The most winning seasons in MLB

With 116 wins in 2001, the Mariners equaled the 162-game season record for most wins in a season set more than 100 years ago by the 1906 Cubs. But, given that Chicago did it in a shorter season, the team of the “Windy City” still holds the mark for the highest percentage of wins (.763).

Will those records ever be broken? There haven’t been many serious contenders lately. Until the 2020 Dodgers, in a shortened season, had a .717 winning percentage, only two teams (the 2001 Mariners and 1998 Yankees) have exceeded .700, since the Age of Expansion in 1961, when the American League began playing 162 games per year. (The National League followed in the following season).

Here’s a list of 10 Modern Era LA / LN teams (since 1900) with a winning percentage greater than .700 in a full season (not counting the 2020 Dodgers). Eight of them disputed the World Series and five conquered the title.

1906 Cubs: 116-36 (.763), lost in World Series
They are the winningest team in the 20th century. Their 116 victories represent a record (tied with the 2001 Mariners).

The roster featured four future Hall of Famers: manager Frank Chance, second baseman Johnny Evers, shortstop Joe Tinker and right-hander Mordecai Brown. The club led all of baseball in runs scored (704) and allowed (381). Brown’s 1.04 ERA remains a mark for the National League.

The Cubs fell short in the World Series, being upset by the Chicago White Stockings in six games, in the first and so far only meeting between the Chicago clubs in the postseason.

2001 Mariners: 116-46 (.716), lost in SCLA
The Cubs’ record has only been matched once; in 2001 by the Mariners, led by three-time Manager of the Year winner Lou Piniella. Seattle led the league in several categories, including runs (927), stolen bases (174), on-base percentage (.360), ERA (3.54), shutouts (14), runs allowed (637) and WHIP (1,200).

The 2001 campaign also saw Ichiro Suzuki’s debut in the United States. He hit .350 / .381 / .457 to win the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP awards. The club had eight representatives in the All-Star Game; the first to be organized at Safeco Field: Ichiro, Bret Boone, Mike Cameron, Venezuelan Freddy García, Puerto Rican Edgar Martínez, Jeff Nelson, John Olerud and Kazuhiro Sasaki.

Like Chicago in 1906, the Mariners went empty-handed in the postseason, being eliminated in the Championship Series by the Yankees.

1998 Yankees: 114-48 (.704), won World Series
The Yankees may have come within two wins of matching the Mariners and Cubs, but it was they who did take the jackpot, winning the World Series at the end of the season after beating the Padres. New York still holds the record for the most wins for a champion. His 125 wins, between the regular season and the postseason, are the most.

Led by Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, the team had a roster packed with talent worthy of Cooperstown, including Derek Jeter, Tim Raines and Mariano Rivera of Panama. That, without naming Andy Pettitte, David Cone, Puerto Ricans Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Darryl Strawberry and Chuck Knoblauch.

In the second of their four titles in five years, the Yankees were 11-2 in the playoffs.

1954 Indians: 111-43 (.721), lost in World Series
The 1954 club holds the record for the highest winning percentage for an AL team. In 2015, the Blue Jays matched that mark.

Cleveland’s pitching will be remembered for being one of the best, with three Hall of Famers; Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Bob Feller. Their 2.78 team ERA was the best in the majors, and by far.

Cleveland made it to the World Series, but lost to the New York Giants.

1927 Yankees: 110-44 (.714), won World Series
There is no list that speaks of the greatest teams in history that overlooks the Yankees of the 1920s, which featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in their prime. The Mules of 1927 were one of the best ensembles ever assembled in history.

Where to begin? It was Ruth’s legendary 60-homer campaign, a record Roger Maris would break 34 years later. Gehrig was the league’s MVP at 24, finishing second in the AL in batting average (.373) and home runs (47). The lineup featured two more future Cooperstown members (Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri).

