The best baseball teams of all time
Click here to download a clean Word version of this study
A version of this study completed in December 2005 is available in the online Baseball Almanac. It is generally regarded as one of the most conclusive
studies of its kind and is the most visited study on great baseball teams on the internet.
the years, there have been many great baseball teams, and it seems that each year there is another. Based on just memories,
it is difficult to compare teams between years, and without any on field competitions possible between these teams, there
is really no way of determining an all time champion. As a result, there have been conflicting comparisons of teams through
different statistical means.
all the attention some of the more famous comparisons get, I feel there are a few areas where they are inaccurate. So in this
study, I looked to explain both sound reasoning and thorough math to determine the best team ever.
is important for a baseball team to perform far better than its competition to be considered great. But giving so much emphasis
to the number of games ahead of second place seems to not only be grading the team, but the competition they played as well.
Perhaps a team who finishes 30 games ahead of second place in a division is playing weak competition. It doesn't seem right
to reward them for that.
my comparison, I use number of games ahead of second place, but don't give much emphasis to it. Some may argue that it isn't
fair to older teams that I count a margin of games ahead of second place within a division equal to games ahead of second
place in a league. The divisions were created for a reason, though. As the league expanded, each division became in itself
a miniature league, comparable in size to the entire league from the early 1900s. It would be even more unfair to count a
team's games over second place in a league of six teams equal to a team's games over second place in a league of 16 teams.
comparisons count out teams from before 1920. These teams tend to have a higher final rank, for many reasons. To me, though,
it doesn't seem fair to discount a team due to their existence prior to an arbitrary date, but it also seems unfair to include
teams that may skew the rankings. In my analysis, I include all teams from 1902-2005, but I will also include in this article
a ranking of teams not including 1902-1919.
Selecting teams for the comparison
used fairly basic criteria for selecting teams for the comparison. All World Series winning teams were included, except for
a few whose circumstances I will explain. Also, teams like the 1954 and 1995 Cleveland Indians were undoubtedly great teams,
yet neither won the World Series. For that reason, all teams with regular season winning percentages of at least .670 were
included. While this number is quite arbitrary, it worked as a good cutoff point between including some great teams who didn't
win the World Series, and allowing too many teams to be included in the scoring. There are a few exceptions to this rule,
1998 Atlanta Braves are included in the rankings although their winning percentage was just .654. They played dominantly,
and if not for a very "lucky" San Diego Padres team, these Braves may have won the World Series.
1994 Montreal Expos are also included. Since there was no World Series in 1994, it seemed logical to include the team with
the best record from the regular season. Since part of the scoring is based on postseason play, the 1994 Expos, 1904 Giants,
and 1902 Pirates, all of whom never played in playoffs or a World Series, are included and are given arbitrary but fair 50%
postseason winning percentages.
are a few teams not included in the final rankings. Mainly, the period from 1942-1945 was not included because it was the
time of World War II. Most teams lost many good players to the war effort, and young, inexperienced, and probably inferior
quality players were called into major league action. The talent level of major league baseball went down, as did that of
the minor leagues as a result, creating a few years of mostly inexperienced players. It isn't fair to compare Babe Ruth's
teams to teams made up of mostly minor or lower league players.
stated before, teams from before 1920 are sometimes excluded from all time rankings. While it isn't fair to exclude them completely,
I include them along with a ranking for teams post-1920 excluding teams from pre-1920.
importantly, a team must win the majority of its games. Winning is what determines the champion, so winning should be the
number one basis for how to decide a great team. Winning, though, is determined by a team's ability to produce and defend
against runs. For that reason, I view a team's scoring dominance over the opponents as a similarly important aspect of greatness.
it is given great importance to some historians, I don't view games ahead of second place as a key determining factor, but
it does deserve some merit, since a great team should be able to separate itself from the competition easily. A team's dominance
over the rest of the league or division defines its unique ability to win in the year it played. Great teams don't finish
second. The Florida Marlins have twice won a World Series despite never winning their division. Had they finished with the
record they had prior to 1994, the year in which the Wild Card was created, the Marlins would have missed the postseason.
great team should finish atop both leagues, with the trophy in the display case. While not winning a championship doesn't
necessarily take away from a team's winning ability, a team like the 1954 Indians, who finished the regular season 111-43,
but lost in the World Series 4 games to 0 should not be placed on the same level as a team who finished with a 107-47 regular
season record but won the World Series 4 games to 0, even though both finished with the same final record of 111-47.
large determinant of a team's greatness is how it performs in the postseason. Great teams don't choke. They continue to play
as they had all season long, or better in the postseason, dominating their opponents in the World Series, and any Playoffs.
