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In Motion: The NL East Division Race of 1969


(Click to enlarge)

The 1969 Mets are referred to as the Miracle Mets for good reason. Prior to 1969, the franchise had a combined record of 394-737, good for a blistering .348 winning percentage, and had finished no better than 9 out of 10 National League teams during their first seven seasons.

The 1969 season would turn out to be a magical one for the franchise. The team mounted an improbable charge at the first place Chicago Cubs and managed to win the National League East. The graphic above--and the video below the fold--depicts that pennant race. The y-axis represents games back and the x-axis the game number for the season. Size of the bubble represents a team's run differential.

On August 13th, after the first 113 games of the season, the Mets stood 10 games behind the Cubs. The Cubs had been firmly ensconced in first place since their opening day win against the Phillies. All of that was about to change.

From games 114 to 144, the Mets would compile a record of 25-6, erasing the Cubs' 10 game lead in less than a month. Over that same time span, the Cubs would only muster a record of 14-17. They would fall into second place for good on September 10th, managing to only win 8 of their last 19 games. The Mets, on the other hand, would rattle of 17 wins over their final 22 games in route to capturing their first NL East crown, National League Pennant, and eventually their first World Series crown.

Digging a little deeper, we see that the division outcome was driven by the divergent fortunes of the teams' pitching staffs.

Over the first 114 games, the Cubs amassed a record of 71-43 with a run differential of +141. Over the same stretch, the Mets were only 63-51 with a paltry +22 run differential. From this point to game 144, the Mets' would average only 2.2 runs against versus 4.2 for the Cubs, cutting their runs allowed for the year by nearly 1.5 runs per game. Maintaining offensive production of ~4 runs per game, the Mets run differential would jump to +77 (+55 over the 31 games). The Cubs run differential would drop to +124, -17 over the same stretch.

By the end of the year, the Mets would only allow 541 runs and end with a run differential of +91. The Cubs would have the better run differential (+109) and expected record, but the collapse of their pitching and defense starting at game 114 and continuing through game 162 would prove too much to overcome.

Truly a miracle season.

You can watch the season unfold in video form below, or go directly the motion graphic here.

Be sure to send me suggestions for other races, etc, you might want to see in motion.