How they did it: Six teams that turned it around

  • Updated: March 31, 2012 - 11:06 PM

Minnesota Twins starter Jason Marquis helped turn around the 2007 Chicago Cubs.

Photo: Charles Krupa, Associated Press - Ap

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Only six times since the advent of divisional play in 1969 has a team lost as many as 95 games and made the playoffs the following season. A look at how those teams completed their turnaround:


From 65-97 | To: 94-68 (1st in NL West)

The formula: Pitching, pitching and more pitching. Young starters John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery all took huge steps forward, and combined with veteran Charlie Leibrandt to go 67-45. All four pitched at least 210 innings, taking pressure off a so-so bullpen, and none of the four had an ERA over 3.80. The Braves also signed a couple of key free agents to make over the left side of the infield in shortstop Rafael Belliard and third baseman Terry Pendleton, who batted .319 with 22 homers and 86 RBI and was named NL MVP.


From 65-97 | To: 100-62 (1st in NL West)

The formula: The Diamondbacks became the first team to make the playoffs in their second season of existence. Owner Jerry Colangelo opened his wallet, shelling out $118.9 million in free-agent commitments after the inaugural season, almost half of that sum to ace lefthander Randy Johnson. The free agents also included righthander Todd Stottlemyre and center fielder Steve Finley. The Diamondbacks also added leadoff hitter Tony Womack in a spring training trade and closer Matt Mantei in a key July deal.


From 67-95 | To: 88-74 (First in NL Central)

The formula: A new manager, Dusty Baker, the maturation of starting pitchers Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior and Matt Clement and a series of key trades, two of them at the expense of the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs added corner infielders Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek in a preseason deal with the Dodgers, then fleeced the Pirates during the season in trades that brought third baseman Aramis Ramirez, center fielder Kenny Lofton and first baseman Randall Simon.


From: 66-96 | To: 85-77 (1st in NL Central)

The formula: Another new manager, Lou Piniella, a $300 million offseason spending spree and a midseason lineup shuffle all contributed to the Cubs' second turnaround in five seasons. The Cubs spent $136 million on free agent Alfonso Soriano and added infielder Mark DeRosa and pitchers Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis, now a Twin, while also re-signing their own free agent, Aramis Ramirez. The shuffling included moving Soriano from center field to left field, making room in center for ex-Twin Jacque Jones, who batted .285.


From 66-96 | To: 97-65 (1st in AL East)

The formula: Twins deserve some of the credit for this turnaround, sending righthander Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett to the Rays in a deal that brought Delmon Young to the Twins. Bartlett solidified the infield and became team MVP. Garza joined James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson as starters, and the five combined for 64 victories. Veteran closer Troy Percival signed as a free agent and solidified what became a strong bullpen that also included former Twin Grant Balfour.


From 65-97 | To: 94-68 (1st in NL West)

The formula: New GM Kevin Towers provided a clinic on how to remake a bullpen -- the single-biggest reason for Arizona's quick turnaround. Towers signed free agent J.J. Putz to be the closer, and traded for setup man David Hernandez in a deal that sent strikeout-prone Mark Reynolds to the Orioles. Other bullpen additions included Joe Paterson, a 2010 Rule 5 draftee, and Micah Owings, a minor league free agent. Towers also made a wise choice in retaining interim manager Kirk Gibson.


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Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
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