Jay Boice and Reuben Fischer-Baum recently released a fascinating interactive infographic that ranks every team's greatest season by FiveThirtyEight's Elo numbers, which are a simplistic rating used to compare franchise over multiple eras and in multiple sports. So, naturally, I wanted to see what the Cleveland Indians' best season was and, naturally, it was a little bit depressing.
According to the Elo ratings, the Indians organization peaked on September 20, 1954, with an Elo rating of 1610 when the Indians won over the Chicago White Sox, 7-4, and pushed themselves to 109-40. 1954 was the season the team finished with a franchise-high 111 wins, a record that still stands to this day. That 1954 squad, lead by Al Rosen, Bob Feller, and Larry Doby all in the twilight years of their careers, went on to be swept in the World Series.
The next closest Indians team, according to Elo, is the 1996 team. The 99-win offensive behemoth in the heart of the Tribe's 90s success, Jim Thome and Albert Belle lead the way with 38 home runs and 48 home runs, respectively. The 1996 Indians did not make it to the World Series, if you recall, they did not even make it out of the first round -- instead, they were defeated by the Baltimore Orioles, three games to one, in the American League Divisional Series as the AL's Wild Card team.
The Indians have a stretch between 1995 and 1997 when they were the best team in baseball, according to Elo, as well as in the early 1920s with teams that featured future Hall of Fame players Tris Speaker, Stan Coveleski, and Joe Sewell.
Also included in the FiveThirtyEight piece is a section on the worst Elo ever recorded, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. Despite success in year's prior, Spiders owners purchased the St. Louis Browns, shipped out all the talent from Cleveland, and left the Spiders as a "sideshow" attraction. It resulted in an Elo rating of 1333.
Indians or not, this is a neat little tool that FiveThirtyEight has put together. Take some time and play around with it; let me know if you find anything else interesting.