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How Does It Feel D-Backs? How Does It Feel to Be Back in First Place Again?
2005-05-23 12:42
by Mike Carminati
[To the tune of the Hall & Oates classic "How Does It Feel to Be Back", their best until "Family Man".]

Everyone is talking about Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox as the surprise team so far this season. The ChiSox's success sure seems startling—OK, enough sibilance. However, the more precedent bending surprise has to be the reborn Arizona Diamondbacks—get it? Reborn…Phoenix?

The Diamondbacks were atrocious last year. They tied the second-year Mets (1962) for the 31st worst record in the "Modern" era (51-111 for a .315 winning percentage). In the expansion era (1961 to today), there have been just four teams with a worse record:

New York Mets196240120.250
Detroit Tigers200343119.265
Philadelphia Phillies196147107.305
New York Mets196550112.309
Arizona Diamondbacks200451111.315
New York Mets196351111.315
San Diego Padres196952110.321
Montreal Expos196952110.321
New York Mets196453109.327
Detroit Tigers199653109.327

Now the Diamondbacks are in first place in the NL West, a half game ahead of the Padres. No one gave them a chance to finish much higher than fourth at the start of the season (I had them third). I still think that the Padres will win the division (they were my preseason pick). But the D-backs rush back to respectability could be unprecedented at least in the last 115 years.

Arizona's current record is 27-18 or exactly a .600 winning percentage. That translates into about 97 wins over the course of a 162-game schedule. Only three teams have improved to at least .600 after registering a season with a winning percentage no better than .315, and the last one was in 1890. Actually, the biggest one-season improvement in the last hundred years for a team with a .600 or better winning percentage was by—you guessed it—the D-Backs in their second season, 1999:

Worst to .600+YrWLPCTPosPrev YrWLPCTPos
Louisville Colonels18908844.6671188927111.1968
Cincinnati Reds18783723.617218771542.2636
Hartford Dark Blues18755428.659318741637.3027
Columbus Buckeyes18846939.639218833265.3306
New York Giants19038455.604219024888.3538
Brooklyn Superbas189910147.682118985491.37210
Detroit Wolverines18868736.707218854167.3806
Arizona Diamondbacks199910062.617119986597.4015
Cincinnati Reds19619361.604119606787.4356
Philadelphia Athletics19099558.621219086885.4446
San Francisco Giants199310359.636219927290.4445
Brooklyn Grooms18929559.617318916176.4456
Brooklyn Bridegrooms18888852.629218876074.4486
New York Mets196910062.617119687389.4519
Chicago White Sox19159361.604319147084.4557
New York Giants19549757.630119537084.4555
Boston Braves19149459.614119136982.4575
Chicago White Sox19198852.629119185767.4606
Boston Red Sox194610450.675119457183.4617
Detroit Tigers196110161.623219607183.4616
Baltimore Orioles18948939.695118936070.4628
St. Louis Browns18836533.663218823743.4635
Anaheim Angels20029963.611220017587.4633
Troy Haymakers18721510.600518711315.4646
Washington Senators19309460.610219297181.4675

Arizona has almost doubled its winning percentage in one season (90.4% improvement). If they can keep that up for an entire season, they would have the tenth best single-season improvement of all time and the best since 1898:

TeamYrWLPCTPosPrev YrWLPCTPosRatio
Louisville Colonels18908844.6671188927111.19683.407
Pittsburgh Pirates18915580.4078189023113.16982.409
Cincinnati Reds18783723.617218771542.26362.343
Hartford Dark Blues18755428.659318741637.30272.181
St. Louis Perfectos18998467.5565189839111.260122.140
Baltimore Orioles18846343.594618832868.29282.038
Philadelphia Quakers18843973.348618831781.17382.007
Troy Trojans18804142.494418791956.25381.950
Columbus Buckeyes18846939.639218833265.33061.937
Cincinnati Reds18771542.26361876956.13881.901
Detroit Wolverines18868736.707218854167.38061.863
Boston Bees19367183.4616193538115.24881.856

All this may be enough to say that the D-Backs continuing to play at such a high level is a long shot at best. But I feel vindicated for saying in the offseason that they may have one of the fastest bounces back to respectability ever. Now, if could just justify picking the Indians second the White Sox fourth…

2005-05-23 14:34:12
1.   Greg May
I think you have your positions backwards. Love your column.
2005-05-23 18:13:58
2.   Mike Carminati


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