The regular season versus the postseason
is greatly debated as to how much the regular season should count compared to the postseason in a comparison. Here is how
I determined this aspect:
will give 85% of the overall score to a combination of regular season winning percentage, run scoring dominance over opponents
during the regular season, and postseason winning percentage.
the length of the regular season and the playoffs has changed frequently throughout history, there is no uniformly fair way
to determine how much weight to give the postseason. I will try to determine the relative importance of the postseason, in
essence, how many regular season games the postseason should count for using the current setup of the season.
of all, the regular season is 162 games. The playoffs are usually an average of about 15 games for any given team that plays
in the World Series. But, for the first 162 games, all 30 MLB teams are involved. In the first round of the playoffs, just
eight are involved. Therefore, I think games in the first round of the playoffs should be considered 3.75 (30/8) times as
important as regular season games, since about one fourth the number of teams plays in them. Games in the second round of
the playoffs see only 4 teams playing, so it seems those games should be about 8 (30/4) times as important as regular season
games. Games in the World Series match just two teams, so they should be about 15 (30/2) times as important as a regular season
compared to reg. season gms.
Reg. Season 162
This means that the average 15 game playoff is worth 138.75 regular season games. Divided by this value, this makes
the regular season for a given team 117% as important as the postseason including the World Series. This result though seems
a little high for my purposes.
There is another method, which includes just assuming the entire playoffs include 8 teams. This means that the 15 games
of the playoffs should be multiplied by 3.75 (30/8) to get the number of regular season games the playoffs are worth. This
outcome is 56.25 games, meaning the regular season is 288% as important as the playoffs.
To get my value, I averaged these two outcomes to find that the regular season should count 202.4% as much as the postseason.
I left 85% open for the regular season and postseason stats, so of that, about 57% should be made up of regular season statistics,
and 28% of postseason stats. The regular season, though, I split into two categories. I will split that 57% into Regular Season
Winning Percentage and Run Scoring Dominance over opponents.
Based on these thoughts, I tried to give a percentage value to each aspect of a great team.
Regular Season Winning Percentage, 28.427%
Run scoring dominance over opponents, 28.427%*
Winning Percentage, 28.146%
*The asterisk next to run scoring dominance over opponents: Run scoring dominance is difficult to define. A team may
either be a dominant defensive team, or a powerful offensive team. For this reason, run scoring dominance over opponents is
split into two categories, each which counts 14.214% of the overall grade.
1. Average runs per game – team
ERA: A great team wins its games by several runs on average. I determined this statistic by dividing runs scored by the number
of games played by the team Earned Run Average.
2. Percentage of Runs scored in the
season: A defensive team might not win its games by great margins, but may score a great majority of the runs scored in a
game. This percentage is determined by dividing a team's runs scored by the sum of their runs scored plus their team ERA times
the number of games played.
If these percentages are added up, the total
is only 95%. The other 5% is a small measure of what rank among all major league baseball teams for that season that this
team took. This category serves not any real purpose other than to punish teams slightly for not winning the World Series
or the LCS. Some would say that a team that doesn't win the World Series should lose almost all of its points, but logically,
it isn't fair to totally eliminate the 1954 Cleveland Indians who finished 111-43 but lost the World Series if we also keep
the 1987 Minnesota Twins, who finished 85-77 but won the World Series. Keep in mind also that this is not the only place in
which teams are punished for performing poorly in the postseason. Another 28% of the grade is devoted to a team's winning
percentage in the postseason. This place in the final MLB standings is determined by their place rank among all teams in MLB
after the postseason. A World Series winner will be #1, a W.S. loser #2, an LCS loser either 3 or 4, etc. The weight of this
category shouldn't be focused on as being too small. It simply tweaks the rankings a little, and is not meant to serve as
a major component of the score. The playoff winning percentage of a team is what really does the job that many on first glance
would expect this component to do, and that is punishing teams for not winning the World Series.
Inserting the numbers
It would seem to make sense just to multiply a team's totals by the desired percentages, but that would leave far too
much emphasis on games above second place and postseason winning percentage. For that reason, I tried dividing the desired
percentage by the average count for a certain category. This seemed to work, but there was a problem. With the categories
like winning percentage, there is a very small span that these teams cover, yet with games above second place, there is a
large span between best and worst, which left games over second place counting far more than regular season winning percentage,
even with the applied desired percentages, and this was not my intention.
This led me to consider standard deviations, since they are an accurate span of difference from the average. What I
finally found to be most accurate was to divide the desired percentage by the standard deviation for that category. By doing
this, I made it so the possible difference between the best and the worst teams in that certain category is equal to the desired
percentages of overall grade. This is somewhat confusing, but here is a chart to help define how the formula was ultimately
created. (All winning percentages and % of runs scored are divided by 100. They are a fraction of 1.)
