Top 5 baseball franchises in winning percentages

As with all sports, the success of a baseball franchise is measured in championships. However, the team that wins the World Series is not always the one with the best win-loss record over the course of the season. Here is a look at the all-time highest franchise winning percentages in Major League Baseball history, through the completion of the 2010 season, including where they rank in World Series titles.

#5: Boston Red Sox (.517 - 8,819 Wins - 8,233 Losses - 7 World Series Titles)

Ted Williams, photographed for Baseball Digest in 1949.
Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1901, the Boston Red Sox have remained a staple in American League baseball for 110 years. Although they have recently enjoyed success, including two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007, they have been a franchise that has experienced both highs and lows. After winning their first title in 1903 (Boston Americans), the franchise suffered a decade of mediocrity before winning a second title in 1912. During a span of seven seasons, from 1912 to 1918, the Red Sox claimed four World Series titles behind the talents of Tris Speaker and Babe Ruth.

When Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees in December of 1919, the Red Sox franchise would suffer 86 of heartbreak, plagued by what became known as the Curse of the Bambino. That curse was finally lifted with a World Series victory in 2004. Through the years, Red Sox fans have suffered a bevy of highs and lows, including 11 last place ballclubs, but throughout all (for the most part) they have remained some of the most loyal fans in baseball.

#4: St. Louis Cardinals (.518 - 10,105 Wins - 9,418 Losses - 10 World Series Titles)

Major League Baseball in St. Louis dates back to 1882 with the St. Louis Brown Stockings. Their name would change to the Browns in 1883, the Perfectos in 1899 and eventually the Cardinals in 1900. It wasn't until 1926, the franchise's 45th season, that the Cardinals won St. Louis's first World Series championship. In addition to their 10 titles, the Cardinals have also lost seven World Series, most recently in 2004 to the Boston Red Sox.

In 129 seasons, the Cardinals have finished the regular season in first place 27 times, but perhaps more remarkably, finished in the division basement only eight times. Despite ten World Series titles, second only to the New York Yankees (27), Billy Southworth is the only manager in franchise history to win more than one title. Southworth managed the Cardinals in 1929 as a player-manager, only to return to the franchise from 1940 to 1945. Whitey Herzog is the only manager in franchise history to lose two World Series, although he won his first appearance in 1982.

#3: Los Angeles Dodgers (.524 - 10,135 Wins - 9,199 Losses - 6 World Series Titles)

California has been good to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Of the franchise's 127 seasons, only 52 of them have been spent in Los Angeles, but five of the Dodgers' six World Series titles also came while in Tinsel Town. The lone championship season experienced outside of Los Angeles was earned by the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, who defeated the New York Yankees in a seven-game series. Two years later, the Dodgers bolted for the West Coast.

Despite amassing 28 divisional titles, the Dodgers have struggled to win championships. Perhaps no season was more painful for the Dodger Blue fan base than 1953 when the team posted a franchise-best .682 winning percentage, en route to another World Series loss at the hands of the New York Yankees. The Dodgers fell in a six game series, despite boasting a better regular season record than their cross-town rivals.

#2: San Francisco Giants (.538 - 10,436 Wins - 8,958 Losses - 6 World Series Titles)

Like the Dodgers, the Giants made the trek from New York to California in 1958. However, unlike the Dodgers, California has not been quite as kind in the Golden Gate City. Of the top 30 seasons in franchise history, ranked by winning percentage, only three have come in San Francisco. Likewise, up until 2010, the Giants had not won a World Series title since leaving New York. In fact, of the 18 franchise appearances in the World Series, only four have come while in San Francisco.

While names like Mays, McCovey and Marichal may be most familiar with Giants fans, of the franchise's most significant was John McGraw. McGraw spent 31 seasons managing the New York Giants, including five as a player-manager. During his tenure, the Giants finished in first place 11 times, second place another 11 times and reached the World Series 10 times. McGraw managed the Giants to three World Series championships and had a career winning-percentage of .591 in New York.

#1: New York Yankees (.568 - 9,670 Wins - 7,361 Losses - 27 World Series Titles)

The Yankees have played baseball for 110 seasons and won 27 World Series. Simple arithmetic will tell you that equates to a World Series title approximately once every four years. Yet, equally as impressive as the Yankees' ability to win championships has been their ability to avoid futility. In over a century of baseball, the franchise has only finished in last place four times, three of which came between 1902 (as the Baltimore Orioles) and 1912. Part of the championship success of the Yankees has to be attributed to their ability to not only reach the World Series, but play well when they get there. In 40 World Series appearances, the Yankees have only faltered 13 times, meaning that they have won the series 67.5 percent of the time.

While a player can never make a franchise, the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York came pretty close. Prior to Ruth's arrival, the Yankees had never finished first in the division, and had a franchise winning percentage of just .475. However, in Ruth's third season, the Yankees reached the World Series. Despite losing, it would begin a stretch of six World Series appearances in eight years behind Ruth. The foundation that Ruth built would lead to greater achievements. From 1936 to 1943, the Yankees appeared in seven of eight World Series, and won six of them. Then from 1947 to 1964, the Yankees appeared in 15 World Series in just 18 years, winning 10 and five in a row from 1949 through 1953. The Yankees would reemerge in the late 1970s and again in the mid-1990s. The success of the Yankees is not only evident in titles, but also consistency. The Yankees have compiled a losing record only 22 times in franchise history, but only eight times since 1925.

References:

Pro Baseball Reference, Team Encyclopedia , baseball-reference.com

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Updated Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011