100-Win Seasons: A Momentum Theory, Part One

100-win seasons

One of the truly great marks in the game of baseball is the 100-win milestone. If in a single season, one team manages to emerge victorious 100 times, it’s something that is truly outstanding…yet also something that is somewhat trivial. A team makes the playoffs and that seems to be the end. They celebrate, pouring endless amounts of champagne on each other, and the fans cheer excitedly. It appears to be the achieving of a goal. However, in this writer’s opinion, there is yet another goal. The accomplishment of 100-win seasons is something that could add momentum heading into the postseason. There’s something truly grand about attaining this magnificent accomplishment.

When the research is done, it’s rather shocking to see just how few 100-win seasons there are historically. According to this writer’s calculations, there have been 109 of these seasons. When put up against 2,714 individual team seasons, 0.04% of seasons in big league history have had 100 wins. Only two franchises have done it more than 10 times. Some have yet to achieve their first 100-win campaign. Yet, some of these teams have gone on deep postseason runs. Some have even become World Series champions. So, the question of whether winning 100 games adds momentum still remains. Let’s test the theory against history and find out.

The 100-Win Momentum Theory: AL East

Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles have been around since 1901 in a few iterations. They were the original Milwaukee Brewers. Then, they moved to St. Louis and became the Browns. Finally, they wound up in Baltimore. Surprisingly enough, they’ve only reached the 100-win plateau five times (1969, 1970, 1971, 1979, 1980). It’s made all the more shocking when one considers the amount of Hall of Famers they have. Even more baffling is that they only won the World Series one time in those five seasons (1970). However, they also lost it twice. In 1969, they were defeated by the New York Mets, who also won 100 games that season. In 1971, they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were not a 100-win team that season. When 1980 came to an end, the team missed out on the postseason despite having 100 wins. They came up three games short of the New York Yankees. Furthermore, they won championships in two seasons without 100 wins (1966, 1983). So, it does not appear that getting to 100 wins added any momentum. Therefore, we must conclude that the theory cannot be applied here.

Boston Red Sox

For the Boston Red Sox and their storied history, 100-win seasons are surprisingly scarce. Only four times in 120 seasons have they achieved this goal (1912, 1915, 1946, 2018), despite their Hall of Fame caliber. Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, and Jim Rice have all played for Boston. Only one of them was on a 100-win squad. This might be a result of the legendary Curse of The Bambino. Either that, or it’s just some oddly fascinating coincidence. In any case, the Red Sox did win the World Series in three of those seasons (1912, 1915, 2018). In two of the occasions, they defeated 100-win squads. Their 1915 triumph came against the Philadelphia Phillies, who only won 90 games. However, despite all of this, their biggest world title came in a season when they did not win 100 times. In 2004, they won 98 games before securing their first championship in 86 years. Even so, it appears that the theory may work for them after all. The timeline may stretch a bit, but the statistics are there to support the idea.

New York Yankees

In practice, the theory may work best for the Bronx Bombers. They’ve recorded 100-win seasons an astonishing 21 times. The days of Murderer’s Row and retaining core players from that team definitely helped boost that. The Yankees won 100 games three times during the heyday of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. In the late 1930s and the 1940s, Joe DiMaggio helped lead them to five 100-win campaigns. Hall of Fame skipper Casey Stengel had one 100-win season under his belt. That being said, he also led the team to seven titles without the benefit of 100 wins. So, there’s obviously an argument against the theory here. From 1923-1964, the Yankees won 20 world titles. Only eight came after 100-win seasons. That being said, with a cast of characters including multiple Cooperstown residents, one cannot overstate the team’s natural momentum. 100 wins or none, they were going to be tough in the postseason. Overall, though, the team has 27 titles with 12 coming after 100-win seasons. That’s a 44% success rate. The comparisons might be a bit extreme, but the Red Sox are more successful, despite having fewer titles in a much smaller sample.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are a rather interesting franchise. They’ve been around for a comparably short amount of time (24 seasons, counting 2021). However, despite their brevity, they’ve done quite a bit. They’ve been to the postseason six times and the World Series twice. They’ve lost 100 games three times. Their team name has been shifted to knock out the term “devil.” Terrific players like Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Fred McGriff have taken the field for them. Managers like Joe Maddon and Lou Piniella have paced their dugout. However, one of the things they’ve yet to do is win 100 games. The closest they’ve ever come was in 2008 when they went 97-65. That year, they won their first pennant, but lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Fall Classic. They’ve also had a lot of recent success, including being the defending American League champions. Unfortunately, they still haven’t crossed the century mark. So, we cannot apply the theory to them. Therefore, we must categorize this franchise as being “inconclusive.”

Toronto Blue Jays

Finally, we turn north of the border to Canada. The Toronto Blue Jays have been around since 1977. Much like the Rays, it seems they’ve done quite a bit in a relatively short lifespan. Unlike the Rays, they have two world titles (1992, 1993), the most dramatic of which came on Joe Carter’s walk-off homer in ’93. They also have eight postseason trips to their name. However, they, too, have been unable to crest 100 wins. They have had their fair share of chances. In 1985, they went 99-62, losing the American League Championship Series in seven games. Ironically, it was to a Kansas City Royals squad that had only won 91 games. When 1992 rolled around, they went 96-66, winning their first world title. In 2015, they won 90 games for the first time since 1993. However, they came up short in the ALCS once more. The interesting historical twist here is that their opponent was, once again, the Royals. The only difference was that the Royals had won 95 games that year. However, despite all of this success, the Blue Jays haven’t been able to reach 100 wins yet. So, once again, we must label the team’s success as “inconclusive.”

Conclusion

The American League East is a division that is interesting to its core. Packed full of history, it truly is where the old and new collide. When it comes to 100 wins, the division lives up to its reputation. The older teams share a head on relationship with the newer ones. The Yankees incomparable 21 100-win seasons are certainly the cream of the crop. However, the Orioles and Red Sox each stake a claim as well. The theory of momentum has helped each of these teams. However, they’ve also gone through failure in the postseason after winning 100 games.

Overall, the AL East has celebrated 30 100-win campaigns. Out of those 30, 15 have gone on to win the World Series. True, 12 have been from one team, but that’s still somewhat solid. In a game where success is judged by hitting the ball three out of ten times, 50% is nothing to sneeze at. It seems that the momentum theory might work for this division, after all. However, we’ve yet to see what the Blue Jays and Rays can do. Their first 100-win campaigns could add to the success rate. With their current cores, 100 wins isn’t exactly unreachable. It all depends on how their players develop and evolve.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

Players mentioned:

Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, Jim Rice, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, Fred McGriff, Joe Maddon, Lou Piniella, Joe Carter


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