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A's History: Highs and Lows

(Disclaimer: I am no better at statistical analysis or drawing conclusions as I am at whipping up a gourmet meal- burnt quesadillas anyone?  All I did was take a handful of ingredients and toss them somewhat blindly into the oven.  I'll let the experts decide if this dish is edible, simply needs more salt, or should go straight to the dumpster).

It is not too often that I get the opportunity to quote myself (ok, that's not entirely true), but in my first front-page post way back in December 2008, I wrote this:

Our baseball team- perhaps more than any other- has experienced its share of highs and lows; such is the case in our own lives.

I guess that statement can imply a number of things, but as I have said of the A's before; when they're bad, they are grotesquely bad, and when they're good, they are Mom's-pork-green-chili good.

A's Wins

The question then is this: have they experienced these extreme cases of success and failure "more than any other" team?  My general knowledge of A's history might be worth something to relatives who call me from the local tavern to settle a bet, but pitting the Home Nine against other teams was going to take some (gasp!) research.

And while my findings weren't completely shocking, it was satisfying to know that I wasn't just blowing smoke with my December statement.  To begin my quest, I first had to decide who gets to play, and immediately settled on the sixteen clubs that have been a part of Major League Baseball since 1901 (I could have done every current team, but I do work for a living, and I wanted the same timeline for everyone). Speaking of which, I tossed out the strike-shortened 1981 and 1994 campaigns, leaving us 106 seasons to work with.  Lastly, in defining "high" and "low", I went with 90+ wins or losses.  Nice round number.

No team in big-league lore has accumulated more 90-win or loss seasons than our A's (63), though the Yankees are hot on their heels (62).  Baltimore checks in with 54 while Atlanta and the Giants round out the top five with an even 50. So on one hand you can say that the Yankees are one 90-win (or loss) season from having just as many high-and-low years as the A's.

On the other hand, not quite.

A's vs. NY

The Yankees have doubled the A's output of seasons with 90 or more victories. 

New York's ratio (56 "high" seasons, 6 "low") is not even on the same planet as anyone else's, whereas the A's (28/35) have teetered and tottered at a much more even pace, and more frequently.  In fact, only the Athletics rank in the top five in both 90-win and loss seasons (see charts). 

90 or more wins

But let's say 90 doesn't work for you, so I'll bump it up to 95 wins/losses. This time, the A's are dead even with New York for the top spot (45 high/low years).  But while New York's ratio tilts heavily towards the high side (42/3), the A's have a close relationship with both sides of the spectrum (again, no other team is in the top 5 in both categories).

95 or more wins

Of the teams that occupy (or share) the top five spots with the most 90 (or 95) win seasons, four of those clubs (Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, and Cardinals) possess the highest overall winning percentage of the Original 16.  Furthermore, those four teams are among the top five with the least amount of 90 (or 95) loss seasons.  No real surprise there, right.  The odd team out, of course, is the one whose name is featured on this blog site.

Top Win Pct

None of this suggests that the A's have not teetered (tottered?) in one direction for an extended period of time (see, Kansas City 1955-67).  From 1933-1970, they had not one single season with 90 or more wins; coincidentally that span represented the team's longest post-season drought.  In those 38 seasons of famine, the A's lost ninety or more games 18 times, including a 12-year stretch (1935-46) of eleven such seasons (nine in succession from 1935-43).  On the "high" side, the current decade has been particularly kind; six 90+ win seasons (more than in any other decade).

A's wins by city

*Excludes 1981 and 1994 seasons

A's wins by decade


A special thanks to iamawesomer for the graphs.