Baseball history: 2017 sixth seasonwith three 100-win teams

21 Oct 1998: Infielders Derek Jeter
21 Oct 1998: Infielders Derek Jeter /
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23 Oct 1998: Outfielder Darryl Strawberry of the New York Yankees celebrates during a ticker-tape parade held after the Yankees defeated the San Diego Padres in four games to win the World Series in New York City, New York.
23 Oct 1998: Outfielder Darryl Strawberry of the New York Yankees celebrates during a ticker-tape parade held after the Yankees defeated the San Diego Padres in four games to win the World Series in New York City, New York. /

1998—Yankees, Braves, Astros

114-48 New York Yankees

106-56 Atlanta Braves

102-60 Houston Astros

The first time there were three 100-win teams in one season was 1942. It happened again 35 years later, in 1977, then not again for another 21 years. Then, suddenly, it happened three times in six years. All three times, two of the three teams were the Yankees and Braves.

Like the previous time there were three 100-win teams, back in the expansion year of 1977, the 1998 season was also an expansion year. The Arizona Diamondbacks joined the National League and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now the Rays) joined the American League.

The Yankees took advantage of the expansion Devil Rays by beating them 11 out of 12 times. They went 10-0 against the Kansas City Royals, 9-3 against the Baltimore Orioles, and 8-3 against four different teams. This was the year the Yankees won 114 games, the second-most in MLB history. They won nearly 77 percent of their games at home and finished 22 games ahead of the 92-win Red Sox.

Shortstop Derek Jeter led the AL in runs scored, with 127, and finished third in AL MVP voting. Per Baseball-Reference, this was the second-best season of his career. The rest of the team could hit the ball also. These Yankees scored 965 runs, which ranks them 19th in MLB history.

In the postseason, the Yankees swept the Rangers in three games in the ALDS, allowing just a single run in the series. It took them six games to dispatch of the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. The World Series was a nice, four-game sweep of the San Diego Padres. They would sweep the Braves in the World Series the next season, then make it three in a row with a four-games-to-one win over the New York Mets in 2000. This was the peak of Yankees greatness at the turn of the millennium.

The 106 wins by the 1998 Braves is the most in franchise history. Their regular five-man starting rotation went 88-37 and started 153 of the team’s 162 games. Of course, they had the Hall of Fame trifecta of Maddux (18-9, 2.22 ERA), Glavine (20-6, 2.47 ERA), and Smoltz (17-3, 2.90 ERA). Denny Neagle (16-11, 3.55 ERA) and Kevin Millwood (17-8, 4.08 ERA) rounded out the rotation.

Not only were the Braves terrific on the mound, leading all of baseball with a 3.25 ERA, they were also in the top 10 in runs scored and led the league in fielding (Total Zone, per FanGraphs). Andruw Jones was the best-fielding center fielder in baseball and hit .271/.321/.515, with 31 homers and 90 RBI. He was one of four Braves to smack 30 or more long balls, along with Chipper Jones (34), Javy Lopez (34), and the Big Cat, Andres Galarraga (44).

After a terrific regular season, the Braves swept the Cubs in three straight to advance to the NLCS. Then, like so many of those Braves teams, they lost in the NLCS to the San Diego Padres. The Padres would go on to be swept by the 114-win Yankees in the World Series.

The 1998 Astros were the first team in franchise history to win 100 games. This year’s Astros are the second. The 1998 Astros were the team of Biggio and Bagwell (and a third “Killer B”, Derek Bell). Biggo set the table at the top of the lineup with 123 runs scored, 50 steals, and a .403 OBP. Bagwell cleared the dishes with 34 homers, 111 RBI, and a .557 slugging percentage. Bell had the best year of his career, hitting .314/.364/.490, with 111 runs, 22 homers and 108 RBI. This was four years before Bell initiated “Operation Shutdown” as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Shane Reynolds led the pitching staff with 19 wins, but mid-season acquisition Randy Johnson became the staff ace down the stretch. He was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts with the Astros. Johnson started the first game of the NLDS against the Padres, but was outdueled by Kevin Brown, who had 16 strikeouts in eight shutout innings. The Astros came back to win Game Two, but lost Games Three and Four and were done for the year.