I use league strength as a secondary factor, which is arguably the least honest way of looking at it overall. It’s more important than I’m letting on, but I’m mostly interested in how teams dominated their actual opponents. When it’s similar, which is frequent, I’ll look at league strength to some extent.
Some will disagree, but it’s just a fun exercise anyway.
Actual record, with pythag wins in (). Here are my rankings, based on 10 minutes worth of thought:
1. 1998 114-48 (108). If you account for league strength at all, they have to be #1
2. 1927 110-44 (109). A then-league record in wins and a pythag record nearly as good? DANG!
3. 1939 106-56 (111). I know they’re pythag is better, but real wins matter, too.
4. 1932 107-47 (99). Might belong lower, but the real key is that there’s three teams way above everyone else.
5. 1953 99-52 (101). Not only Stengel’s winningest champion, but did so despite being his only one in the five-peat to play less than 154 games.
6. 1937 102-52 (103). Those McCarthy teams were just good.
7. 1936 102-51 (102). I really can’t tell the difference between 1937 and 1936.
8. 1961 109-53 (103). A one-dimensional team not nearly as good as their record. But did’ya notice their record?
9. 2009 103-59 (95). Random fact: only six Yankee teams have ever won more than 103 games in a season (and one was the 1964 squad that lost the World Series.
10. 1977 100-62 (99). The team that made Reggie a candy bar.
11. 1978 100-63 (99). The 1977-78 Yanks sure were consistent.
12. 1999 98-64 (96). Not nearly as good as the team the year before, but still damn good.
13. 1941 101-53 (96). The might belong a bit lower, but it had one of the most famous Yankee feats: DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
14. 1947 97-57 (100). From 1923 until the mid-1960s, the Yanks never went longer than three full seasons without a world championship. This ended one of those painfully long droughts.
15. 1956 97-57 (98). Mickey Mantle won a triple crown that year, not that anyone thinks of that when they see this team. They’re famous for Don Larsen’s perfecto.
16. 1950 98-56 (96). Stengel’s teams really don’t rank that high overall, which might seem odd at first, but makes sense if you think about it. He didn’t have better talent than any of the other managers, he just had the knack or good fortune to produce titles from teams anyway.
17. 1951 98-56 (94). The first four years of the five-peat under Stengel produced teams that were all about the same as each other . They won 95-98 games every year, with 94-96 pythag wins each season. Good luck separating that bunch!
18. 1949 97-57 (95). See what I mean?
19. 1952 95-59 (95). They had the fewest wins of any Stengel champion.
20. 1938 99-53 (97). This might be better than the Stengel five-peat, but I felt obligated to put those last four teams in one solid block because they feel similar, and I didn’t want to put this squad above them all.
21. 1928 101-53 (95). Worst 100-game winning Yankee title winner ever. Man, what bums.
22. 1923 98-54 (95). The first Yankee world champs. While we always think of the Yanks as a heavy hitting team, aside from Ruth their offense was pretty pedestrian. (Yeah, I know that’s a big thing to aside, but still – their offensive wasn’t as good as you might guess).
23. 1996 92-70 (88). They’re .568 winning percentage is the 62nd best in franchise history. In other words, it was a below average regular season for them. Jeebus.
24. 1962 96-66 (94). They struggled to win as many games as a Stengel-era team despite playing 8 more times. Lucky for them so many of the fast-integrating teams were in the NL.
25. 1943 98-56 (92). With WWII, they had “only” two Hall of Famers in the starting lineup: a 36-year-old Bill Dickey (who played half the season) and Joe Gordon.
26. 2000 87-74 (85). On the bright side, their pythag record was better than the 2006 Cardinal world champs. On the down side, that’s the bright side.
27. 1958 97-62 (96). Here’s a controversial pick, for which my explanation comes in a column I once wrote for THT. Short version: they were great early in the year, but then their pitching went kaput. They were an average team (in the lesser league) the next two months. The pitching problem wasn’t a fluke – it remained an issue all of 1959, causing them to barely finish .500. They didn’t improve until 1960, when a new crop of pitchers developed. At the time of the 1958 World Series, this was just plain and simple not a good team, in the inferior league. The other teams that won were at least good compared to their competition, but in October 1958 I’m not sure I can say that about these Yanks.