The 1998 New York Yankees won 114 games, becoming the first team to pass the 110-win mark since the 1954 Indians. Three years later, the Seattle Mariners performed the same feat, winning 116 games and tying the 1906 Cubs for the most wins in a season, albeit with 10 more games on the schedule.
Rather than signaling a new era of dominant superteams, the well has been dry, with only a single team (the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals) hitting 105.
Even the century mark, usually the hallmark of a dominating season, has been eclipsed by only three teams in the past five years. Today, Buster Olney ranks the top 10 teams of all time. With that in mind, I figured this was as good a time as any to look at which 2013 squads, if any, have a chance of joining those ranks. And there are a few.
Generally speaking, for feats of extreme winnage, a little bit of luck is necessary. You can have Barry Bonds in your lineup, but you still have eight other starting spots. You can have Justin Verlander or Roger Clemens at the top of the rotation, but he's not going to pitch every inning. Even Hall of Famer/Twitter legend Old Hoss Radbourn topped out at 73 complete games and 678 2/3 innings, not even half a modern schedule.
But as fortune would have it, a 162-game schedule is a short enough period of time that all the vagaries of luck won't even out. Even if you knew for a fact that every team in baseball was an 81-win team, a level of certainty that would require Sauron's One Ring, you would still expect six teams on average to miss or exceed the .500 mark by eight or more games. With a little luck, those 90-95 teams can hit that 100 mark.
So which teams are the most likely to win 100 games this year? To answer this question, I consulted the updated ZiPS projections, reflecting moves made through the Justin Upton trade. Using a Monte Carlo simulation, the 2013 season was simulated a million times.
ZiPS thinks this is a promising year to get a 100-game winner, with 1.43 teams winning 100 games on average. Four teams have at least a 1-in-3 shot at 100 losses, more than was simulated last year, which makes those high win totals a little easier for the rest of the league. With two of those teams (the New York Mets and Miami Marlins) in their division, the Washington Nationals are the best projected candidate to hit the 100-game barrier, with a 27 percent chance of winning 100 games. Seven other teams have a projected chance of at least 10 percent to win 100 games: the Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers.
(David Schoenfield wondered about the odds of the Braves and Nationals both winning 100 games. As he noted, only once in the wild-card era have two teams from the same division won more than 100 games -- the A's and Mariners in 2001 -- and there is a 1.5 percent chance of it happening in the NL East this year.)
As one might expect, the odds of a 110-win team are considerably longer. No team has greater than a 1 percent projected chance at 110 wins, with a 3.7 percent chance of at least one team becoming a supercentenarian. The odds are 1-in-140 against besting the Mariners at 117 wins. If the odds are that bad every year going forward, most of us reading this page are unlikely to see a new wins champion.
In a million simulated years, the most games won by a team was the year the Angels won 124 games. If that happened, I imagine team owner Arte Moreno won't mind paying top dollar for the declining years of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
Winning 100, 110 or 116 games generally involves defying the odds to some degree. But that's what makes great teams so fascinating.