All stats and records through Thursday’s MLB games
The Cubs will enter this weekend’s series against the Pirates with a 44–20 record and are currently on pace to win 111 games, a total reached by just four other teams in major league history. With the season nearly 40% over, we thought it was time to start tracking Chicago’s pursuit of a historically significant win total.
Our method for doing so will be a new set of power rankings, measuring the progress of this year’s Cubs against that of the 10 winningest teams in major league history. Eleven teams have won 108 or more games in a single major league season. Two of them were the 1969 and ‘70 Orioles, two teams with nearly identical rosters; the former won 109 games and the latter won 108. For the sake of expediency, we’ve dropped the ’70 Orioles from the list to give us an even 10, a list that looks like this:
|1906 Cubs||116–36||.763||Lost World Series|
|2001 Mariners||116–46||.716||Lost ALCS|
|1998 Yankees||114–48||.704||Won World Series|
|1954 Indians||111–43||.721||Lost World Series|
|1909 Pirates||110–42||.724||Won World Series|
|1927 Yankees||110–44||.714||Won World Series|
|1961 Yankees||109–53||.673||Won World Series|
|1969 Orioles||109–53||.673||Lost World Series|
|1975 Reds||108–54||.667||Won World Series|
|1986 Mets||108–54||.667||Won World Series|
NOTE: Postseason results were not a factor in the selection or ranking of the teams. For the first week’s edition, we are ranking the teams strictly by their actual records after 64 games, not counting ties, to give a snapshot of what the first two months of the season were like. Future editions will be more subjective..
112001 Marinersrecord: 50–14 (.781), +125 run differentialThe only team since 1901 to win more of its first 64 games in a season than the 2001 Mariners was the 1912 Giants, who started 53–11. Those Giants were near the tail end of a 16-game winning streak when they reached Game 64 but won just four of their next 13 games and finished the season with 103 wins, less than twice their total to this point in the season, and lost a thrilling World Series to the Red Sox. The 2001 Mariners were similarly riding high after Game 64, having won 15 in a row from May 23 to June 8. Interleague play broke up that streak, as the Padres and Rockies both managed to win the middle game of their three-game sets against Seattle, with Colorado doing so in the opener of a doubleheader one day after a rainout in Denver. The Mariners answered back with a 5–1 win behind Paul Abbott in the nightcap, their 64th game of the season, to take the series and restore their lead over the second-place A’s in the four-team American League West to 18 games.
221998 Yankeesrecord: 48–16 (.750), +134The ’98 Yankees famously lost the first three games of their season and four of their first five, earning early reprimands from owner George Steinbrenner. After losing the first two games of the season to the Angels in Anaheim, however, New York didn’t lose another series until mid-June, when it dropped the first two games of a three-game set against the Orioles in Baltimore. In their 64th game of the season, the Yankees dodged a three-game sweep in that series with a 5–3 win keyed by Darryl Strawberry’s three-run, first-inning homer off Orioles ace Mike Mussina. New York would not be swept in a series of more than two games all season. In fact, this would be just the second and final time all year that the Yankees even faced the possibility of a sweep in finale of a series that lasted more than two games.
331969 Oriolesrecord: 47–17 (.734), +152The Orioles won their seventh straight in Game 64 when Dave McNally shut out the Washington Senators, allowing just two hits and one walk. At that point, the O's had not lost consecutive games in their last 33 contests, going 27–6 (.818) over that stretch with three of those six defeats coming in extra innings or via a walkoff. Baltimore started that stretch on May 10 with a mere one-game lead over the Red Sox in the newly-created AL East, but by the end of Game 64, the O’s had expanded their advantage to eight games. It would never be smaller for the remainder of the season.
441909 Piratesrecord: 46–18 (.719), +72The 64th decision of the Pirates’ season came in Game 1 of a July 5 doubleheader that they swept at home against the Reds by a combined score of 8–1. Pittsburgh had stumbled out of the gate, starting the season 2–5 and not getting above .500 until its 14th game of the season. But from April 25 through June 29, the Honus Wagner-led Pirates went 42–9, good for an absurd .824 winning percentage. They then lost three games in a five-game series against the defending NL champion Cubs, the second matchup of which marked the debut of Pittsburgh’s new ballpark, Forbes Field. Chicago won that game, 3–2.
551906 Cubsrecord: 45–19 (.703), +125The team that would finish with the best single-season winning percentage in modern major league history actually played .500 ball over its first 12 games. From there, it took a 10-game winning streak to push the Cubs into first place. A rough-patch in late May in which the Cubs won just four of 10 games allowed the defending world champion Giants to remain within a half-game, but Chicago found its stride in June. Not coincidentally, that came right after the team acquired 25-year-old righthander Orval Overall from the Reds on June 2. Overall would go 12–3 with a 1.88 ERA (141 ERA+) for the Cubs over the remainder of the ‘06 season. Chicago as a team went 17–4 from May 31 through its 64th game on June 26, sweeping the Cardinals at home at the West Side Grounds in the final three games of that stretch.
