The 2022 MLB Season Set a New Record For Excellence and Futility

Image credit: Freddie Freeman (Photo by Harry How/Getty)

Because of how our brains process nice round numbers, 100 wins is the easy to understand mark of a truly great team. Over the course of a 162-game season, winning 100 games has long been considered the mark of a great team. And similarly, losing 100 games has been the scarlet letter of a truly dismal season.

But nowadays, excellence and awfulness are becoming pretty routine in the major leagues. Thanks to the hollowing out of the middle class in the major leagues, 100 wins is becoming less special than it used to be and similarly, 100-loss teams now find themselves with plenty of company.

This year, four teams (Dodgers, Astros, Braves and Mets) won 100 or more games. That ties the record for the most 100-win teams in one season. This is the second time in the past four years that four teams have won 100 games or more. Before 2019, it had never happened. A Yankees’ loss on the final day of the season kept them from becoming the record-breaking fifth team in 2022 to reach the century mark.

In each of the past five 162-game seasons (excluding 2020), three or more MLB teams have won 100 games. In the 116 seasons from 1901 to 2016, there were just six seasons in which three teams won 100 or more games.

There have already been as many 100-win seasons in the 2020s (seven) as there were in the entire decade of the 1980s even though one of the three seasons in the 2020s so far was a 60-game schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic. There have never been more than 13 100-win teams in any decade of MLB history. This decade is currently on pace for 31.5, even though the 2020 season was cut short.

As you would expect, it’s also been a truly historic year for 100-loss teams. This is the fourth time in the past four 162-game seasons that three or more teams have lost 100 or more games. The four 100-loss teams in 2022 (Nationals, Reds, Pirates and Athletics) ties the all-time record, set in 2002, then equaled in 2019 and 2021. Before 2018, that 2002 season was the only one with three or more 100-loss teams since 1965.

In many ways, winning 100 games is tougher than winning a World Series. The Boston Red Sox have now won four World Series in the 21st century, but they have only won 100 games four times in team history, and only once since Jackie Robinson integrated the majors.

The Miami Marlins have two World Series wins, but they have never won 100 games. They aren’t alone. The Brewers, Blue Jays, Rangers and Nationals also have never reached the century mark. The Pirates did, but they haven’t since 1909. The White Sox’s lone 100-win season came in 1917, a couple of years before the Black Sox scandal.

It is becoming easier to win 100 than it used to be, however, as the bar for truly awful non-expansion teams has been redefined downward.

This is the first year of the new collective bargaining agreement. In it, MLB and the MLB Players’ Association agreed to a draft lottery, which eliminates the guarantee that the team with the worst record will land the top pick in the upcoming draft (and usually the largest bonus pool). But the owners pushed back on the MLBPA’s suggestion for penalties for teams that strung together seasons that put them at the bottom of the league.

It’s too soon to know if the draft lottery will lead to fewer awful teams and super teams in upcoming years. But in year one of the new CBA, the spread between great and dismal remains at historic highs.

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