As we approach September and the acceleration of the Major League pennant races, it seems like a good time to take look at the good and bad bubbling below the surface while the postseason picture gets itself adjusted.
The most interesting chase is that of the Boston Red Sox. They are pursuing the modern-era MLB record for most victories in a season – 116 by the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who tied the 1906 Cubs.
The Red Sox enter play Monday with an 88-37 record, now 9 ½ games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East. That figures out as a .704 winning percentage, by the far the best in the Majors.
For the Red Sox to equal the 2001 Mariners, they will have to go 28-9 over their final 37 games, a pace of .757 that seems unreachable by conventional standards. Then again, the Red Sox have proven themselves to be an unconventional team powered by the best lineup in the game.
Ironically, the Sox have only won 100 games three times in their long history.
The 1912 Red Sox won 105 games, the most in franchise history. That team had Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper and Smoky Joe Wood, who was 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA in 38 starts over 344 innings.
The 1915 Red Sox won 101 games. Speaker and Hooper were still around, as was Wood, who was 15-5 with a 1.49 ERA. But also prominent on that team was Babe Ruth. Just 20 at the time, The Babe was 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA in 28 starts and he hit .315 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 92 at-bats.
The 1946 Red Sox won 104 games when Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams were all in their prime and approaching their late 20s.
Both the 1912 and 1915 teams won the World Series. The 1946 team was beaten in the World Series by the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, the Enos Slaughter “mad dash” to the plate in the eighth inning of the final game serving as the punch to Boston’s gut.
Boston’s other World Series champions all fell below 100 wins: 1903 (91), 1916 (91), 1918 (75), 2004 (98), 2007 (96) and 2013 (97).
Then again, as ESPN reported, winning 100 games is far from a guarantee of a World Series championship. Of the 97 100-win teams since 1903, only 36 have won the belt. And that included those 2001 Mariners, who lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games.
Can the Yankees win at least 100 for the 20th time? They are 78-46 heading into the week, a .629 winning percentage that is second in the Majors. They will need to win 22 of their last 38 games (.579) to accomplish that for the first time since 2009.
On the other end of the scale, the White Sox (46-77), Orioles (37-87) and Royals (38-86) might all lose at least 100 games. Also according to ESPN, three teams in the same league have done that only one other time in MLB history. In 2002, the Tigers, Royals and Devil Rays all did it.
Three teams had 100 losses in 1985, 1965, 1964, 1962, 1961, 1954, 1912 and 1908. If the Orioles and Royals lose at least 110, that would be just the second time it has happened in the same season – the expansion Expos (110) and Padres (110) did so in 1969. The 1962 Mets (120) lost the most of any team in history.