Comparing the Red-Hot Dodgers to the Best Regular-Season Teams Ever

1:13 | MLB
Dodgers: Is this the year for a World Series run?
Thursday July 20th, 2017

The Dodgers enter Thursday night's opener of a four-game series with the Braves in Los Angeles riding an 11-game winning streak, which matches the Astros' stretch from May 28 to June 5 for the longest in the majors this season. At 66–29, the Dodgers not only have the majors' best record, they have history in their sights. They're on pace for 113 wins, which would be a National League record for a 162-game schedule—which was adopted by that league in 1962—and the second-highest in NL history behind only the 1906 Cubs, who won 116 games, a major-league record matched by the 2001 Mariners but never surpassed. Prior to Wednesday's 9-1 win over the White Sox, Los Angeles's 31st in 35 games dating back to June 7, ESPN Stats and Info reported that they were the first to win 30 in a 34-game span since the 1977 Royals, and the first to do so in the NL since the 1936 Giants. Whew, hot enough for you?

The Dodgers' longest streak in the division play era (1969 onward) is 12, set in 1976, and their longest since moving from Brooklyn to L.A. for the 1958 season is 14, achieved in '62 and '65. Their franchise record is 15 wins in a row, set in 1924. It's worth noting that among those four Dodger squads, only the 1965 team, which went 97–65, reached the postseason; they beat the Twins in the World Series, while the 1962 Dodgers (102-63) lost a three-game tiebreaker to the Giants. The 1976 Dodgers finished 92-70 but that left them 10 games behind the defending and eventual World Series champion Reds, and the 1924 Dodgers (92-62) came up a game and a half short of the Giants.

In an attempt to put L.A.'s overall pace and its current hot streak in perspective, I’ve examined all 13 expansion-era teams who finished with at least 104 wins in the regular season. None of them had two winning streaks of at least 10 games, as these Dodgers have already done. Ten went on to win the league pennant, and six wound up winning the World Series. Instead of ranking them by overall win total (which you can see here), I’m ranking them by their winning percentages during their longest sustained stretch of playing .750 ball or better.

1984 Detroit Tigers

Overall: 104–58
Peak: 35–5, .875

This colorful squad led by outfielder Kirk Gibson, righthander Jack Morris and the Alan Trammell-Lou Whitaker double play combo is remembered not just for its five-game demolition of the Padres in the World Series but for its 35–5 start, a 142-win pace to open the year. That tear was bookended by a pair of nine-game winning streaks (April 3 to 18 and May 14 to 24) and featured a pair of seven-gamers (April 20 to 26 and May 4 to 11). Within that tear, the Tigers had multiple 30-5 stretches, making them the only team from this group to come within a game of the Dodgers’ current 35-game tear.

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1998 New York Yankees

Overall: 114–48 
Peak: 
46–10, .821

En route to AL and expansion era record for wins (both passed by the aforementioned Mariners), this particular band of Bronx Bombers had one 10-game winning streak (June 30 to July 12) and two nine-gamers (June 1 to June 10 and Aug. 7 to Aug. 14). Over their best 35-game stretch, they went 30–5, and after starting the year 0–3, went 46–10 over their next 56 games (.821, a 133-win pace). Unlike Seattle's squad three years later, they brought home the championship, sweeping the Padres in the World Series, the second of Joe Torre's four titles at the helm.

1975 Cincinnati Reds

Overall: 108–54 
Peak: 
34–8, .810

Driven by Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez plus coulda-been Pete Rose, the Big Red Machine set an NL expansion-era record for wins that has been matched (by the 1986 Mets) but not surpassed. Along the way they had a 10-game winning streak from July 4 to 13, and a nine-gamer from August 9 to 18. Cincinnati went 27–8 in several overlapping 35-game stretches, peaking at 34–8 (a 131-win pace), and beating the Red Sox in a classic seven-game World Series.

1961 New York Yankees

Overall: 109–63 
Peak: 
33–8, .805

Though they went "only" 12–6 against the Los Angeles Angels and 11–7 against the 11–7 Washington Senators, the AL’s two expansion teams, Roger Maris (who set a single-season home run mark with 61), Mickey Mantle (54 homers) and company dominated the Junior Circuit. They had a 13-game winning streak from Sept. 1 to 12, and a nine-gamer from Aug. 4 to 11. They played at a 130-win pace over the span of those two streaks, and went 27-8 over their best 35-game stretch. They too won a championship, beating the Reds in a five-game World Series.

