Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Teams

It isn’t an easy task choosing between them, but statistically these are the four best teams in baseball history. Enjoy this journey through the glorious past of baseball greats.

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Ask baseball fans who the greatest team of all time is and the most common answer would probably be the 1927 Murders Row New York Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. But was that really the greatest baseball team of all time statistically? Were any other teams as good as or better than the 1927 Yankees? In order to try and answer that question I statistically analyzed all Major League baseball teams from 1901 until today.

What constitutes a great team? Obviously winning is a hallmark of a great team and so is dominating the opposition. So how did I quantify that statistically? I used five markers that teams must meet to be considered great.

  1. Winning Percentage – Great teams should win the vast majority of their games. I used .700 as the cutoff.
  2. Run Differential – The difference between how many runs scored minus how many runs given up per game on average. The higher the number the more dominating a team is. I used 1.80 as the cutoff.
  3. Total Number of Great Players – Great players being defined as Hall of Fame players or Hall of Fame caliber players. Hall of Fame caliber players are players who fall short of the Hall of Fame but had Hall of Fame caliber seasons and failed to make it due mainly to longevity issues. I used a combination of at least 6 players who are Hall of Fame players or Hall of Fame caliber players as the cutoff.
  4. Led League in Both Runs Scored and Fewest Runs Allowed – Teams should do both to be considered great and dominating. Some might argue that park effects play a great role in determining which teams lead the league in runs scored and runs allowed. That is true but great teams overcome all obstacles which is what makes them the greatest. (The Brooklyn Dodgers played in a bandbox in Ebbets Field yet led the National League in both categories in the 1955 season, while the Los Angeles Dodgers have played in the greatest pitchers park in baseball since Dodger Stadium was opened and they too led the National League in both categories in 1974 and 1978. None of the Dodger teams qualify on all categories though.)
  5. Winning the World Series (provided there was a World Series) – how can a team be considered great if they did not win the World Series if they played in it? The 1906 Chicago Cubs won 116 games and had a winning percentage of .763, the best ever for regular season since 1901, but lost the World Series to their cross-town rivals the Chicago White Sox.

Only Four Teams Meet All Five Markers (Players Stats For The Year In Parenthesis):

1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – 103-36 (.741), led league in runs scored with 775 while allowing the fewest runs at 440, which works out to 5.58 runs scored per game while allowing 3.17 runs per game for a 2.41 run differential. No World Series played in 1902.

Three Hall of Famers on the team in Honus Wagner (105 runs, 91 RBI’s, 42 SB’s, .330 avg) Fred Clarke (103 runs, 29 SB’s, .401 OBP) and Jack Chesbro (28-6, 2.17 ERA). Three more Hall of Fame caliber players in Jesse Tannehill (20-6, 1.95 ERA), Deacon Phillippe (20-9, 2.05) and Sam Leever (16-7, 2.39).

1927 New York Yankees – 110-44 (.714), led league in runs scored with 975 while allowing the fewest runs at 599, which works out to 6.33 runs scored per game while allowing 3.89 runs per game for a 2.44 run differential. Swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.

Six Hall of Fame players on the team in Babe Ruth (158 runs, 60 HR’s, 164 RBI’s, 1.26 OPS), Lou Gehrig (149 runs, 49 HR’s, 175 RBI’s, 1.24 OPS), Tony Lazzeri (92 runs, 18 HR’s, 102 RBI’s, 22 SB’s, .865 OPS), Earle Combs (137 runs, .356 avg, .925 OPS), Waite Hoyt (22-7, 2.63 ERA) and Herb Pennock (19-8, 3.00 ERA). Another player, Urban Shocker (18-6, 2.84 ERA), was Hall of Fame caliber and would be in the Hall of Fame if not for his untimely illness and death in 1928 from heart disease and pneumonia. Bob Meusel (103 RBI’s, 24 SB’s, .337 avg, .903 OPS) was also a Hall of Fame caliber player.

1939 New York Yankees – 106-45 (.702), led league in runs scored with 967 while allowing the fewest runs at 556, which works out to 6.40 runs scored per game while allowing 3.68 runs per game for a 2.72 run differential. Swept the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.

Five Hall of Fame players on the team but Lou Gehrig does not really count as the Iron Horse’s iron man streak of 2,130 consecutive games played came to an end just 8 games into the season due to Gehrig’s unfortunate illness with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease today.

