Barely Squeaking by
A loyal Goat Rider reader predicted that the Angels would lead the American League with 89 wins in 2005. This struck me as a pretty low number, so I popped over to Baseball Reference's league pages (NL AL) and did some investigation.
What I found is interesting enough that I decided to make it a post rather than a comment.
The last team playing in a non-strike-shortened season to lead its league in wins, without winning at least 90 games was the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers squad. (The Bums moved from Brooklyn in '58.) That team, which included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges, and Don Zimmer managed to take the N.L. flag winning only 88 games. Of course, times were different then - the Dodgers only had 156 games to work with.
An 89 win team that plays 162 seasons would have a .549 winning percentage. However, if that 89 win team played only 156 games, it would have a .571 winning ratio.
So, I present a list of all of the post-1900 teams to win the most games in their League without amassing at least 90 wins. I have included the year, team, number of wins, number of games played, winning percentage, and (if applicable) a reason the season was shortened or other pertinent info (World War II).
- 1994: Montreal Expos, 74 wins, 114 games, .649, strike
- 1981: Cincinnati Reds, 66 wins, 108 games, .611, strike
- 1959: Los Angeles Dodgers, 88 wins, 156 games, .564
- 1938: Chicago Cubs, 89 wins, 152 games, .586
- 1926: St. Louis Cardinals, 89 wins, 154 games, .578
- 1918: Chicago Cubs, 84 wins, 129 games, .651, World War I
- 1994: New York Yankees 70 wins, 113 games, .619, strike
- 1981: Oakland Athletics, 64 wins, 109 games, .587, strike
- 1945: Detroit Tigers, 88 wins, 153 games, .575, World War II
- 1944: St. Louis Browns, 89 wins, 154 games, .578, World War II
- 1919: Chicago 'Black' Sox, 88 wins, 140 games, .629, World War I
- 1918: Boston Red Sox, 75 wins, 126 games, .595, World War I
- 1902: Philadelphia Athletics, 83 wins, 136 games, .610
- 1901: Chicago White Sox, 83 wins, 136 games, .610
So as far as I know I believe an 89 win team playing a 162 game schedule would set an historic low. As it stands, that '59 Dodgers team was the worst best team in 206 seasons.