1998 Atlanta Braves

Overall: 106–56 
Peak: 
33–8, .805

Though this edition of the Greg Maddux-Tom Glavine-John Smoltz Braves fell to the Padres in the NLCS, they set a franchise record for wins. Their longest winning streak was just eight games (June 27 to July 5), but they also had two seven-gamers (May 9–15 and Sept. 19–27). They went 28–7 over their best 35-game stretch and played at a 130-win pace at their peak.

1969 Baltimore Orioles

Overall: 109–53
Peak: 
32–8, .800

In matching the 1961 Yankees, Earl Weaver's first of three straight pennant-winning squads was apparently on some kind of monthly winning streak program. They had seven-game streaks from June 13 to 19, July 24 to 31 and Aug. 12 to 19, then surpassed those with an eight-gamer from Sept. 7 to 14. They played at a 130-win pace over their hottest stretch, and went 27–8 over their best 35-game segment, but they wound up losing to the Miracle Mets in the World Series.

Elaine Thompson/AP

2001 Seattle Mariners

Overall: 116–46
Peak: 
51–13, .797

In besting the 1998 Yankees’ still-fresh standard to set an expansion era record for wins, the Mariners reeled off a 15-game winning streak from May 23 to June 8, matching the 2000 Braves for the longest in the majors since the 1986 and '87 Brewers (two separate streaks) and since surpassed only by the 2002 A's 20-game winning streak. The M's also had a nine-game winning streak in April, went 29-6 over their best 35-game stretch and were 51-13 (.797) starting with the third game of the season, a 129-win pace over a 162-game season. Alas, they were bumped off by the Yankees in the ALCS that year.

2004 St. Louis Cardinals

Overall: 105–57
Peak: 46–12, .793

Before being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series, the Redbirds peeled off winning streaks of nine (Aug. 27 to Sept. 4) and eight games (July 2 to 10). They went 28–7 over their best 35-game stretch and played at a 128-win clip over the stretch that included both of those winning streaks.

1993 Atlanta Braves

Overall: 104–58 
Peak: 
39–11, .780

In future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux's first year with the Braves, the team had just one winning streak of longer than six games, a nine-game tear from Aug. 8 to 18; they won six straight from July 23-28. Both those streaks came after they acquired slugging first baseman Fred McGriff from the Padres in a blockbuster trade. Atlanta went 29-6 across its best 35-game stretch and closed the year on a 126-win pace. It needed every last win in order to top the Giants by one game in the NL West. Alas, the Braves were dropped by the Phillies in the NLCS.

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1988 Oakland A's

Overall: 104–58 
Peak: 
32–9, .780

The first of Tony La Russa's three straight pennant-winning A's squads had a 14-game winning streak (April 23 to May 9) and a seven-gamer from Sept. 17 to 24. They went 27-over their best 35-game stretch and peaked at a 126-win pace before being upset by a gimpy Kirk Gibson, a dominant Orel Hershiser and a ragtag Dodgers lineup in a five-game World Series.

1970 Baltimore Orioles

Overall: 108–54 
Peak: 
34–10, .773

Weaver's first championship team—Baltimore the Reds in five games—closed the season with an 11-game winning streak and before that had an eight-game streak from May 5 to 12. The Orioles had three completely independent 26–9 stretches, two of them back-to-back to close the season, and played at a 125-win pace over their final 44 games.

1986 New York Mets

Overall: 108–54  
Peak: 
42–13, .764

Davey Johnson's hard-playing, hard-partying bunch, which matched the Reds' expansion-era wins record for an NL team, had an 11-game winning streak (April 18 to 30) and an eight-gamer (June 25 to July 4). New York went 27–8 over their best 35-game stretch and kept a 124-win pace over a nearly two-month span kindled by that 11-game streak. Aided by Mookie Wilson's grounder through Bill Buckner's legs when they were down to their final strike, the Mets beat the Red Sox in a seven-game World Series.

1963 New York Yankees

Overall: 104–58
Peak: 
27–9, .750

Though they brought home the franchise's fourth pennant in a row, this edition of the Mantle-and-Maris Yankees is relatively forgotten because they were swept by Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in the World Series. They maxed out with a pair of seven-game winning streaks (June 14 to 20 and June 29 to July 4) and a 122-win pace, within which they went 26–9 over their best 35 games

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