The other four Hall of Famer’s on the team were Joe Dimaggio (108 runs, 30 HR’s, 126 RBI’s, .381 avg, 1.12 OPS), Bill Dickey (98 runs, 24 HR’s, 105 RBI’s, .916 OPS), Red Ruffing (21-7, 2.93 ERA) and Lefty Gomez (12-8, 3.41 ERA). Also on the team were Hall of Fame caliber players Joe Gordon (92 runs, 28 HR’s, 111 RBI’s, .876 OPS), Red Rolfe (139 runs, 80 RBI’s, .329 avg, .899 OPS) and Charlie Keller (87 runs, 83 RBI’s, .334 avg, .947 OPS).

1998 New York Yankees – 114-48 (.704), led league in runs scored with 965 while allowing the fewest runs at 656, which works out to 5.96 runs scored per game while allowing 4.05 runs per game for a run differential of 1.91. Swept the San Diego Padres in the World Series.

Two sure Hall of Famers on the team in Derek Jeter (127 runs, 19 HR’s, 84 RBI’s, 30 SB’s, .324 avg, .865 OPS) and Mariano Rivera (36 Saves, 1.91 ERA). The 1998 New York Yankees had a remarkable number of Hall of Fame caliber players in Jorge Posada (.825 OPS), Tino Martinez (92 runs, 28 HR’s, 123 RBI’s, .860 OPS) Chuck Knoblauch (117 runs, 31 SB’s), Bernie Williams (101 runs, 26 HR’s, 97 RBI’s, .339 avg, .997 OPS), Paul O’Neill (95 runs, 24 HR’s, 116 RBI’s, .317 avg, .882 OPS), Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez (12-4, 3.13), Andy Pettitte (16-11, 4.24 ERA), David Wells (18-4, 3.49 ERA) and David Cone (20-7, 3.55 ERA) all playing regularly (with Darryl Strawberry and Tim “Rock” Raines playing part-time).

How Do They Stack Up?

Winning Percentage:

  1. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – .741
  2. 1927 New York Yankees – .714
  3. 1998 New York Yankees – .704
  4. 1939 New York Yankees – .702

Run Differential:

  1. 1939 New York Yankees – 2.72
  2. 1927 New York Yankees – 2.44
  3. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – 2.41
  4. 1998 New York Yankees – 1.91

Number of Great Players:

  1. 1998 New York Yankees – 11
  2. 1927 New York Yankees – 8
  3. 1939 New York Yankees – 7
  4. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – 6

All four teams led their league in both runs scored and fewest runs allowed.

Except for the 1902 Pirates, the other three Yankee teams all won the World Series by sweeping their opponents. No World Series was played in 1902.

What do we end up with? The four greatest teams in Major League baseball history. Trying to separate them is difficult. What’s interesting to note is that 1902 Pirates had the best winning percentage of the four, the 1939 Yankees had the greatest run differential of the four, and the 1998 Yankees had the greatest number of Hall of Fame caliber players.

The 1927 Murders Row New York Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did not lead in any of the categories but were second in each one.

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  1. Bill
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Great article… I mean no east coast bias at all in there. The 2001 Seattle Mariners only won 116 games after all. The 1906 cubbies (i think that was the year) only won 116 games too. Clearly they sucked

    Also the seattle mariners had two lock future hall of famers (Ichiro and Edgar). Were one of the best defensive teams of all time (set the record twice in subsequent years with about the same team, or at least the same key defensive players).

    Had a catcher who had the best defensive numbers of any catcher in the history of the game (though his offensive numbers will more then be crappy enough to keep him out of the Hall).

    I have an idea. Why don’t we just get rid of any record that doesn’t have to do with the Yankees? Fair enough.

  2. Ken
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Your agruement if mute to me, when it comes to the Seattle team. They didn’t win when it mattered, and part five said, Won World Series…

  3. Paul Allison
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    What a shame – your cutoffs discounted what many experts consider the greatest single team of all-time: The 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. Their winning percentage at .693 just misses your mark, and they neglected to lead the league in runs scores (25 behind Detroit). However, their run differential was tops in the league, and their run differential was +1.90. So good was this team that their RA/game was 0.80 better than the team in second place!

    Great players? Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, Jim Cronin, Eddie Collins, Lefty Grove and Connie Mack say hi.

  4. John M
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Calling anyone other than Jeter and Rivera on the ‘98 Yankees a “great” player is a joke, and neither of those two will make the Hall of Fame on the first vote, unless they both have careers into their 40s..

  5. Manzella
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    61 Yankees
    98 Yankees

    I’d bet on either of them before any of the others listed here…

  6. soxfan
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 11:23 pm


    I am NOT a Yankee fan by any stretch. So, I am sincerely unbiased when I say that Mariano Rivera will be a first ballot HoF’er…even if he retired today.

    He has simply been the most dominant relief pitcher of his era. Few others in the game have so completely dominated their position for has long as he has (and yes…he is slipping now in the twilight of his career.) The mystique of playing for those late 90’s Yankee teams only adds to his aura.

