Chicago CubsDownload App

MLB Power Rankings: All Pre-1920 MLB Franchises in Order of Success

Rich StoweAnalyst IIIOctober 8, 2016

MLB Power Rankings: All Pre-1920 MLB Franchises in Order of Success

1 of 18

    With the success of my article ranking all the franchises for all-time on their success and based on a suggestion from my colleague here at Bleacher Report, Matt Strobl; I decided to break this down even further into eras. 

    Why?  Well, some of the older franchises benefitted greatly from early success but their lack of success over the last couple of decades really didn't hurt them too much in the rankings.  Also, some of the expansion franchises were hurt in the rankings by having to compete against teams with 80 or more seasons under their belt in comparison, so I wanted to see if the rankings were broken into eras, how these teams would then fare.

    It was hard to determine the eras to be fair to all teams, so I came up with the following:

    Beginning - 1919:  this basically covers the early history of baseball

    1920-1960:  this basically covers the "Golden Age" of baseball but before expansion

    1961 - 2010:  this basically covers baseball as we know it today

    Each era will be covered in a separate article, culminating in a final article combining all the eras (yes, there were enough changes from the previous article due to changes in the point system used which I'll cover below).

    Within each, we'll see the rise of some franchises and the fall of others while also seeing how the great franchises such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants have fared in the different eras.

    The rankings are based solely on a point system I developed to ensure no bias on my part.  The more points a franchise received, the higher the franchise was ranked.  Here's a quick review of my point system (and based on a suggestion by a reader, Joe Evans, I tweaked the scoring from the first article to further reward winning seasons and to "punish" seasons with the equivalent of 100 losses):

    - First place finish: 3 points

    - World Series appearance:  5 points

    - World Series win:  10 points

    - Average number of years between World Series wins:  each team was ranked, best average to worst, and then given points based on number of teams; for this era, there were eight teams, so the best average got 8 points, the worst got 1

    - Season with .556 winning percentage or better (90 win season today):  1 point

    - Season with .617 winning percentage or better (100 win season today):  3 points

    - Season with .650 winning percentage or better (105 win season today):  7 points

    - Season with .700 winning percentage or better (113 win season today):  10 points

    - Season with .383 winning percentage or worse (100 loss season today):  -5 points 

    Before we get into the rankings, take a second and rank the teams of this era in how you think they will be ranked.  The teams are the Athletics, Braves, Browns (Orioles), Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Reds, Senators (Twins), Tigers, White Sox and the Yankees.

    Let's begin the rankings with the Number 16 team.

Number 16: The St. Louis Browns (later the Baltimore Orioles)

2 of 18

    George Sisler

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  0

    World Series appearances:  0

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  1 (1 point)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  7 (-35 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Never won (ranked 13th out of 16 teams:  4 points)

    Total points: -30

    In 19 seasons, the Browns had the equivalent of 100 or more losses (if they played 162 games), 37 percent of the time and only won the equivalent of 90 or more games once.  The Orioles simply couldn't compete with the stronger teams in the fledgling American League at the time.  Even having a player like George Sisler couldn't help the Browns find success during this era.

     

Number 15: The Washington Senators (later the Minnesota Twins)

3 of 18

    Walter Johnson

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  0

    World Series appearances:  0

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  4 (4 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  5 (-25 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Never won (ranked 12th out of 16 teams:  5 points)

    Total points:  -16

    Just like the Browns in the previous slide, the Senators just couldn't find success during this time in baseball history.  Even having the great Walter Johnson as their ace couldn't help them compete against the stronger American League teams in Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.

Number 14: The New York Yankees

4 of 18

    Jack Chesbro

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  0

    World Series appearances:  0

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  4 (4 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  4 (-20 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Never won (ranked 11th out of 16 teams:  6 points)

    Total points:  -10

    That's right, the Yankees weren't always a success.  Even having Jack Chesbro win 41 games for them in 1904 couldn't help them succeed against the American League teams in Boston, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia.  However, at the end of this era during the offseason between 1919 and 1920, the Yankees would acquire a player that would change the course of not only the Yankees history but all of baseball in the process; of course that player was George Herman Ruth.

Number 13: the Philadelphia Phillies

5 of 18

    Grover Alexander

    Seasons in existence during this era:  37

    First place finishes:  1 (3 points)

    World Series appearances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  11 (11 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  2 (6 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  5 (-25 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Never won (ranked 15th out of 16 teams: 2 points)

    Total points:  2

    The Phillies' greatest season came in 1915 where behind the pitching of Grover Alexander they made the World Series only to lose in five games to the Boston Red Sox.  The Phillies were basically a middle-of-the-pack team for most of this era; generally finishing third to fifth out of the eight teams in the National League.

