from more than 100 years ago.
- If they continue at their current pace of wins (40-17), they will win 114 games, tied for third with the 1998 Yankees and behind only the 2001 Mariners and the 1906 Cubs.
- If they play their final 57 games like their most recent 57 games (46-11), they will finish with 120 wins, four more than any other team.
While outplaying their projections by the seven games necessary to tie the record and eight games better to beat the record isn’t exactly likely, their record thus far, especially since mid-May indicates it is something the team is capable of. Losing Clayton Kershaw for any amount of time is certainly a blow, but picking up Yu Darvish and getting massive reinforcements for the bullpen certainly lessens that loss and could make the team even better.
Since the league went to 162 games in 1961, only nine teams have won at least 105 games, with the last time coming via the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals. Getting to 105 wins is a rare feat, and it might help to frame the Dodgers chances of getting there or better by looking at where those teams were on August 1 in those particular seasons. Before we get to that, here’s a quick list of the teams before 1961 who won at least 105 games, with the equivalent winning percentage in a 162-game campaign netting 110 wins.
|New York Yankees||1927||110||44||.714|
|New York Yankees||1932||107||47||.695|
|New York Giants||1904||106||47||.693|
|New York Yankees||1939||106||45||.702|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1942||106||48||.688|
|New York Giants||1905||105||48||.686|
|Boston Red Sox||1912||105||47||.691|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1943||105||49||.682|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1944||105||49||.682|
If the Dodgers were to win 109 games this year, their winning percentage would not crack the above list. Baseball was a bit different back then with roughly half the number of teams there are now, no free agency and pre-integration for every team above except for the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers and 1954 Cleveland Indians. The three Cardinals teams occurred during World War II and another four happened before World War I. These were different times with different circumstances.
Since 1961, only nine teams have won at least 105 games:
|New York Yankees||1998||114||48||.704|
|New York Yankees||1961||109||53||.673|
|New York Mets||1986||108||54||.667|
|St. Louis Cardinals||2004||105||57||.648|
There are some really good seasons in there, and there are some really great teams also didn’t make it to 105 wins over the years. One semi-side note here, the Cleveland Indians won 100 games in 1995, but due to the strike-shortened season only played in 144 games total. Their winning percentage was .694, which over the course of 162 games rounds to 113 wins, which is pretty darn good. As far as winning percentage goes this season, the Dodgers are right there with the 1998 Yankees.
Of course, the table above only tells you how the teams finished. Here’s where each of these teams was on August 1 in their respective seasons.
|Team||Year||Aug. 1 W%||Pace||Actual wins||Difference|
|New York Yankees||1998||.740||120||114||-6|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||2017||.704||114|
|New York Mets||1986||.677||110||108||-2|
|St. Louis Cardinals||2004||.644||104||105||1|
|New York Yankees||1961||.626||101||109||8|
On average, teams kept up their already torrid paces to get to 105 victories or more. Five of the nine teams won the World Series. Of course, the exceptions exist at the top of the leaderboard, where the Dodgers currently reside. It is hard, if not impossible to keep up that kind of pace all season long. The Yankees might have the win record right now if they hadn’t “slumped” to a 15-11 record in September (you’d win 93 games if you kept going 15-11 all season). So we have the Dodgers in pretty good shape compared to those teams that won a ton of games. What about all the teams that were on pace to win a ton of games? How many fell short?
The table below shows the 17 teams since 1961 that had at least a .650 winning percentage (105-win pace, and again, not including the 1995 Cleveland Indians). As you can see above, four of the teams needed to exceed their previous pace just to get to 105 wins.
|Aug. 1 W%||Pace||Final Wins||Change||Final W%|
|New York Yankees||1998||.740||120||114||-6||0.704|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||2017||.704||114|
|New York Mets||1986||.677||110||108||-2||0.667|
|San Francisco Giants||1993||.670||109||103||-6||0.636|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||1962||.664||108||101||-7||0.62|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1968||.664||108||97||-11||0.599|
|Chicago White Sox||2005||.663||107||99||-8||0.611|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||1974||.651||105||102||-3||0.63|
For the most part, teams simply couldn’t keep up. Five of the 17 teams here won the World Series. Note that this year’s Houston Astros make an appearance. If both the Astros and Dodgers reach 105 wins, it would join 1998 as the only times two teams reached that total. And 1998 was an expansion season, so you’d probably tip the scales to this season’s feats being more impressive, should they happen. But a slowdown is almost inevitable when going that fast. Add in the likelihood of less pressure to perform as the season winds down due to wrapping up the division, and it is understandable. Our projections have the team losing five games off their pace, pretty close to average. Nevertheless, the Dodgers have a legitimate shot at breaking the all-time wins record. They just have to play the next 57 games like the last 57 games, and the record will be theirs.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.