Putting a 100-win season into historical perspective
It is a dazzling number, a once-in-a-generation baseball feat that for some franchises has proven more accurately to be a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.
What does 100 wins mean? Intrinsically, nothing. There are no rings awarded for a triple-digit victory total. Titles aren’t automatically conferred upon a team that hits 100 wins.
Nonetheless, such a total does represent something extraordinary within a season, a display of consistent excellence that many baseball lifers never experience.
The Red Sox haven’t reached such a lofty total since their 1946 club went 104-50 – a 72-year gap. No living Red Sox alum ever played for a 100-win team in Boston.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski often cites the vast array of experiences he’s had in the game whenever a given situation emerges. Yet as he recently noted, he has never been part of a team that won 100 games; the 1983 White Sox who went 99-63 (before losing to the Orioles in the ALCS) represented his high-water mark of victories.
Moreover, few fans can offer first-hand testimony to the regular-season dominance of the last 100-win Red Sox team. After all, less than 10 percent of the current US population was alive in 1946.
Since the introduction of the World Series in 1903, there have been 98 teams that reached the 100-win total over 116 seasons — or roughly five in every six seasons. About 4 percent of teams across that time (roughly one out of every 25) hit the 100-win mark, while just 2.5 percent (roughly one out of every 40) did so between 2010 and 2017.
The Red Sox, in many ways, were “due” for this kind of sustained regular-season brilliance. But other franchises have endured even longer waits. The White Sox last reached 100 victories in 1917 — two years before the Black Sox scandal. The Pirates haven’t cleared the mark since 1909.
|Period||Teams||Made playoffs||Won World Series||World Series win %|
|Pennant era (1903-68)||47||40||24||60.0%|
|Championship Series era (1969-93)||25||23||8||34.8%|
|Division Series era (1995-2017)||25||25||4||16.0%|
While “100” is a satisfyingly round number, it is also an arbitrary one. Nonetheless, it suggests a remarkably steady performance, an indication that the team was sufficiently well-rounded to avoid lengthy downturns.
“That’s a huge number,” said Red Sox bench coach Ron Roenicke. “We’ve got a ways to go, and we hope we win more than just 100, but any time you win 100 it’s incredible.”
“That’s so damn hard to do at this level,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “It shows you how good you are, how well the team played, and how dominant you were. [But] it doesn’t guarantee you anything once you get in.”
Indeed, for a long time, the idea of a 100-win “curse” was floated when a wealth of standout teams that hit triple digits failed to win the ultimate prize. Over 10 seasons, from 1999 through 2008, all 14 teams that reached the 100-win plateau — including a 2001 Mariners team that won a major league-record 116 games — fell short of a championship.
Certainly, the path to translate regular-season dominance has become rockier with multiple rounds of playoff expansion. From 1903 through 1968, the regular-season pennant winners went straight to the World Series; during that time, 51 percent of the teams that won 100 games — and 60 percent of those that actually won their pennant — won the World Series.
With the introduction of the League Championship Series in 1969, 100-win teams saw those numbers drop. Eight of the 25 teams to win 100 games (32 percent) won a title, including eight of 23 (35 percent) that reached the playoffs. (The 1980 Orioles and 1993 Braves both missed the playoffs in years when they reached 100 wins.)
Since the introduction of the Division Series round in 1995, just four of 25 teams (16 percent) that won 100 games claimed titles. That’s better than the 1-in-8 odds (12.5 percent) that one might assume to exist for the eight Division Series participants, but hardly an overwhelming advantage.
Still, the last two years have seen teams that surpassed the 100-victory threshold — the 2017 Astros and 2016 Cubs — emerge with baseball’s ultimate prize. Those teams, in turn, could lay claim to the title of the best teams in the history of their franchises.
It remains to be seen whether the 2018 Red Sox follow such a path through October to, in a way, validate a great regular season as a transcendent season in franchise history. But regardless of whether they do so, they can at least lay claim to having won in the regular season with a consistency unrivaled by any Red Sox team in more than 70 years – an accomplishment in its own note, even if members of the team approach it in cautious terms.
“One hundred wins? That’s cool,” said Jackie Bradley Jr. “That’s a lot of winning. And winning is a lot of fun.”