Atlanta Eyes a Milestone (of sorts) in 2006

While numbers can be used quite effectively to analyze baseball, sometimes numbers can entertain also. That’s where the 2006 Atlanta Braves come into play.
The Braves are one of baseball’s oldest franchises. They are also, recent success notwithstanding, one of baseball’s most spectacularly bad franchises as well.
According to the uber-site Baseball Reference, the Braves’ history stretches back to the dawn of organized baseball in 1876. That season, the Boston Red Capes of the National League went 39-31 and finished fourth in the National League. The National League team of Boston would be fairly successful for the remainder of the nineteenth century, winning the NL eight times between 1877 and 1898.
But by the time they became the Braves in 1912, those days of success were long behind them. 1912 was in fact the fourth season in a row the Braves would lose 100 games or more and the sixth out of the last eight. In 1904, 1907, and 1908, the team lost 98, 90, and 91 games respectively. The Braves were well on their way to becoming the laughingstock of baseball as their attendance bottomed out at just 1532 fans a game in 1912. Their cross-town rivals, meanwhile, captured a World Series title and saw 7,655 fans a game fill the seats of the new Fenway Park.
Nowadays, that failed Atlanta team seems like a relic of the past. These Braves have been in first place for every year (except the strike-shortened 1994) since the waning days of George HW Bush’s presidency.
During that time, they’ve won more games than anyone else in Major League Baseball, putting up a record of 1431-931, an astounding 500 games over .500.
But for all of this recent success, the Atlanta Braves franchise, stretching back to the end of Reconstruction, does not own a record over .500. Following their 90-win 2005 campaign, the Atlanta Braves are 9533-9556, good for a .499 winning percentage.
If the Braves win 93 games or more in 2005, they will end a season with a franchise record over .500 for the first time 1922. For all of their recent successes, the Braves are still just a historically average franchise.
(Postscript: If you look at the Braves from 1903 – the dawn of the World Series – onward, the team needs to replicate its past 14 years to approach .500. Since 1903, the Atlanta Braves, the most dominant division team of the last 15 seasons, is 543 games under .500. You gotta love baseball history.)

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