Category, Standard Dev., Multiplied by, to yield desired percentage
Winning Percentage, 0.04695, x, 605.414, =, 28.427
Avg. Runs - ERA, 0.5909, x, 25.0547, =, 14.214
% of runs scored, 0.03869, x, 367.402, =, 14.214
Games above second place, 6.94399, x, 1.44009, =, 10
Postseason Win %, 0.17662, x, 159.36, =, 28.1457
Won W.S.?, 0.47848, x, 10.4498, =, 5
To get the resulting score for a team, I multiplied its season totals by the numbers in the column labeled "Multiplied
by". If this seems crazy to multiply winning percentage by 605, and games above second by just 1.4, remember that the goal
was to make the difference created between the best and worst teams be equal to the desired percentage. Most of the 605 is
guaranteed for every team. Only a small portion of that is different between teams. Every team on the list has a winning percentage
of at least .530, but none has a winning percentage above .741. Yet, the span between games above second goes from -10 to
30. If you don't understand it, just trust that I spent a great deal of time figuring this out mathematically.
Scoring the teams
If you have figured out how the scoring works, you can figure out the team rankings.
Before I expose the team by team rankings, I should give some basic data about the overall findings. (All winning percentages
and % of runs scored are divided by 100. They are a fraction of 1.)
For all teams:
Category: average, standard deviation
Winning Percentage: 0.63285, 0.04679
Avg. Runs – ERA: 1.68763, 0.59228
% of runs scored: 0.60386, 0.03875
Games above second place: 8.23874, 6.91568
Postseason Win %: 0.6891, 0.17716
Teams: average, standard deviation
Pre-1920: 804.8443, 53.89875
Post-1920: 744.5767, 60.97084
All: 755.979, 64.017
Because the average score of teams from before 1920 is so much higher than the average score of teams from after 1920,
it is probably a good idea to eliminate all teams from before 1920 to insure a more accurate rating system. Certain lurking
variables skew the results form before 1920. Mainly, these are that the competition was poorer, and since the league was smaller,
one team could attain more great players. Also, the postseason was shorter, so it was easier for a team to win all their postseason
games. Also, with a smaller league, a team had a better chance to finish many games ahead of second place.
In my rankings, I will rank all teams in order of score, but I will also give post-1920 teams a ranking among all teams
from that era.
Here is another interesting feature comparing the decades.
Years: average score
1940-41, 1946-49: 755.2973
Obviously, this is not an accurate comparison of all baseball between the decades. What I believe accounts for the
recent decline is the addition of playoffs and the Wild Card, which allows for weaker teams to win the World Series, and since
these rankings include all World Series winners, this may have an impact.
From the 1930s to the 1960s, there is a steady decline. This may be because the leagues were getting larger, yet there
was still just one division in each league, which left for smaller annual "games above second place" counts. This idea is
supported by the average increase in the 1970s, as divisions became a factor.
It is interesting to note that the 2000s have been the weakest years. This can be explained by the fact that three
Wild Card teams have won the World Series. These were weaker teams that would not have been in the World Series in prior years.
110 teams are included in the Rankings.
that disparities in the numbers of games played were taken into account in the formula. Also note that teams from seasons
in which there were no playoffs are given an arbitrary, but fair 50% winning percentage in the playoffs, since it can be safely
assumed all teams on the list would have made the playoffs.
here to download report with full team listing
The Florida Marlins have won two World Series', but they make up two of the worst teams on this list, because neither
won the division, and both had fairly poor records, and got "lucky" many times, winning by small margins. They never got "hot"
until the playoffs.
The dynasty of the Oakland Athletics in the 1970s supposedly had some great teams, as they won three straight World
Series titles. However, none of those teams scored above 706, a very poor score eclipsed by even a Wild Card winner like the
2002 Anaheim Angels.
The 1987 Twins are the lowest ranked team on the list. They finished the regular season 85-77.
The teams from pre-1920 have on average higher rankings than they probably deserve for a number of reasons, previously
1, 1927 Yankees
2, 1939 Yankees
3, 1907 Cubs
4, 1932 Yankees
5, 1902 Pirates
6, 1910 Athletics
7, 1905 Giants
8, 1998 Yankees
9, 1906 Cubs
10, 1929 Athletics
11, 1909 Pirates
12, 1938 Yankees
13, 1937 Yankees
14, 1904 Giants
15, 1936 Yankees
16, 1928 Yankees
17, 1931 Athletics
18, 1911 Athletics
19, 1970 Orioles
20, 1912 Red Sox
21, 1915 Red Sox
22, 1995 Indians
23, 1976 Reds
24, 1969 Orioles
24, 1941 Yankees
26, 1922 Giants
27, 1975 Reds
28, 1954 Giants
29, 1950 Yankees
30, 1984 Tigers
31, 1917 White Sox
32, 1914 Braves
33, 1961 Yankees
34, 1908 Cubs
35, 1903 Boston
36, 1912 Giants
37, 1986 Mets
38, 1919 Reds
39, 1953 Yankees
40, 1913 Athletics
There is no truly conclusive way to determine the best team ever. There are so many different criteria that can be
used. Some would say that a team must win the World Series to be considered great. Some say that teams from before a certain
time shouldn't be included. The outcome depends on the formula used, and the qualifications for teams even to be included.