They led all offensive categories, except for stolen bases. His 158 home runs were 100 more than the 56 for Philadelphia, which finished in second place. They ended up beating the Pirates with a 23-10 aggregate score in the four-game sweep of the World Series.

1909 Pirates: 110-42 (.724), won World Series
The turn of the century was favorable for the Pirates, who featured a pair of Hall of Famers, manager and player Fred Clarke and shortstop Honus Wagner. Despite winning three pennants in a row in the National League, between 1901-1903 (losing the first World Series of the Modern Era in 1903, it wasn’t until 1909 that they finally returned to the Fall Classic.

Even at 35, Wagner was still one of the best hitters in baseball, leading the NL in average (.339) and RBIs (100), to win his seventh of eight batting titles. Rookie Dots Miller, 22, finished third in the league with 87 RBIs and the Pirates had a pair of 20-game winners, with Howie Camnits (25-6) and Vic Willis (22-11).

The World Series featured the two best hitters in baseball; Wagner against Ty Cobb. In the end, the Pirates won their first World Series after dispatching the Tigers in seven games.

1931 Philadelphia Athletics: 107-45 (.704), lost in World Series
Before winning three World Series between 1972-1974, it was the Philadelphia Athletics who dominated the American League and were close to being the first team to win three consecutive titles, falling short in 1931, despite winning 107 games on the season.

The lineup featured three future Hall of Famers: champion batting Al Simmons (.390), Jimmie Foxx, 23, and catcher Mickey Cochrane. But the main weight of success was a rotation led by MVP Lefty Groce, who led the league with 31 wins, a 2.06 ERA, complete games (27) and strikeouts (175), for his first of two consecutive Triple Crowns.

Philadelphia failed to clinch a third title, losing to the Cardinals in seven games in the World Series. The Athletics did not return to the Fall Classic until 1972.

1907 Chicago Cubs: 107-45 (.704) won the World Series
The 1907 Cubs faced a difficult task after scoring 116 victories the previous season. Although all of their starting players returned, the Cubs scored nearly 130 fewer runs than in 1906, when they crossed the plate 704 times. No member of the team hit more than .300 for the season.

However, the best team in the league led the team to the National League pennant for the second consecutive season. Chicago pitchers had a team ERA of 1.73.

And while they didn’t match the 1906 team’s number of wins, the Cubs bounced back from their World Series loss the previous year with a sweep by the Tigers for the first title in franchise history.

1939 New York Yankees: 106-45 (.702), won World Series
Considered by many to be the best team assembled, the 1939 Yankees set the record for the largest run differential in a season (411+) and to this day, they hold the distinction of being the only team to have beaten their opponents by a margin of 400 runs. That season was immortalized by the club’s fourth consecutive World Series title and Gehrig’s retirement.

At 24, Joe DiMaggio won the first of his three American League MVPs and the batting title despite playing just 120 games, thanks to his .381 / .448 / .671 line. The roster featured six future Hall of Famers, including Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing leading the rotation, as well as catcher Bill Dickey and second baseman Joe Gordon.

The Yankees finished 17 games ahead of rookie Ted Williams and his Boston Red Sox to claim the American League pennant and sweep the Reds in the World Series.

1902 Pittsburgh Pirates: 103-36 (.741), won the National League pennant
After winning the first National League pennant in franchise history in 1901, the Pirates swept through the Old Circuit in 1902 to score 100 victories for the first time and win the pennant again.

The Pirates led the National League in almost every offensive category and won the pennant by a 27.5-game margin over the second-place team, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, the first modern World Series was a year away, and they couldn’t compete with Connie Mack and American League champions the Philadelphia Athletics.

Teams with winning percentages of .700 or higher prior to 1900
1887 St. Louis Browns: 95-40 (.704)
1897 Boston Beaneaters: 93-39 (.705)
1886 Chicago White Stockings: 90-34 (.726)
1886 Detroit Wolverines: 87-36 (.707)


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The most winning seasons in MLB