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The golden age of 100-win MLB teams

Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, and Twins all won in triple-digits in 2019. This is good!

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Houston Astros
The Astros have mastered winning of late, with three straight seasons of 100 or more victories.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

If you’re a fan of one of baseball’s division winners in 2019, congratulations. Odds are you are rooting for a team that won 100 games. Four of the six MLB division titlists this season have reached the century mark, with only the Braves and Cardinals failing to hit triple-digits from that group.

The Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Twins all won 100 games. Four is the most 100-win teams in a single season ever, but what makes this even more incredible is that it’s the first time we’ve had at least three 100-win teams in three straight years.

We have the Astros, Yankees, and Dodgers to thank for this. Houston has reached triple-digits in wins in each of the last three years, while the Yankees and Dodgers have done so twice. Their relative excellence has defined the sport, and it’s no surprise those three have the most total wins in the last three years.

While we have never seen four 100-win teams in the same season — not to mention all three division winners from a single league winning 100 — there were two equivalent years back when the schedule was shorter. If we lower the threshold to .617 (the equivalent of 100 wins in 162 games) or better, this also happened in 1909 and 1949 as well.

Seasons with the most extreme winners

Year Teams with .617+ winning percentage
Year Teams with .617+ winning percentage
1909 Pirates, Cubs, Tigers, A's
1949 Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cardinals
2019 Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, Twins
MLB had a 154-game schedule through 1960 in the AL, and through 1961 in the NL, switching to 162 games in 1961 and 1962 respectively. .617 = 100 wins in 162 games

Perspective is important here. With just 16 major league teams in 1949, four teams with a .617-plus winning percentage is more impressive than the four out of 30 we have in 2019. But the feat itself is still impressive, as there were only eight seasons since before this one with even three such teams.

Seventy years is a long time.

2019 was also the second season in a row the American League featured three 100-win teams.

There were very bad teams, too

This year was also noteworthy on the other end of the spectrum, with the Tigers, Orioles, Marlins, and Royals all losing at least 100 games. That’s tied for the most 100-loss teams in one season in baseball history (done also in 2002), and that’s even true when accounting for the shorter schedules of the first half of the 20th Century (including teams with a .383 winning percentage or worse, the equivalent of losing 100 of 162 games).

But having the extreme losing teams isn’t always a prerequisite for having 100-win teams. We had three extreme winners in 2017, for instance, but zero 100-loss teams.

The eight combined extreme teams this season — four with a .617 winning percentage, four at .383 or worse — ties 1909 for the most in baseball history.

The 2017 World Series, between the 104-win Dodgers and the 101-win Astros, was the first postseason matchup between 100-win teams since the 1977 NLCS. We saw two such matchups last year, with the 108-win Red Sox beating the 100-win Yankees in the ALDS and the 103-win Astros in the ALCS. This year the AL Division Series between the Yankees and Twins will feature two 100-win teams.

What was once rare has been commonplace the last few years.

The 10 total 100-win teams (or equivalent) from 2017-19 is the most of any period in MLB history. The only times close were 1908-10 and 1949-51, with nine total teams in each of those periods.

One more thought on the top 2019 winners: the Yankees, Twins, Astros, and Dodgers also happen to be the top four teams in hitting home runs, each surpassing the major league record set one year ago. I guess 2019 is the year of the home run after all.