So this got into my head for two reasons:
- I recently purchased a new laptop which I’m in the process of Saberizing (To make useful for the purpose of advanced baseball research through the dissection of statistics and other information).
- This article at the Hardball Times which notes that the Atlanta Braves are close to breaking .500 as a franchise.
Read through the HBT page to get a good look at the Braves and what they’re likely to accomplish this year. It’s a fun look at the ups and downs of a team with a long and complicated past.
For me, I loaded up the Baseball Databank (which means these numbers are through the end of last season) and calculated total won/loss records for each franchise, total winning percentage and then a category looking at how many 90 win seasons it would take for the franchise to either crawl back over .500 or fall below it.
The Yankees have the best mark of games above .500 at 2,309, a record that will be increasing at the end of this season. Right now they’re six games over, but likely will end up closer to 18.
That number 18 is big. Teams use 90 wins as a sort of benchmark for success. If you can get to 90, you’ll be a playoff team more often than not.
With 162 games, 90 wins also means 72 losses and 18 games over .500.
That also gave me a way to measure just how much work it will take for most teams to go from overall losers to winners or the opposite. The Yankees would have to lose 90 games a season for the next 128 years (assuming no change to the 162 game schedule) to get below .500.
On the other side, the Phillies — losers of a record 10,232 games before this season — would have to win 90 games a year until 2071 to break even.
The Braves sit five games above .500, so all it would take is a good weekend to move across, though once they get there the Braves are likely to move back and forth for a few days until it’s in their rearview. That’s baseball.
Right now there are just a few teams within a decade of following the Braves’ lead, most recent expansion teams.
The Blue Jays, the Angels and the Diamondbacks could all get their in about two seasons. The only other two possible in the next decade would be the two 1993 expansion teams, the Rockies and Marlins, who are bewtween 7-8 seasons out.
The Royals are next at 14 years, with the Rays at 15. Sneaking in under 20 would be the Mets, Nationals, Mariners and Brewers.
Baseball has built up such a history that it’s difficult, even for new teams, to quickly change the path of the franchise. These organizations are giant ships that take decades to turn around, which just makes what the Yankees have done even more amazing. That is a brand built over almost a century that will take a long while to tear down, and may last as long as the game itself.