After completing the comparison, I feel that teams from prior to 1920 should be eliminated. There is a bias that causes them
to get higher scores. This is probably the most accurate criteria to use.
Teams Post-1920 Only
1, 1927 Yankees
2, 1939 Yankees
3, 1932 Yankees
4, 1998 Yankees
5, 1929 Athletics
6, 1938 Yankees
7, 1937 Yankees
8, 1936 Yankees
9, 1928 Yankees
10, 1931 Athletics
11, 1970 Orioles
12, 1976 Reds
13, 1995 Indians
14, 1969 Orioles
14, 1941 Yankees
16, 1922 Giants
17, 1975 Reds
18, 1954 Giants
19, 1950 Yankees
20, 1984 Tigers
21, 1961 Yankees
22, 1986 Mets
23, 1953 Yankees
24, 1966 Orioles
25, 1920 Indians
26, 1930 Athletics
27, 1923 Yankees
28, 1963 Dodgers
29, 1931 Cardinals
30, 1948 Indians
31, 1989 Athletics
32, 1949 Yankees
33, 1995 Braves
34, 2001 Mariners
35, 1955 Dodgers
36, 1999 Yankees
37, 1940 Reds
38, 1935 Tigers
39, 1906 White Sox
40, 1969 Mets
41, 1956 Yankees
42, 1951 Yankees
43, 1947 Yankees
44, 1933 Giants
45, 2004 Red Sox
46, 1925 Pirates
47, 1968 Tigers
48, 1998 Braves
49, 1946 Red Sox
50, 1953 Dodgers
51, 1921 Giants
52, 1983 Orioles
53, 1994 Expos
54, 2005 White Sox
55, 1946 Cardinals
56, 1978 Yankees
57, 1916 Red Sox
58, 1977 Yankees
59, 1957 Braves
60, 1967 Cardinals
61, 1958 Yankees
62, 1971 Pirates
63, 1979 Pirates
64, 1952 Yankees
65, 2002 Angels
66, 1954 Indians
67, 1934 Cardinals
68, 1960 Pirates
69, 1974 Athletics
70, 1924 Senators
71, 1972 Athletics
72, 1991 Twins
73, 1973 Athletics
74, 1962 Yankees
75, 1990 Reds
76, 1926 Cardinals
77, 1988 Dodgers
78, 1993 Blue Jays
79, 1992 Blue Jays
80, 1965 Dodgers
81, 1981 Dodgers
82, 2001 Diamondbacks
83, 1982 Cardinals
84, 1996 Yankees
85, 1980 Phillies
86, 1959 Dodgers
87, 1964 Cardinals
88, 1997 Marlins
89, 1985 Royals
90, 2000 Yankees
91, 2003 Marlins
92, 1987 Twins
Another set of criteria that may be used is the 1947 incorporation of blacks into Major League Baseball. Truly, blacks
improved the quality of play, and the quality of the competition of the great teams. It would be interesting to see how Babe
Ruth would perform if he were playing the premier black baseball players of his day. For this reason, some people like to
eliminate all teams from prior to 1947. Some people also like to note that the league expanded in 1961, spreading out the
good players, reducing their possible concentrations on great teams. This leaves the option to consider the 1947-1960 years
the best era of baseball ever.
1, 1998 Yankees
2, 1970 Orioles
3, 1976 Reds
4, 1995 Indians
5, 1969 Orioles
6, 1975 Reds
7, 1954 Giants
8, 1950 Yankees
9, 1984 Tigers
10, 1961 Yankees
11, 1986 Mets
12, 1953 Yankees
13, 1966 Orioles
14, 1963 Dodgers
15, 1948 Indians
1, 1998 Yankees
2, 1970 Orioles
3, 1976 Reds
4, 1995 Indians
5, 1969 Orioles
6, 1975 Reds
7, 1984 Tigers
8, 1961 Yankees
9, 1986 Mets
10, 1966 Orioles
11, 1963 Dodgers
12, 1995 Braves
13, 2001 Mariners
14, 1999 Yankees
15, 1969 Mets