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MLB Power Rankings: All Franchises Based on Success from 1920-1960

Rich StoweAnalyst IIIApril 19, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: All Franchises Based on Success from 1920-1960

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    Babe Ruth

    The time period of 1920-1960 is what many consider the Golden Age of baseball. 

    Which franchises were the most successful during this time?  I've previously covered the period of pre-1920, so now we can see what franchises dropped back in the rankings and which ones have risen to prominence.

    As before, the rankings are based on a point system I developed to ensure no bias on my part.  The higher the total points received, the higher the ranking the franchise received.  Here's the breakdown of the point system:

    - first place finishes:  3 points

    - World Series appearance:  5 points

    - World Series win:  10 points

    - Season over .556 win percentage (90 wins in a 162 game schedule): 1 point

    - Season over .617 win percentage (100 wins in a 162 game schedule):  3 points

    - Season over .650 win percentage (105 wins in a 162 game schedule):  7 points

    - Season over .700 win percentage (113 wins in a 162 game schedule):  10 points

    - Average years between World Series wins:  teams are ranked in order of fewest average years between wins, with lowest average getting most points and worst average getting the fewest.  Points based on number of teams in MLB at the time, so points were 16 points to best average, 1 point to the worst.

    I will also list the ranking the franchise received from my pre-1920 rankings so we can see how the franchise has changed in this era compared to the previous one.

    All teams existed for this entire time period of 41 years, so that won't be listed on any of the slides.

    Before we get started, why don't you write down how you think the 16 teams will be ranked for the period of 1920 through 1960 and see how your rankings compare to mine.  The teams are the same as they were prior to 1920; the Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Reds, Senators (Twins), Tigers, White Sox and Yankees.

    Let's get started with the 16th ranked team.

Number 16: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Robin Roberts

    First place finishes:  1 (3 points)

    World Series appearances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  0

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

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  16 (-80 points)

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

    Total points:  -69

    Ranking pre-1920:  13th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of three spots

    One of the worst eras in Phillies' history.  Tied for the most seasons with under a .383 win percentage during this era with 16 (the other team was the Athletics).  The one bright spot was 1950 when they made it to the World Series only to be swept by the New York Yankees.  Their best stretch was from 1950 through 1957 when they finished in first place once (1950) and generally finished fifth or better in the American League.

Number 15: Baltimore Orioles

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    Vern Stephens

    First place finishes:  1 (3 points)

    World Series appearances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  0

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

    Seasons over .617 win percentage: 0

    Seasons over .650 win percentage: 0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage: 0

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

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

    Total points: -47

    Ranking pre-1920:  16th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Gain of one spot

    The Orioles best year in this era was 1944 when they won the American League and made the World Series but lost to the Cardinals in six games.  They generally finished near the bottom of the American League during this era behind the very strong teams of the Yankees, Indians and Tigers.

Number 14: Boston Red Sox

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    Ted Williams

    First place finishes:  1 (3 points)

    World Series appearances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  0 

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

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

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

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

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

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

    Total points:  -6

    Ranking pre-1920:  3rd

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of nine spots (the biggest drop between eras)

    This era for the Red Sox was split into two distinct periods.  The first was post-Babe Ruth in which they consistently finished near the bottom of the American League.  The second was the Ted Williams years when they generally finished in the top four of the American League, even making the World Series once in 1946.  Out of all the eras my articles cover, this is easily the worst era in Red Sox history which of course started with the trade of Babe Ruth after the 1919 season.

Number 13: Chicago White Sox

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    Luke Appling

    First place finishes:  1 (3 points)

    World Series appearances:  1 (5 points)

    World Series wins:  0

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

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

    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 13th out of 16 teams:  4 points)

    Total points:  2

    Ranking pre-1920:  6th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of seven spots

    This era started with the revelation that the members of the 1919 World Series losing team for the White Sox accepted money to throw the World Series and the banishment of their best players like Shoeless Joe Jackson because of it.  The White Sox wouldn't make the World Series again until 1959 and they lost that one in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Number 12: Kansas City Athletics

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    Jimmie Foxx

    First place finishes:  3 (9 points)

    World Series appearances:  3 (15 points)

    World Series wins:  2 (20 points)

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

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

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

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

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  16 (-80 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 20.5 years (ranked 8th out of 16 teams: 9 points)

    Total points:  3

    Ranking pre-1920:  4th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of eight spots

    The Athletics' greatest success came prior to 1933, when they consistently finished in the top three of the American League, even making the World Series in three straight seasons and winning two titles.  After 1933 though, they consistently finished near the bottom of the American League.  They tied for the most sub-.383 winning percentage seasons during this era with 16.  The Athletics experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during this era.