Number 12: the Cleveland Indians

6 of 18

    Nap Lajoie

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  0

    World Series appearances:  0

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  8 (8 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  2 (-10 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Never won (ranked 10th out of 16 teams: 7 points)

    Total points:  5

    The Indians were generally a middle-of-the-pack team, usually finishing between third and fifth in the eight team American League occasionally finishing second.  With players like Nap Lajoie, the Indians were able to finish above .500 in 12 of their 19 seasons.  So, while they never made the World Series or came in first place during this era, they had more success than other American League teams like the Yankees and Browns.

Number 11: The St. Louis Cardinals

7 of 18

    Rogers Hornsby - joined team in 1915

    Seasons in existence during this era:  38

    First place finishes:  4 (12 points)

    World Series appearances:  0

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  2 (2 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  2 (6 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  4 (28 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  2 (20 points)

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  12 (-60 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Never won (ranked 16th out of 16 teams: 1 point)

    Total points:  9

    The Cards' greatest success during this era came before 1889 where they finished first four times and won over .700 percent of their games twice.  After 1889, the Cards generally finished in the bottom half of the league.  Rogers Hornsby joined the Cardinals in 1915, but even his greatness couldn't help the Cardinals compete with the powerhouse teams of the National League.

Number 10: the Brooklyn Dodgers

8 of 18

    Dan Brouthers

    Seasons in existence during this era:  36

    First place finishes:  5 (15 points)

    World Series Apperances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  4 (4 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  2 (6 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  3 (21 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  6 (-30 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Never won (ranked 14th out of 16 teams: 3 points)

    Total points:  24

    The Dodgers/Robins/Superbas' greatest success came before 1900 and then again for one season in 1915 (in which they lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox in five games).  For the majority of this era, the Dodgers were a middle-to-bottom of the pack team that found occasional success.

Number 9: the Detroit Tigers

9 of 18

    Ty Cobb

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  3 (3 points)

    World Series appearances:  3 (15 points)

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  6 (6 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  2 (6 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  0

    Average years between World Series win:  Never won (ranked 9th out of 16 teams:  8 points)

    Total points:  44

    The Tigers' greatest success was from 1907 through 1909 where they made the World Series three times only to lose to the Pirates once and the Cubs twice.  During this era, the Tigers finished fourth or better in the eight team American League 12 times in 19 seasons and were one of three teams to never finish with under a .383 winning percentage for a season.

Number 8: the Cincinnati Reds

10 of 18

    Edd Roush

    Seasons in existence during this era:  38

    First place finishes:  2 (6 points)

    World Series appearances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  1 (10 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  8 (8 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  2 (6 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  2 (14 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  1 (-5 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 17 years (ranked 7th out of 16 teams:  10 points)

    Total points:  54 points

    The Reds' greatest success came before 1900 and then in the last season of this era, 1919, when the won the World Series over the Chicago White Sox.  During the years between 1900 and 1918, the Reds generally finished fourth or worse in the strong National League.  The Reds' two first place finishes came in 1882 (their first year in existence) and in 1919 (the last year of this era).

Number 7: the Pittsburgh Pirates

11 of 18

    Honus Wagner

    Seasons in existence during this era:  38

    First place finishes:  4 (12 points)

    World Series appearances:  2 (10 points)

    World Series wins:  1 (10 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  7 (7 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  4 (12 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  1 (7 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  2 (20 points)

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  4 (-20 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 17 years (ranked 6th out of 16 teams: 11 points)

    Total points:  69

    The Pirates' best period of success was from 1900 through 1910, when they generally finished in third place or higher, including two World Series appearances (including the first World Series ever in 1903) and won one World Series title (1909).  For the rest of this era, the PIrates generally finished in the bottom half of the National League.

Number 6: the Chicago White sox

12 of 18

    Ed Walsh

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  4 (12 points)

    World Series appearances:  3 (15 points)

    World Series wins:  2 (20 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  8 (8 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  2 (6 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  0

    Average years between World Series wins: Once every 8.5 years (ranked 4th out of 16 teams: 13 points)

    Total points:  74

    The White Sox during this era had flashes of success culminating with two World Series victories but also had many seasons where they finished foruth or worse in the American League (nine seasons out of 19).  One of three teams to never finish a season with a winning percentage of .383 or worse during this era.

Number 5: the Boston Braves

13 of 18

    Kid Nichols

    Seasons in existence during this era:  44

    First place finishes:  9 (27 points)

    World Series appearances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  1 (10 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  5 (5 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  6 (18 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  5 (35 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  2 (20 points)

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  7 (-35 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 17 years (ranked 8th out of 16 teams: 9 points)

    Total points:  94

    The Braves best period of success came before 1900, and they didn't find success again until 1914 when the won the World Series.  For the majority of this era, the Braves finished in the middle of the standings, with occasional finshes of thrid or higher.