661954 Indiansrecord: 45–19 (.703), +101Yet another team to get off to a slow start, the ’54 Indians opened the season 3–6 and struggled to distance themselves from the five-time defending world champion Yankees, who would win 103 games that year. Early in the season, Cleveland also had to contend with a surging White Sox team that won 16 of 19 games from May 21 through June 9 to briefly slip into first place. The Indians reclaimed the top spot with a nine-game winning streak from June 11 to June 18, and with their 5–2 win over the A’s on June 23 behind Bob Lemon—a converted outfielder who tossed a complete game and hit a solo home run—they finished Game 64 with a three-game lead over Chicago and a five-game advantage on New York.
771986 Metsrecord: 45–19 (.703), +91The 1986 Mets opened the season by going 2–3 against NL East rivals Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and St. Louis but then ripped off 18 wins in 19 games to open up an early five-game lead over the Expos in the division. By the time New York lost Game 64 to the Cubs on June 21, that lead had doubled to 10 games.
881927 Yankeesrecord: 44–20 (.688), +159In contrast to many of the other teams on this list, the 1927 Yankees never spent a single day in second place and were tied for first on just four days. They opened the season 6–0 and had stretched their AL lead to eight games heading into a June 25 doubleheader in the Bronx against the A’s for Games 63 and 64. In a rare low point to its season, New York dropped both games. Babe Ruth appeared to have injured himself in the latter game, departing after striking out in his only at-bat, and missed the next four games, the only ones he would miss all season. Without Ruth in the lineup, the Yankees would lose the opener of the next day’s doubleheader, as well, the first of just two times all season that they lost three straight.
992016 Cubsrecord: 44–20 (.688), +159Thus far, the 2016 Cubs’ season can be split into four unequal pieces. They opened the season 25–6 (.806), a stretch capped by an eight-game winning streak. They then hit a speed bump, going 4–8 in mid May before winning 10 of 11. Since June 5, Chicago has merely played .500 ball, dropping to 5–5 over that span with Wednesday’s 12-inning loss to the Nationals in which it blew a 3–2 lead in the ninth and a 4–3 advantage in the 12th. Still, the Cubs haven’t lost consecutive games since May 22 and 23, and they remain 9 1/2 games in front of the second-place Cardinals in the NL Central. St. Louis, incidentally, will follow the Pirates into Wrigley Field for a three-game set starting on Monday.
10101961 Yankeesrecord: 40–24 (.625), +75Although they started strong, going 5–1 and 13–5, at the 64-game mark of the 1961 season, the Yankees had yet to spend a single day alone in first place. Instead, it was the Tigers, who would finish with 101 wins, who surged to the top of the AL standings. The Indians reeled in Detroit first, moving into first place in early June amid a 22–4 stretch. New York, meanwhile, won just three of 12 from May 6 to 20, sinking all the way to fourth place. The Yankees didn’t really get going for good until June 4, the start of a 13–2 run that brought them all the way up to a three-way tie for first, then dropped two of three in Detroit to fall back into third place. On June 17, the Yankees lost a wild 12–10 game to the Tigers in which newly acquired lefty Bud Daley gave up seven runs and got only four outs. Game 64 found the Bombers in Kansas City, where Roger Maris hit his 26th home run of the season in a 6–2 win, pulling New York back into a second-place tie with Cleveland, 1 1/2 games behind Detroit.
11111975 Redsrecord: 39–25 (.609), +100Despite opening their season with a three-game sweep of the defending NL champion Dodgers, the 1975 Reds got off to a worse start than other team on this list. Los Angeles swept the rematch, a four-game set at Dodger Stadium, in mid April, and after a six-game losing streak in mid-May, Cincinnati found itself below .500 at 18–19 on May 16. The Reds beat the Expos in Montreal the next day on 10th-inning home runs from Ken Griffey and Johnny Bench to pull even at 19–19. Only then did they start dominating the league. From that game through Game 64, Cincinnati went 21–6 (.778), opening up a 3 1/2-game lead over L.A. in the NL West. A key moment in the Reds’ season came two weeks before their fortunes started to change. With the Reds’ third basemen—John Vukovich, Doug Flynn and Darrel Chaney—hitting just .143/.241/.186 on the season, manager Sparky Anderson shifted Pete Rose from leftfield to third base on May 3 and began giving 26-year-old George Foster (who had started just five games to that point in the season) regular playing time in the outfield. Third base would remain Rose’s primary position through the 1978 season. Foster, meanwhile, would hit .300/.357/.503 with 20 home runs over the rest of the ’75 campaign, finish second in the MVP voting in '76 and win the award with 52 home runs and 149 RBIs in ‘77.