The Cubs are on pace to become just the fifth team to top 110 wins in a season, but how do they rank against some of the best MLB teams ever?

By Cliff Corcoran
June 16, 2016

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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:

Team Record PCT Result
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..

2001 Mariners
50–14 (.781), +125 run differential
The 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.
1998 Yankees
48–16 (.750), +134
The ’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.
1969 Orioles
47–17 (.734), +152
The 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.
1909 Pirates
46–18 (.719), +72
The 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.
1906 Cubs
45–19 (.703), +125
The 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.
1954 Indians
45–19 (.703), +101
Yet 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.
1986 Mets
45–19 (.703), +91
The 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.
1927 Yankees
44–20 (.688), +159
In 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.
2016 Cubs
44–20 (.688), +159
Thus 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.
1961 Yankees
40–24 (.625), +75
Although 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.
1975 Reds
39–25 (.609), +100
Despite 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.

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