The 10 Hottest Team Starts in MLB History
MLB's long-awaited Opening Day is finally here, and you know what that means: It’s finally time for some baseball. The beginning of the season always triggers thoughts of past memorable starts to MLB seasons.
Some of the hottest starts to the season include the American League's two best seasons ever, by record. Both the ’98 Yankees and the ’01 Mariners pushed the all-time AL single-season wins mark, as the Yanks set a new record of 114 wins and three years later Seattle topped it by two—now the record sits at 116 wins.
Also on the list are two teams who went undefeated through the first 13 games of the regular season, not to mention a team that won 35 of its first 40 games, as it produced one of the most memorable seasons in MLB history.
I’ve compiled a list of my 10 most memorable and prominent starts to a MLB baseball season. Of course, I may have missed one or two hot April and May starts, but check out this list and see what you think.
1. 1982 Atlanta Braves: 13-0, 1.000 Winning Percentage
In 1982, the Braves jumped out to an amazing 13-0 start and finished the season with a very respectable 89-73 mark. Although they broke out at the beginning of the season, they failed to make it out of the National League playoffs, as they lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS.
Center fielder Dale Murphy led the charge, as he smashed 36 home runs and drove in 109 that season. Third baseman Bob Horner joined the festivities, as he knocked 32 home runs and really helped the Braves win big that season.
RHP Phil Niekro led the pitching staff with 17 wins, coupled with only four losses, a 3.61 ERA and 144 strikeouts. He surrendered 225 base hits in 234.1 innings pitched, and he was voted fifth in Cy Young balloting that year.
2. 1987 Milwaukee Brewers: 13-0, 1.000 Winning Percentage
Just like the Braves in ’82, the then-American League Milwaukee Brewers burst out of the gates and won their first 13 games of the 1987 season.
Although they got off to a hot start and ended the season with a strong 91-71 record, they were unable to make the playoffs, as the competition was fierce that year and they finished in third place in their division.
Of course, most have heard the names Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Well, this is the era when the Brewers’ magic happened. Yount hit .312 on the season, and Molitor swiped 45 bases and hit at a very impressive .353.
As for their pitching staff, Teddy Higuera, who I’m sure most have not heard of, led the team with an 18-10 mark with a 3.85 ERA. Starter Juan Nieves notched 14 wins and sported a 4.88 ERA.
3. 1966 Baltimore Orioles: 12-1, .923 Winning Percentage
The 1966 Baltimore Orioles, back in the heyday of Bird Land, got off to an astounding start, as they won 12 of their first 13 contests. Not only did they jump out to a great start, they finished the season in the same fashion.
They earned first place in the American League East with a 97-63 record and ended up sweeping the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games in the World Series.
Frank Robinson led the Birds with 49 home runs and 122 RBI, while Boog Powell crushed 34 home runs of his own and drove in 109 on the year. Not only did they have two players hit over 30 home runs, but two more players also hit 23 each (Brooks Robinson and Curt Blefary).
The Birds' starting pitchers really flourished during this time, as Hall of Famer Jim Palmer led the team with 15 wins and Dave McNally recorded 13 wins of his own. Two other starters won 10 games each.
4. 1984 Detroit Tigers: 35-5, .875 Winning Percentage
As most remember, 1984 was the year of the Tigers and manager Sparky Anderson. They immediately got off to a quick start and never looked back. They won 35 of their first 40 games and went on to rack up 104 wins and 58 losses.
Not to mention they won the American League East easily and eventually made it to the World Series, defeating the Padres in five games.
Catcher Lance Parrish cranked 33 home runs and drove in 98 runs, as he led the team in both categories. Present-day manager Kirk Gibson jolted 27 home runs and accumulated 91 RBI in the magical season.
Pitching-wise, their top three starters won at least 17 games each, and ace Jack Morris went 19-11 with a 3.60 ERA. Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox were the other two starters with 18 and 17 wins, respectively.
