Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Best 50-Game Stretches in Baseball History

Last season, the Houston Astros had one of the worst runs in MLB history, losing 43 out of 50 games during July and August. I wrote about the worst 50-game stretches ever then, but now, almost exactly a year later, I have reason to write about the best 50-game stretches, because the Los Angeles Dodgers have been on an incredible run. At the end of play on June 21, the Dodgers were 30-42, in last place in the NL West, and baseball's biggest disappointment. Since then though, LA has gone 42-8, taken over 1st place and built a commanding lead, and become the betting favorites to win the World Series. How often does a team go on a run this good?

Author's Note: This post was originally published in August of 2013, but most recently updated on at the end of the 2017 regular season. Anything unchanged from the original post is in italics, while anything new or updated is in regular font.

Here are the best 50-game stretches in baseball since 1901, when the American League was formally organized and what is commonly thought of as the modern era began:

1) 45-5 (1906 Cubs)

2) 43-7 (1912 Giants, 2017 Dodgers)

4) 42-8 (1941 Yankees, 1942 Cardinals, 2013 Dodgers, 2017 Indians)

7) 41-9 (1909 Pirates, 1913 Giants, 1914 Athletics, 1931 Athletics, 1938 Yankees, 1939 Yankees, 1944 Cardinals, 1946 Red Sox, 1953 Dodgers, 1975 Reds, 1998 Yankees)

19) 40-10 (1902 Pirates, 1907 Cubs, 1910 Cubs, 1928 Yankees, 1929 Athletics, 1947 Yankees, 1951 Indians, 1953 Yankees, 1954 Giants, 1954 Indians, 1977 Royals, 1977 Yankees, 2001 Athletics, 2001 Mariners, 2005 Athletics)

Yep, the best 5-game stretch in baseball history was turned in by the Cubs. It was 107 years ago, but hey. The Dodgers' stretch this season hasn't been bettered in 101 years and hasn't even been matched for 71 years. Since 1953, the only teams to come within even a game of it were the 1975 "Big Red Machine" Reds and the 1998 Yankees, widely considered to be the two best teams of the last 40 years.

Franchises with at least one "40+ wins in 50 games" stretch:

Yankees (8)
Athletics (5)
Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, and Indians (3)
Cardinals and Pirates (2)
Mariners, Red Sox, Reds, and Royals (1)

Only 12 of the 30 teams have had a stretch that good. The Mariners and Royals are the only ones that weren't among the 16 franchises that existed in 1902. (The Yankees weren't around in 1901.) That's not particularly surprising, given that of the 33 stretches with 40+ wins in 50 games, 23 of them came before 1961, when expansion began. As was true with the worst 50-game stretches, most of the best ones happened a long time ago. For what I'm sure is a combination of reasons, it seems to have become much harder for a team to be good enough to win like this.

It also seems worth pointing out that of the 31 teams prior to 2017 with such a successful run during the season, 28 of them made the playoffs, with the only exceptions being the 1902 Pirates (who didn't go to the postseason because the postseason didn't exist that year), the 1951 Indians (who didn't go to the postseason despite a 93-61 record), and the 2005 Athletics (who won 88 games). Of those 31 teams, 25 of them played in the World Series, with 15 of them winning it.

The best 50-game stretches in each season during the 2000s:

2000: 36-14 (Giants and White Sox)
2001: 40-10 (Athletics and Mariners)
2002: 39-11 (Braves and Athletics)
2003: 38-12 (Braves)
2004: 39-11 (Cardinals)
2005: 40-10 (Athletics)
2006: 38-12 (Twins)
2007: 36-14 (Red Sox)
2008: 34-16 (Angels, Astros, Brewers, Cubs, and Rays)
2009: 37-13 (Angels and Yankees)
2010: 37-13 (Phillies, Twins, White Sox)
2011: 37-13 (Phillies)
2012: 36-14 (Reds and Yankees)
2013: 42-8 (Dodgers)
2014: 35-15 (Nationals and Orioles)
2015: 37-13 (Blue Jays)
2016: 37-13 (Cubs)
2017: 43-7 (Dodgers)

Finally, here is the best 50-game stretch for each franchise since 1901:

Angels: 37-13 (2009)
Astros: 38-12 (2017)
Athletics: 41-9 (1914, 1931)
Blue Jays: 37-13 (2015)
Braves: 39-11 (1993, 2002)
Brewers: 36-14 (2011)
Cardinals: 42-8 (1942)
Cubs: 45-5 (1906)
Diamondbacks: 38-12 (1999)
Dodgers: 43-7 (2013, 2017)
Giants: 43-7 (1912)
Indians: 42-8 (2017)
Mariners: 40-10 (2001)
Marlins: 34-16 (2003)
Mets: 38-12 (1969)
Nationals: 35-15 (1994, 2012, 2014)
Orioles: 38-12 (1966, 1969, 1970)
Padres: 35-15 (1998)
Phillies: 37-13 (1976, 1977, 2010, 2011)
Pirates: 41-9 (1909)
Rangers: 36-14 (2016)
Rays: 34-16 (2008, 2010)
Red Sox: 41-9 (1946)
Reds: 41-9 (1975)
Rockies: 35-15 (2009)
Royals: 40-10 (1977)
Tigers: 39-11 (1984)
Twins: 38-12 (2006)
White Sox: 39-11 (1983)
Yankees: 42-8 (1941)


  1. Of course, going 42-8 over 50 games if you are an otherwise 0.400 ballclub, then 45 wins over the other 112 games brings you to 87-75. Not too shabby, that.

    The point is, you'd have to have a pretty bad team otherwise to go 42-8 and fail to make the playoffs.

    1. And in a 154-game schedule, 84-70 is a decent record, although there are fewer playoff spots...

    2. The 2005 A's seem like the 'worst' team to win 40+ out of 50, given that they're the only one who failed to make the playoffs since expansion began.

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