  7. bbowman
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 5:50 am

    Are we forgetting the Big Red Machine? 1975 and 1976 – They had a few great players as well, and won two world series in a row.


    That is an amazing line-up.

  8. gqnxtq
    Posted August 4, 2007 at 5:31 am

    very good cool

  9. Skinny
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Knoblauch, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Orlando Hernandez, Tino Martinez, David Cone are considered Hall of fame caliber? Posada may get in depending on longevity. Wells and Pettitte are big ifs. Rivera & Jeter are sure things but the rest are not even close. What is considered a hall of fame caliber player?

  10. roger
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    what about the oakland teams from the 1970’s that dominated everybody including the Big Red machine and the all great and powerful yankees they were so dominant that had they not been dismantled they would have went on to be the greatest team ever who knows maybe they are before anyone responds look at the stats they dont lie all the world series all the HOF’s and potential HOF’s no one comes even close except maybe the 27 yankees and i am neither an A’s fan nor a yankees fan

  11. larcha
    Posted October 19, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    98 yankees

  12. stratfreak
    Posted December 24, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    27 Yankees, 54 Indians, 31 Athletics, 53 Dodgers. Do more research.

  13. KevinC
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

    The 31 A’s, 53 Dodgers and 54 Indians all LOST in the World Series and the 54 Indians were Swept. hahaha

  14. Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Enticing article which is timeless.

  15. fred forscher
    Posted October 4, 2009 at 5:30 am

    to hold teams to 700 is unfair mabe 650 nand not include teams who were upset in ws and now days its harder to win it all the 06 cubs were one if the top teams of all time so were seattle and 69 baltimore

  16. Posted October 4, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Fred, the teams you mention were Great teams but not the Greatest. If your not the World Champions and were beaten by another team you can’t be considered one of the All Time Greatest.

  17. Posted December 23, 2009 at 9:14 am

    :) eight

  18. Posted February 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Sorry Justin Minnesota is a great place but nothing from Austin please.

  19. Posted April 23, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Nice article

  20. Joe
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Stupid article. How can you list all of those modern Yankees as hall of fame caliber. Because you remember them the best? Tino Martinez, a 1B with 860 OPS, was that even league average for his position?

  21. Posted May 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Tino Martinez averaged the exact same number of HR’s and RBI’s per 162 games that Eddie Murray did. Murray is in the HOF because he batted 4,200 more times but Tino Martinez hit 7% more HR’s per at bat and drove in 6% more runs per at bat than Eddie Murray did.

    Do a little research before you make dumb comments.

  22. Charlie
    Posted May 10, 2010 at 12:47 am

    My alltime teams from the 1800’s till today would go by how many NL or AL titles by each era and it shows how dominating a team is from that decade.
    1.Chicago won 5 NL titles in the 1880’s
    2.St Louis won 5 straight AA titles American Association in the 1880’s from 1885-1889
    3.Boston won 3 straight NL titles from 1891-1893
    4.Baltimore won 3 straight NL titles from 1894-1896
    5.Pittsburg won 3 straight NL titles from 1901-1903 and a 4th in 1909.
    6.Chicago won 3 straight NL titles from 1906-1908
    7.Detroit won 3 straight AL titles from 1907-1909
    8.New York won 3 straight NL titles from 1911-1913 and a 4th in 1917.
    9.Philadelphia AL 2 straight AL titles in 1910 and 1911 and then won two more AL titles in 1913 and 1914.
    10.Boston AL won 4 AL titles in 1912 and in 1915 and 1916 and in 1918.
    11.New York NL won 4 straight NL titles from 1921-1924
    12.New York AL won 3 straight AL titles from 1921-1923
    and then won 3 more straight AL titles from 1926-1928 winning 6 titles in the decade.
    13.St Louis NL won 3 NL titles in 1930 and 1931 and in 1934.
    14.Chicago NL won 3 NL titles in 1932 and 1935 and in 1938.
    15.New York NL won 3 NL titles in 1933 and 1936 and in 1937.
    16.Philadelphia AL won 3 straight AL titles from 1929-1931.
    17.New York AL won 5 titles in 1932 and then 4 straight titles from 1936-1939.
    18.St Louis NL won 4 titles 3 straight from 1942-1944 and in 1946.
    19.Brooklyn NL won 3 titles in 1941 and in 1947 and in 1949.
    20.New York AL won 5 titles 3 straight from 1941-1943 and in 1947 and in 1949.
    21.Brooklyn won 5 NL titles in 1952 and 1953 and in 1955 and 1956 and in 1959.
    22.New York AL won 8 AL titles 4 straight from 1950-1953 and 4 straight again from 1955-1958.
    23.Los Angeles NL won 3 titles in 1963 and 1965 and 1966.
    24.St Louis NL won 3 titles in 1964 and 1967 and 1968.
    25.New York AL won 5 straight titles from 1960-1964.
    26.Cincinnati NL won 4 titles in 1970 and 1972 and in 1975 and 1976.
    27.Los Angeles NL won 3 titles in 1974 and in 1977 and 1978.
    28.Baltimore AL won 5 titles in 1966 and 3 straight from 1969-1971 and in 1979.
    29.Oakland AL won 3 straight AL titles and were world champions in 1972-1974.
    30.New York AL won 3 straight AL titles in 1976-1978.
    31.St Louis NL won 3 titles in 1982 and in 1985 and 1987.
    32.Oakland AL won 3 straight AL titles from 1988-1990.
    33.Atlanta NL won 5 titles in 1991 and 1992 and in 1995 and in 1996 and in 1999.
    34.New York AL won 3 titles in 1996 and 1998 and 1999.
    35.New York AL won 4 titles in 2000 and in 2001 and 2003 and 2009.
    These were the probably the best teams because they won the most league titles not counting world series championships,There were also great teams that won there league only 1 and 2 years during the decade and a few great team like the 2001 Mariners that won 116 games that never made it to the world series.