5. 1986 New York Mets: 20-4, .833 Winning Percentage
Just like 1984 was the Tigers' year, 1986 definitely belonged to the Mets. They got off to a very hot start as they won 20 of their first 24 games. They went on to win the National League East with a 108-54 record.
They defeated the Red Sox in seven to win the ’86 World Series.
Offensively, we all remember outfielder Darryl Strawberry, both for his on- and off-field antics. Strawberry smashed a team-high 27 home runs, while catcher Gary Carter drove in 105 runs to lead the team.
Bobby Ojeda led the Mets in wins in 1986 with 18 and sported a low 2.57 ERA. The 21-year-old Dwight Gooden notched 17 wins and earned a 2.84 ERA. All five of the Mets starters won 10 games or more, while four of them won at least 15.
6. 1939 New York Yankees: 29-7, .806 Winning Percentage
The 1939 Yankees got off to a very strong start, as they won 29 of their 36 contests in April and May. They went on to win the American League pennant and headed to the World Series, where they squared off against the Cincinnati Reds and swept them out of October.
Joe DiMaggio led the Yankees as he racked up 30 home runs and 126 RBI, both team highs. Joe Gordon knocked 28 home runs and finished second on the team with 111 RBI.
Pitching-wise, Red Ruffing won 21 games with a 2.93 ERA. Although the next-highest win total was only 13 games, each of the six starters finished the year with double-digit wins.
7. 2001 Seattle Mariners: 20-4, .833 Winning Percentage
It seems as if the theme is breakout seasons. 2001 was definitely Seattle’s best season to date and most memorable. The Mariners got off to a 20-4 start and finished the year tied for the most single-season wins with 116. They made it to the ALCS but lost to the Yankees in five.
Second baseman Bret Boone led the charge in Seattle that year, as he broke out and delivered 37 home runs while setting another career high with 141 RBI. Designated hitter Edgar Martinez hit 23 home runs but was able to drive in 116.
Jamie Moyer was the only 20-game winner on the team; however, four of their five starting pitchers won at least 15 games. At 38, Moyer only lost six games on the year and sported a 3.43 ERA.
8. 1998 New York Yankees: 23-6, .793 Winning Percentage
The 1998 Yankees put together the second-best record in MLB history as they won 114 games and dropped only 48. At the time, they set an American League record for wins in a season.
Unlike the Mariners in 2001, however, they won the World Series, beating the Padres in four games.
Although there was not one breakout star in the Yankees lineup, first baseman Tino Martinez posted the best numbers. He smashed 28 home runs while posting 123 RBI. Six of their nine starters hit 19 or more home runs, and eight of the nine finished with 17 or more.
David Cone led the Yankees with 20 wins that season. Another David (Wells) finished second on the team with 18 wins, and Andy Pettitte came in third with 16 on the year. All five starters finished with at least 12 wins.
9. 1970 Cincinnati Reds: 22-6, .786 Winning Percentage
The Big Red Machine got off to an impressive start in the 1970 season, as they won 22 of their first 28 games. They made it all the way to the World Series by winning the National League West with a 102-60 record, but they ultimately lost to the Baltimore Orioles.
Catcher Johnny Bench led the team with an impressive 45 home runs and 148 RBI on the season, while third baseman Tony Perez smashed 40 home runs of his own and drove in 129 on the year.
Jim Merritt and Gary Nolan were the two breakout pitchers for the Reds in ’70. Merritt was the only 20-game winner on the team, while Nolan finished with 18.
10. 1969 Baltimore Orioles: 20-8, .714 Winning Percentage
The Orioles jumped out to a respectable 20-8 record in ’69, but it’s how they finished the year that’s all the more impressive. They ended the year with 109 wins and made it all the way to the big show, but they couldn’t pull it out, as they lost the Mets in five games.
Again, Boog Powell and Frank Robinson were the two major power threats in Baltimore’s lineup. Powell crushed 37 home runs and drove in 121. Robinson drilled 32 home runs and drove in an even 100 RBI.
Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally led the team in wins with 23 and 20, respectively. Cuellar sported a spectacular 2.38 ERA. Also, Jim Palmer won 16 games at age 23.