The Best Baseball Teams of All-Time [Who do you think is #1?]

In this post we showcase the top ten best baseball teams in history based on an objective metric known as run differential.

This list of legendary teams goes as far back as 1902 and includes teams as recent as the 21st century.

Keep on scrolling to see more...

best baseball teams of all time

Baseball's Top Teams - How We Made Our Picks

There's no shortage of opinions on who earns the title of the best baseball team in history. 

Of course, these discussions are all subjective. There's no right or wrong answer.

In light of the long and rich history of the game, we didn't even begin to feel up to the task of picking the top all time MLB team without using some objective measurement to make our determinations.

And there are a lot of different metrics for team value that can be used. 

We landed on using run differential. This is the difference between a team's total runs scored in a season minus runs given up (runs scored - runs allowed = run differential). 

Run differential is typically a great indicator of team value. The higher the run differential, the greater the probability of team wins.

Accordingly, this article investigates the run differential of every professional baseball team since 1900 and ranks them based on the team with the highest differential. This forms the basis of our list of the top all-time baseball teams.

Keep reading to see the top 10 teams!


The Best Baseball Teams in History, Based on Run Differential

10. 1942 New York Yankees (+294 run differential)

1942 new york yankees team picture

  • Top Player on the 1942 Yankees: Joe Gordon, 7.7 WAR


The '42 New York Yankees easily won the AL Pennant under the leadership of Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy. 

Second baseman Joe Gordon had an impressive run with a .322/.409/.491 slash line, and he claimed AL MVP honors that season. The pitching staff was led by Tiny Bonham, who had a career year in 1942 with 21 wins and a 2.27 ERA. 

Despite the strong year and high run differential, the Yankees fell in the World Series to one of the best St. Louis Cardinals teams of all time.


9. 2001 Seattle Mariners (+300 run differential)

ichiro and the 2001 seattle mariners

  • Top Player on the 2001 Mariners: Bret Boone, 8.8 WAR


Arguably the best team so far in the 21st century, the 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs with the most regular season wins in MLB history (116). 

It was Ichiro's first year in the majors and he broke into the league with a vengeance. He hit .350, collected 242 hits, and won both Rookie of the Year and AL MVP honors. 

In addition to Ichiro, guys like Brett Boone, John Olerud, Mike Cameron and Edgar Martinez had strong offensive campaigns while Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer led the pitching staff with a combined 38 wins between the two.

Although Seattle had a remarkable regular season in 2001, their magic ended in the ALCS at the hands of the reigning World Series champs, the New York Yankees.


8. 1931 New York Yankees (+307 run differential)

ruth gehrig mccarthy 1931 yankees

  • Top Player on the 1931 Yankees: Babe Ruth, 10.5 WAR


The 1931 Yankees were an interesting team. 

On the one hand, they were dominant, scoring 1,067 runs in 1931 which is still a record. Their starting lineup was stacked with guys like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and catcher Bill Dickey

Yet on the other hand, they didn't win the World Series or the AL Pennant, finishing nearly 14 games back on the Philadelphia Athletics. They lost a large number of one-run games, and their starting pitching was good but not great (save for a young pitcher named Lefty Gomez). 

The '31 Yankees will always be remembered for their feast-or-famine season. When they beat you, you got crushed, and often by many runs. At the end of the day, however, they couldn't win enough games to surpass their talented foes in Philly. 


7. 1937 New York Yankees (+308 run differential)

Lou Gehrig during the 1937 world series

  • Top Player on the 1937 Yankees: Lefty Gomez, 9.0 WAR


The Yankees in 1937 were led by Joe DiMaggio (46 home runs, 147 RBIs), Lou Gehrig (37 home runs, 158 RBIs) and Bill Dickey (29 home runs, 133 RBIs), among others. 

Having three starters with more than 130 RBIs in a season underlines the fact that this Yankees team could really put up some runs.

On the mound, pitchers Left Gomez and Red Ruffing combined for 41 wins and 325 strike outs that year. 

The '37 Yankees rolled to 102 regular season wins and a World Series championship over the New York Giants.


6. 1998 New York Yankees (+309 run differential)

1998 world series champion new york yankees

  • Top Player on the 1998 Yankees: Derek Jeter, 7.5 WAR


The New York Yankees were a force to be reckoned with throughout the 1998 season. Their record in the regular season was 114-48 (.704) and they continued rolling throughout the playoffs, sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series in four straight games. 

The Yankees had five AL all-stars in 1998, and the team was stacked with incredible offense and strong pitching. 

Some of the top performers that season were Derek Jeter (.324/.384/.481), Paul O'Neill (.317/.372/.510), Bernie Williams (.339/.422/.575), David Cone (20-7 record) and Mariano Rivera (36 saves, 1.91 ERA), just to name a few.


5. 1906 Chicago Cubs (+323 run differential)

1906 chicago cubs

  • Top Player on the 1906 Cubs: Mordecai Brown, 7.4 WAR


The most dominant team in Chicago Cubs history played in 1906. That club won a record 116 regular season games, only matched by the 2001 Seattle Mariners. Unlike the Mariners, the Cubs reached 116 wins in only 155 games.

