When the term "dynasty" is used, certain teams come immediately to mind -- the Yankees, the 1970s Steelers, the Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. All shared a very common thread, the ability to not just reach the finals in their respective sports but to win, and to do so in consecutive years. As leagues grew in size and free agency made it more difficult to keep teams together, it's not as easy.
As long as sports exist, there will be people who use the word dynasty whenever a team makes the playoffs two years in a row. Having written that, by reaching the World Series for the third time in five years, the Giants have entered into the discussion. It's a curious team to add into the mix -- consider their past five "dynastic" years:
|2010||92||70||Won World Series|
|2012||94||68||Won World Series|
|2014||88||74||In World Series|
Not exactly the Murderer's Row Yankees teams, but they did it in a period far different than teams even 40 years ago had to face.
There are ways to determine dynasties, and Bill James developed one in the New Historical Baseball Abstract (pp229-232). These are his criteria:
|Finishing over .500||1 pt|
|Winning 90 games||2 pt|
|Winning 100 games||3 pt|
|Winning division||4 pt|
|Winning pennant||5 pt|
|Winning World Series||6 pt*|
*To receive 6 points a team needs to win the Series and win 100+ games, otherwise they receive five points
I made some slight modifications. For example, I changed 90 and 100 wins to win percent, since it's easier to win 90 games in a 162-game season as opposed to a 154-game one, which also smooths out strike years. I also made the Wild Card equivalent to winning the division, a minor difference for the three years it's been in existence. If we're looking at 5-year time spans, obviously the maximum points that can be earned is 30. This table shows the most dominant teams:
The 1949-1953 Yankees won the World Series every year and missed the .617 win percentage by one win in 1952. Using James' formula they earned 25 points, since they never won 100+ games in that span -- mine gives them 29.
Using the James criteria the Giants from 2010-2014 earned . . . 16 points, regardless of whether they win this year's Series. With more playoff slots, the strict wins-to-postseason relationship isn't as linear, since all teams need to do is win around 88 games and they'll make the Wild Card. So I made two adjustments -- I only went back to 1969 to reflect the expansion of the playoffs and awarded points solely on the basis on how far in the playoffs a team advanced:
|Losing Wild Card||2 pts|
|Losing Division Series||3 pts|
|Losing League Championship Series||4 pts|
|Winning pennant||5 pts|
|Winning World Series||6 pts|
"Just win, baby" -- in baseball it's as true as anything. Who remembers who won the most games in the regular season? Conversely, who remembers how many games the World Series winner won in the regular season? The 2006 Cardinals won 83 games and still have a World Series trophy in their possession.
These are the new "dynasties":
Still no Giants, since even if they win this year's Series they'll still only have 18 points. In addition, as the other teams are reviewed, it's easy to identify the Hall of Fame-caliber players, plus there was an element of stability in their lineups. The Giants have nine players still left from 2010, of which only three (Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval) are making regular contributions. There are very good players on the Giants roster, but Hall of Fame -- it's a little early to be making the case for anyone.
I'll make more data available in this Google Docs spreadsheet, which shows the best and worst five-years stretches for every team and much, much more. Dig into it and see how your favorite teams have performed over time -- not every team can be the Yankees. Are the Giants an even-year phenomenon? Check. Dynasty? I'll do my best to defend the language and say, not so fast.
All data from Baseball-Reference. Any mistakes in compiling or amalgamating the data are the author's.
Scott Lindholm lives in Davenport, IA. Follow him on Twitter @ScottLindholm.