Number 11: Milwaukee Braves

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    Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain

    First place finishes:  3 (3 points)

    World Series appearances:  3 (15 points)

    World Series wins:  1 (10 points)

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

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

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

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

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 41 years (ranked 9th out of 16 teams: 8 points)

    Total points:  22

    Ranking pre-1920:  5th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of six spots

    The Braves' best time during this era was from 1949 on when, behind players like Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews and a young Hank Aaron, they generally finished in the top half of the National League, making the World Series three times and capturing one title (1957).  Before 1949, the Braves generally finished sixth or worse in the National League.

Number 10: Cincinnati Reds

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    Johnny Vander Meer

    First place finishes:  2 (6 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:  1 (3 points)

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

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

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

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 41 years (ranked 11th out of 16 teams: 6 points)

    Total points:  24

    Ranking pre-1920:  8th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of two spots

    The Reds went to back-to-back World Series in 1939 and 1940, winning it all in 1940.  During this era, they were mainly a middle-of-the-pack team in the National League, finishing third or better only 11 times and fourth or worse 30 times.

Number 9: Washington Senators (later Minnesota Twins)

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    Goose Goslin

    First place finishes:  3 (9 points)

    World Series appearances:  3 (15 points)

    World Series wins:  1 (10 points)

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

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

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

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

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

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 41 years (ranked 10th out of 16 teams: 7 points)

    Total points:  31

    Ranking pre-1920:  15th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Gain of six spots

    The Senators' best period of success during this era was from 1924 through 1933 when they finished third or better seven times, made the World Series three times and won it all once.  From 1934 through 1960, they finished sixth or worse in the American League 18 times.  This era in Senators history was a significant improvement over the franchise's initial time in the league from 1901-1919.  After the 1960 season, the Senators would move to Minnesota and forever be known as the Twins.

Number 8: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Arky Vaughan

    First place finishes:  3 (9 points)

    World Series appearances:  3 (15 points)

    World Series wins:  2 (20 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  12 (12 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:  4 (-20 points)

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 20.5 years (ranked 7th out of 16 teams: 10 points)

    Total points:  52

    Ranking pre-1920:  7th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of one spot

    The Pirates won the World Series twice in this era, including Bill Mazeroski's famous Game 7 walk-off home run against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.  The Pirates were mainly in the middle of the pack in the National League during this era, finishing fourth or worse 26 times.

Number 7: Chicago Cubs

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    Ernie Banks

    First place finishes:  5 (15 points)

    World Series appearances:  5 (25 points)

    World Series wins:  0

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  9 (9 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  3 (9 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:  Never won (ranked 12th out of 16 teams: 5 points)

    Total points:  63

    Ranking pre-1920:  1st

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of six spots

    The Cubs in this era found lightning in a bottle five times but never managed to win the World Series.  For most of this era, the Cubs found themselves in the bottom half of the National League finishing fifth or worse 22 times.  The Cubs would find occasional success in this era, but they were never able to duplicate the success they had in the pre-1920 era.

Number 6: Detroit Tigers

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    Charlie Gehringer

    First place finishes:  4 (12 points)

    World Series appearances:  4 (20 points)

    World Series wins:  2 (20 points)

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

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

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

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

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

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 20.5 years (ranked 5th out of 16 teams: 12 poitns)

    Total points:  77

    Ranking pre-1920:  9th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Gain of three spots

    The Tigers' best years during this era were from 1934 through 1947 when they finished first or second in the American League nine times with four World Series appearances and two championships.  The rest of the time during this era, the Tigers were basically a middle-of-the-pack team in the American League generally finishing in fourth or fifth place; they finished in fourth or fifth 19 teams from 1920 through 1960.

Number 5: Cleveland Indians

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    Bob Feller

    First place finishes:  3 (9 points)

    World Series appearances:  3 (15 points)

    World Series wins:  2 (20 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  14 (14 points)

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

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

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

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  0

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 20.5 years (ranked 6th out of 16 teams: 11 points)

    Total points:  85

    Ranking pre-1920:  12th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Gain of seven spots

    This era saw the last time the Indians won the World Series (once in 1920 and again in 1948).  It also saw Bob Feller leave for most of four seasons to fight in World War II only to return and strike out 348 batters in his first full season back.  This era saw the Indians finish fourth or better in the American League 32 times.