Stars of the 1906 Cubs included player-manager Frank Chance (.319/.419/.430) and Harry Steinfeldt (.327/.395/.430), as well as pitchers Mordecai Brown (26-6) and Jack Pfiester (20-8). Additionally, the 6-4-3 double play combination of 'Tinker to Evers to Chance' was one of the most memorable in the game's history.

Despite their record season, the Cubs dropped the 1906 World Series to their cross-town rivals, the Chicago White Sox. However, the Cubs would go on to win the World Series the following two seasons.


4. 1936 New York Yankees (+334 run differential)

yankees infield in 1936

  • Top Player on the 1936 Yankees: Lou Gehrig, 9.7 WAR


The Yankees entered the 1936 season having missed the World Series for the past three years. That was a big deal for a franchise that had gotten so used to winning.

The 1936 season would prove to be different. 

Legendary First Baseman Lou Gehrig was in his prime, and he crushed 49 homers and collected 152 RBIs on his way to winning the 1936 AL MVP. There was also a new rookie named Joe DiMaggio who made a splash in the big apple, collecting 206 hits with a .323/.352/.576 slash line.

The Yankees' pitching in '36 was similarly impressive. They had two Hall of Famers in the starting rotation, and all in the rotation racked up double digit victories. 

The high scoring 1936 Yankees would break their World Series drought with a 4-2 Series victory over the New York Giants.


3. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (+335 run differential)

honus wagner of the 1902 pittsburgh pirates

  • Top Player on the 1902 Pirates: Honus Wagner, 7.3 WAR


The Pittsburgh Pirates dominated the National League in 1902 on their way to a second consecutive pennant (note: the World Series wasn't established yet). 

They were so good that year that they finished 27.5 games ahead of the second place Brooklyn Superbas. Also, the top four run scorers in the National League that season were all Pirates! 

One of the stars of the 1902 team was Ginger Beaumont, the Pirates' outfielder who won the batting title with a .357 average. Hall of Famer Honus Wagner also had a strong season as he led the league in a number of categories including runs (105), doubles (30), RBIs (91), stolen bases (42), and more.

On the mound, the Pirates had three starters with 20 plus wins in 1902. Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro led the pitching staff with a 28-6 record and 136 strikeouts. Pitcher Jesse Tannehill led the staff with a 1.95 ERA, and he also had a .291 batting average that year - not bad!


2. 1927 New York Yankees (+376 run differential)

babe ruth and lou gehrig

  • Top Player on the 1927 Yankees: Babe Ruth, 12.6 WAR


Arguably the greatest collection of talent on a baseball team in the history of the game was the 1927 New York Yankees. That team won 110 games during a time when MLB clubs only played 154 games in a season (versus the current 162 games). 

The Yankees in 1927 were absolutely dominant. Joe Judge, first baseman for the Washington Senators said about them: "Those fellows not only beat you but they tear your heart out.” 

The first six batters in the Yankees’ lineup were so good that they were known as “Murderer’s Row”. It’s easy to see why. Four of their everyday players are now in the Hall of Fame (Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Combs), and four of them collected more than 100 RBIs each that season. 

In 1927, baseball legend Babe Ruth smashed a record 60 home runs. Only three entire MLB teams hit more home runs than Ruth did that season!

Ruth was not the only Yankees player to have a great season in 1927. Lou Gehrig won AL MVP honors for leading the AL with 52 doubles, 173 RBIs and 447 total bases. Earle Combs led the league in hits (231) and triples (23). Waite Hoyt led all AL pitchers in wins (22) and win-loss percentage (.759).

The Yankees continued their winning ways in the 1927 World Series by crushing the Pittsburgh Pirates in four straight games.


1. 1939 New York Yankees (+411 run differential)

joe dimaggio hitting in 1939

  • Top Player on the 1939 Yankees: Joe DiMaggio, 8.3 WAR


The best baseball team of all-time based on run differential was the 1939 New York Yankees, who amassed an incredible +411 run differential that season. This was a “quietly great” baseball team composed of future Hall of Famers, under-rated rookies and veterans and role players who excelled that season.

The 1939 Yankees went 106-45-1 during the regular season. This team was loaded with talent. Case-in-point: 6 of the 9 starters for the AL in the 1939 all-star game played for the Yankees!

The ‘39 team was led by the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, who hit .381/.448/.671 with 30 home runs and 126 RBIs on his way to winning the AL MVP award. Three other players had more than 20 home runs and 100 RBIs (Dickey, Gordon, Selkirk), and infielder Red Rolfe led the majors with 213 hits and led the AL with 139 runs and 46 doubles. 

The ‘39 Yankees were not only an offensive juggernaut that could put up runs but they were also good at keeping runs off the scoreboard. As an example, Yankees infielder Frank Crosetti led the major leagues in defensive WAR (dWAR) in 1939 with a 3.0 dWAR. Yankee pitchers led the league in win-loss percentage (Donald, .813), shutouts (Ruffing, 5), saves (Murphy, 19) and win probability added, or WPA (Ruffing, 5.9).

The Yankees continued rolling in the 1939 World Series by sweeping the Cincinnati Reds. It was a Series in which the Yankees outscored the Reds 20 - 8. 


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Scott Perry is the owner and lead author at Catchers Home. He's a former baseball player, a current coach, a husband and a Dad. He remains as passionate about baseball today as he was as a kid.