The Los Angeles Dodgers have won 43 out of their last 50 games. It’s the first time a team has accomplished the feat since the New York Giants in 1912. It’s even better than the 42-8 stretch L.A. put together in 2013 and leaves the club on pace for 115 regular season wins, one off the all-time record set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners.
The Dodgers need to go 38-13 down the stretch to reach the virgin plateau. It’s tough to doubt a team winning over 71 percent of its games, but the safe bet is probably that they’ll fall short, especially with Clayton Kershaw’s continued absence due to injury. But if this torrid play continues and the Dodgers do, in fact, win 117 games or more, it will arguably be the best regular season in the history of the four professional sporting leagues.
As always, comparing apples with oranges often bears spotty fruit and beauty is so often in the eyes of the beholder. What that said, here’s an attempt at a fair comparison across the major sports using these high-water marks:
- MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers 117-45 (potential)
- NBA: Golden State Warriors 73-9 (2015-16)
- NFL: New England Patriots 16-0 (2007)
- NHL: Montreal Canadiens 60-8-12 (1976-1977)
NHL fans, already used to being disrespected, will take issue with the Canadiens’ season coming in fourth on my rankings. But allow me to explain. To take nothing away from the Stanley Cup winners, parity was not the same 40 years ago, even with far fewer (18) teams in the league. Obviously dropping only eight of 80 games is astounding. Weighing ties is also difficult when the other three teams did not post any.
If ties were possible in the NBA, the Warriors would have gone 67-8-7 (.817 winning percentage). In reality they won six of seven in overtime. The Patriots won all 16 games in regulation. If extra innings didn’t exist, this year’s Dodgers would be 72-30-9 (.630).
Considering all the odd bounces and soft goals that can happen over a season, the Canadiens’ ability to consistently avoid them puts them closer to the Warriors than one might think at first blush. Another thing working on Montreal’s favor, fair or not, is that, although great, they did not constitute an intentionally constructed superteam.
At third we have the Warriors and their 73-9 record, or 67-8-7 adjusted. If one assumes a 50 percent chance of winning any game, the odds of posting such a record is 6 to the -14 power. By comparison, the odds of a randomly selected football team going 15-1 is .00002. One’s perception of homefield or homecourt advantage also factors into how the Warriors’ year is viewed. Golden State went 39-2 at home and posted an NBA record 34 road wins. Dominant teams have racked up 38 wins or more at home nine times since the 1980 season. On the other side of the coin, that makes the 34-8 mark posted by the Warriors away from the Bay Area even more astounding.
Before we get to the Patriots-hypothetical Dodgers debate, let’s be clear how subjective this endeavor is in reality. A 16-0 NFL season, a 115-win baseball campaign and a 72-win basketball year are all close approximations of each other.
One thing we can use for some clarity is how unique each record is within its sport. Since 1980 there have been 10 NBA teams with 67-plus wins, two with at least 72. There have been seven NFL teams with 15-plus wins with the Pats the only unblemished. Only eight MLB teams have reached the 104-win mark with only the 1998 New York Yankees and aforementioned Mariners winning at least 114.
As hard as it is to take issue with a perfect 16-0 record, it’s my belief that the Dodgers winning 117 would surpass it. Baseball does not have as powerful a homefield advantage as football and the greatness must be there almost every day for six months. As great as Kershaw is — and the other Dodgers pitchers have been — the don’t have the luxury of putting the ball in their best players’ hands every game, whereas Tom Brady could be relied on each and every down.
The Dodgers are also doing this in the best division in all of baseball. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, currently the second- and third-place teams in the NL West, have a combined record of 127-96. The Patriots’ AFC East was quite weak in 2007 (New York Jets 4-12, Buffalo Bills 7-9 and Miami Dolphins 1-15). These games accounted for 38 percent of the schedule.
In summation, there’s a ton of work to do to even have this discussion with all the facts at hand. But if, somehow, Los Angeles keeps winning, it will definitely be one worth having.