Number 4: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Jackie Robinson

    First place finishes:  9 (27 points)

    World Series appearances:  9 (45 points)

    World Series wins:  2 (20 points)

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

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

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

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  0 

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 20.5 years (ranked 4th out of 16 teams: 13 points)

    Total points:  142

    Ranking pre-1920:  10th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Gain of six spots

    In 1920, the Dodgers were in Brooklyn.  In 1958 the Dodgers were in Los Angeles.  Of course, this era signified the end of segregation in Major League Baseball and it all started with the Dodgers and Branch Rickey, Walter O'Malley and Jackie Robinson in 1947. 

    It's no surprise that the Dodgers' greatest period of success during this era started in 1947 when they made the World Series seven times and won it twice.  While their success during this era can be counted by those World Series titles, it is the daring move of Walter O'Malley and Branch Rickey to sign Jackie Robinson that signifies the Dodgers' greatest success in their history.

Number 3: San Francisco Giants

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    Mel Ott

    First place finishes:  9 (27 points)

    World Series appearances:  9 (45 points)

    World Series wins:  4 (40 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  17 (17 points)

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

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  0

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

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

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 10.25 years (ranked 3rd out of 16 teams: 14 points)

    Total points:  150

    Ranking pre-1920:  2nd

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Loss of one spot (the only team that was in the top five in the pre-1920 rankings to still be in the top five for 1920-1960)

    This era started with the Giants playing in New York and ended with them playing in San Francisco.  This was the greatest era in Giants' history from a World Championship point of view.  Prior to 1920, the Giants made the World Series five times and won once but from 1920 through 1960, they made the World Series nine times winning it all four times.  This era saw the entirety of Mel Ott's career and ended with the beginning of Willie Mays'.

Number 2: St. Louis Cardinals

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    Stan Musial

    First place finishes:  9 (27 points)

    World Series appearances:  9 (45 points)

    World Series wins:  6 (60 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  9 (9 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  7 (21 points)

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

    Seasons over .700 win percentage:  0

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  0

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 6.8 years (ranked 2nd out of 16 teams: 15 points)

    Total points:  205

    Ranking pre-1920:  11th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Gain of nine spots

    The time between 1926 and 1946 is the greatest era in Cardinals history.  It saw them make the World Series nine times and win six times and it saw the end of Rogers Hornsby's career and the rise of Stan Musial's.  Between 1920 and 1960, the Cardinals finished in third place or better in the National League 28 times.

Number 1: New York Yankees

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    Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Tony Lazzeri

    First place finishes:  25 (75 points)

    World Series appearances:  25 (125 points)

    World Series wins:  18 (180 points)

    Seasons over .556 win percentage:  13 (13 points)

    Seasons over .617 win percentage:  13 (39 points)

    Seasons over .650 win percentage:  9 (63 points) 

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

    Seasons under .383 win percentage:  0

    Average years between World Series wins:  Once every 2.3 years (ranked 1st out of 16 teams: 16 points)

    Total points:  531

    Ranking pre-1920:  14th

    Gain/loss from pre-1920 era to this era:  Gain of 13 spots (the biggest gain of this era)

    The greatest move in team history occurred in the offseason between 1919 and 1920 when they acquired Babe Ruth and the rest as they say is history.  This was the golden age of the New York Yankees that saw the emergence of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. 

    It saw World Series championship after championship including four in a row and five in a row.  In the 41 years of this era, the Yankees didn't make the World Series in 16 of them (the same number of seasons that the Athletics and Phillies each had sub-.383 winning percentages).  I'm a Yankee fan and my one wish is that I could have been alive to see the Yankees teams of this era; for example the 1927 Murder's Row or the 1939 team that many consider the best Yankee team of all time. 

Final Analysis

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    Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey

    In my opinion, this is easily the best era in baseball history. 

    The only expansion baseball had at the time was to move some teams to California so the talent wasn't watered down by having too many teams yet. 

    If you look at any list of the greatest players in baseball history, the majority of them played during this era.  In a twenty year span you saw the end of Walter Johnson's career, you saw Babe Ruth save baseball from the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, you saw Lou Gehrig become the "luckiest man on the face of the Earth" and you saw the careers of players like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller among many others go off to war and return to be just as good as they were before they left.

    You had the end of segregation in baseball, first with the Dodgers and then the Indians followed suit. 

    You saw teams like the Yankees, Cardinals and Dodgers come to the forefront.  You saw teams like the Red Sox and Cubs begin their decades of frustration for their fans.

    If you were lucky enough to be alive to see baseball during this era, count yourself blessed.

    Follow Rich on Facebook and on Twitter.  You can also email Rich any questions/comments or player comparisons you'd like to see.

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