  23. Posted May 12, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Charlie, how would you separate all those teams? They are all great teams but which ones were the greatest?

  24. Randy
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Why the hell would the Braves with 5 NL pennants in the 90’s rank only 33 on your list, Charlie?

  25. Luis
    Posted August 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Eddie Murray is in a group of just four players to hit 500 HR’s, 3000 hits and an average of 300. Please don’t compare him to Tino Martinez. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Rafael Palmeiro. I think the 75-76 Cincinatti Reds should be ranked very high in the list.

  26. Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Louis, Tino Martinez was a better player at bat then Eddie Murray. He had a better HR and RBI percentage per at bat and was a better peak player too.

    In 1997 Tino hit a HR 7.4% and drove in a run 23.7% of the time he had an official AB. The best Eddie Murray ever managed in his career was 5.8% for HR\’s and 21.3% for RBI\’s.

    And Tino Martinez won 4 World Series as a starting 1B while Eddie Murray only won one.

    BTW Eddie Murray\’s lifetime batting average is .287 not .300 so Please get your facts right before making a comment.

  27. will
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    First off, you can’t say that the all wight teams were the best, back then they let less talented people play instead of letting black people play, plus those teams only had like two or three starters, so obviously the 27 Yankees would be horrible compared to a team today, plus you didn’t have Latin players start playing until the70s. that’s why the Big Red Machine was the greatest team ever they had the greatest NL catcher ever with Bench, back to back MVP second baseman Joe Morgan, hit king Pete Rose, also Bench, Geronimo, Concepcion, and Morgan each won the gold gloves in 75 and 76.

  28. Posted December 24, 2010 at 11:03 am

    This article has been indexed inThe Triond Experiment Thanks and goodluck!

  29. Triples
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I would say either the early 1970’s Oakland A’s.

    Or, the mid 1970’s Cincy Reds.

    The 1986 Mets and the late 80’s A’s teams were also superb teams.

    Dodgers in the 1960’s.

    Clearly, the Yankees in the late 70’s and late 90’s as well.

    Of those….I would say the A’s or the Reds of the 1970’s are the best teams..

  30. Lance
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Lots of great teams. However, the 1992 & 1993 Toronto Blue Jays have to be mentioned as well.

    They had everyday players like: Henderson, Molitor, Alomar, Winfield, Carter, Fernandez, Olerud, White, Borders, Sprague, etc…

    Pitchers like: Morris, Hentgen, Guzman, Henke, Key, Ward, Cox…and even Stewart, Cone and Steib towards the end of their careers.

    Back-to-Back titles with that all-time memorable Carter homerun to clinch their 2nd consecutive title!

  31. Lance
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Argh, a correction! Cone was not at the end of his career.
    That was Jack Morris who was near the end of his career! lol

  32. Lance
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Correction! Morris was at the end of his career. Not Cone! lol

  33. Eric
    Posted October 9, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    1927 Yanks- had a team batting average of .307!!! Heck, I could have pitched for that team and won 15 games with that lineup!

    Ruth 60 HR’s
    Gehrig 47 HR’s
    Combs 231 Hits and 23 Triples
    Lazzeri 102 RBI’s and 22 SB’s
    Meusel 103 RBI’s and 24 SB’s

  34. Posted October 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Look at the 1927 Yankees pitching. It was just as good as the hitting, which is what makes that team so great.

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