Could NL East have two 100-win teams?
January, 25, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
US Presswire, AP PhotoKris Medlen went 10-1 for Atlanta last season; Stephen Strasburg was 15-6 for Washington.
That headline might seem like an outrageous question considering there haven't been two 100-win teams in the same season since the Cardinals and Yankees both did it in 2004. Improved parity -- and I think much of that is due to increased use of sabermetrics in front offices -- has made building a super team more difficult than ever.
But I think the Nationals will win 100 games in 2013, and I believe the Braves have the potential to do so. Both are young, dynamic and balanced teams with deep lineups and strong bullpens. Washington has more certainty in its rotation, but if Kris Medlen develops into an ace and Mike Minor pitches like he did in the second half of 2012, the Braves might not be far behind.
While it's unlikely we'll see two 100-win teams in the same division -- especially since the Phillies could be pretty strong as well -- we're due for a pennant race of epic proportions. Wait, can it be epic if the loser still gets a wild card?
Anyway, here's a look back at other seasons in which one division (since 1969) or league (before 1969) had two 100-win clubs.
Not to point out again how good my beloved 2001 Mariners were, but they tied the all-time wins record playing in a division with another 100-win club. Remarkable. Even the Angels and Rangers weren't so bad. The Angels went 65-58 against everyone else besides the Mariners and A's, and the Rangers went 68-74 against everyone besides the Mariners.
1993 National League West
The last great pennant race of the two-division era. The NL played a balanced schedule that year, so the Braves and Giants played 13 times. The Braves won seven ... the Giants won six. San Francisco led by nine games on Aug. 11 and fell as far back as four games in September before rallying to tie Atlanta entering the season's final day. The Braves won, and the Dodgers blew out the Giants 12-1.
1980 AL East
The AL East had some great races and high-win teams during this era, as it was much stronger than the West and the league played a balanced schedule. In 1979, the Orioles won 102 and the Brewers 95 (in fact, the Blue Jays were the only East team under .500). In 1978, the Yankees won 100 and the Red Sox 99 in a race you might have heard of. In 1977, the Yankees won 100, and the Red Sox and Orioles 97. Anyway, back to 1980. The Yankees had a one-game lead entering September, then won 15 of 16 to pull away.
1962 National League
After 162 games, each team had won 101 -- the Dodgers had blown a four-game lead with seven to play by losing six of seven. The two teams met for a three-game tiebreaker. Sandy Koufax, who had pitched just 7.2 innings since mid-July due to numbness in his pitching hand, took the mound in Game 1. With Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres having pitched the previous two days, Walter Alston gave Koufax the ball, but he got knocked out in the second inning as the Giants won 8-0 -- the Dodgers' third consecutive game being shut out. But they won Game 2 to force the finale, Juan Marichal versus Podres at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers took a 4-2 lead into the ninth -- the Giants had intentionally walked Johnny Roseboro and Willie Davis to load the bases in the eighth, betting Alston would let reliever Ed Roebuck bat. He did, and Roebuck grounded out. With a tired Dodgers staff, Roebuck began his fourth inning of relief (he also had pitched four innings in the first game). He was gassed. He gave up a single and two walks and then an RBI single to Willie Mays. Stan Williams then gave up a sacrifice fly and a walk, and an error allowed two more runs to score as the Giants won 6-4. For years, Dodgers fans would debate Alston's decisions in this game -- not hitting for Roebuck (although Alston had depleted much of his bench by then), leaving him, bringing in wild starter Williams to get out of a jam.
1961 American League
Like the 1962 NL, this was an expansion season, in which win totals are inevitably inflated at the top. Once again, the Yankees didn't pull away until September. They were up 1.5 games on Aug. 31, then swept the Tigers in a three-game series to begin a 13-game win streak. The first game against Detroit was the big one of the season, a 1-0 game with the Yankees scoring the winning run off Don Mossi with two out in the bottom of the ninth. The Tigers never recovered and lost their next seven.
1954 American League
The Yankees won nine pennants in 10 years from 1949 to 1958 -- and the year they finished second was the only season in that stretch they won 100 games.
1942 National League
Not as famous as 1951, but this was another big Brooklyn collapse. The Dodgers led the Cardinals by 10 games on Aug. 5. Actually, collapse isn't quite fair. The Dodgers went 30-20 the rest of the way -- but the Cardinals went a stunning 43-9 (.827 winning percentage).
1915 American League
Red Sox: 101
This Red Sox team featured a rookie left-hander named Babe Ruth who went 18-8 ... and led the team with four home runs. The Tigers finished their season Oct. 3, but the Red Sox still had five games to play. Even then, the race wasn't quite that close -- the Red Sox would end up playing just 151 games and the Tigers all 154. Anyway, the Sox lost a doubleheader to the Yankees on Oct. 4, and then Dutch Leonard and Ruth clinched the pennant with a doubleheader sweep Oct. 6.
1909 National League
We didn't exactly have parity in 1909. The Boston Doves (Braves) lost 108 games, and the Cardinals and Dodgers each lost 98. The Cubs actually had a better Pythagorean record than the Pirates -- a projected 109 wins to 105 -- but the Pirates were in control most of the way. A 20-1 record against the Doves helped (not to mention 18-3 against the Cardinals and 18-4 against the Dodgers).