Number 4: the Philadelphia Athletics

14 of 18

    Connie Mack and Lefty Grove

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  6 (18 points)

    World Series appearances:  5 (25 points)

    World Series wins:  3 (30 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  4 (4 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  3 (9 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  3 (21 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  4 (-20 points)

    Average years between World Series win:  Once every 5.67 years (ranked 2nd out of 16 teams: 15 points)

    Total points:  102

    One of the most successful franchises of this era in terms of World Series.  Five apperances (one of four teams with that many) and three World Series wins (second most in the era).  Behind the managing of Connie Mack and the arm of Lefty Grove, the Athletics had success from their beginning in 1901 until 1914.  From 1915 through 1919, the Athletics finished last each year (that's where their four under .383 seasons came from).  In a five year span (1910 through 1914), they were in four World Series while winning three of them (including back-to-back wins in 1910 and 1911).

Number 3: the Boston Red sox

15 of 18

    Tris Speaker

    Seasons in existence during this era:  19

    First place finishes:  6 (18 points)

    World Series appearances:  5 (25 points)

    World Series wins:  5 (50 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  7 (7 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  1 (3 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  3 (21 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  1 (-5 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 3.4 years (ranked 1st out of 16 teams - 16 points)

    Total points: 135

    The Red Sox were the most successful American League team in this era.  They made the World Series five times (one of two American League teams to do so, one of four total teams to do so) and won the World Series all five times (most of any team during this era in either league).  With players such as Cy Young, Tris Speaker and a young Babe Ruth, the Red Sox were simply great.  In their 19 seasons during this era, they finished fourth or worse eight times and finished third or better 11.  However, this era did not end well for the Red Sox and the Red Sox Nation as they traded away Babe Ruth after the 1919 season and all sports fans know what happened then.

Number 2: the New York Giants

16 of 18

    Christy Mathewson

    Seasons in existence during this era:  37

    First place finishes:  8 (24 points)

    World Series appearances:  5 (25 points)

    World Series wins:  1 (10 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  3 (3 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  8 (24 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  6 (42 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  1 (10 points)

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  2 (-10 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 17 years (ranked 5th out of 16 teams: 12 points)

    Total points:  140

    The Giants were one of two National League teams to make the World Series five times, however, they only won it all once.  They made the World Series in three consecutive years from 1911 through 1913 but lost to the Athletics once and the Red Sox twice.  From 1900 through 1919, the Giants finished first or second 13 times behind the arm of Christy Mathewson and the leadership of John McGraw.  In their 37 years of existence during this era, they only finished last three times.

Number 1: the Chicago Cubs

17 of 18

    Tinker to Evers to Chance

    Seasons in existence during this era:  44

    First place finishes:  11 (33 points)

    World Series appearances:  5 (25 points)

    World Series wins:  2 (20 ooints)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  12 (12 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  1 (3 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  5 (25 points)

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  6 (60 points)

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  0

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 8.3 years (ranked 3rd out of 16 teams: 14 points)

    Total points:  202

    The Cubs' best era in their long history.  Their last World Series championship came during this era in 1908.  Tied with three other teams for most World Series appearances during the era, the most first place finishes, the most seasons with over. 700 win percentage and one of three teams with zero seasons under .383 win percentage.

Final Analysis

18 of 18

    "Shoeless" Joe - Say it Ain't so!

    Baseball in before 1920 was not the same baseball we know it as today.  It covered the Dead Ball Era when offenses were lacking and pitching was king.  It also covered the period before 1900 when the rules didn't exist or were not the same as they would be even just 30 years later.

    Some of baseball's greatest players like Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Cy Young played the majority of their careers during this time, Babe Ruth was a young pitcher and two of the game's greatest managers were in the dugout in Connie Mack and John McGraw.

    The Cubs were the best team in baseball for the period before 1920.  I knew they were a strong franchise back then, but figured they would finish behind the New York Giants when all the math was finished.  To see them finish with a 62 point advantage over the Giants was surprising.

    The American League had only been around for 19 years but teams like the Red Sox and Athletics were showing that just becuase the teams were younger in terms of existence, they were a force to be reckoned with.  In 17 World Series during this time, the American League won 11 of them.

    Teams like the Yankees and Orioles weren't very good yet, while others like the Dodgers and Cardinals were just beginning to find success. You also had the Red Sox as the best team in the American League and it makes you wonder just how much more success would they have had if Harry Frazee didn't make one deal after the 1919 season.

    Sadly this era also saw the Black Sox Scandal in 1918 where players like Shoeless Joe Jackson took money to throw a World Series and essentially ended their careers.

    So, did you have the teams ranked the same as I did?  What surprised you in these rankings?  Up next will be the Golden Age of baseball, the period of 1920 through 1960.

     

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices