There is a book about them. It is 1922 St. Louis Browns: Best of the American League's Worst by by Roger A. Godin. But I have not read it and I don't know if it attempted to rank them among all teams in baseball history (I will post something on this tomorrow and it will show that they rank very high).
I started thinking about this when I read about a simulation called the Seamheads Near Miss League at wezen-ball. The Browns did extremely well. Actually, they were an outstanding team statistically.
The Brown's team strikeout-to-walk ratio was about 34% above the league average. That is the 110th best ever in AL & NL history. With well over 2000 team-seasons, that puts them in the top 5%. Their team ERA was about 19% below the league average, good for 195th, still in the top 10%. But their park factor was 108, meaning that they pitched in a somewhat high run environment. They did give up a few more HRs than the average AL team in 1922. They gave up 71 HRs while the average for the other 7 teams was about 65. But their park gave up 91% more HRs than average.
On the hitting side, their team offensive winning percentage of .577, which ranks 191st. Again, that is in the top 10%. OWP is the Bill James stat that tells us if a team had 9 identical hitters and gave up an average number of runs, what would their winning percentage be? Since I used the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, it is park adjusted. So pretty impressive, being in the top 10% in both hitting and pitching.
What happened to them? Why didn't they win the pennant? Using Retrosheet, here are some interesting facts about the 1922 season:
The Browns finished 1 game out, behind the Yankees. But the Browns had a run differential of 224 to the Yankees 140 (of course Ruth missed 44 games, most probably due to his suspension. He also got off to a slow start in May, batting just .190 with 2 HRs in 42 ABs).
The Browns had 256 more hits than their opponents that year, 50 more walks and 27 more HRs. For the Yankees, it was 101-69-25. So the Browns stats look much better.
The Yankees beat the Browns 14 times out of 22 even though the Browns outscored the Yankees 105-100 in those games. It looks like the Yankees won all 8 of the 1-run games between the two teams that year, with 4 in extra innings.
In mid-Sept, the Yankees came to Stl. for the last series between the two teams that year. The Yanks were a half game ahead when the series started and won 2 out of 3. In the last game, the Browns led 2-0 after 7, but NY won it 3-2 with 2 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th. 2 of the 3 runs were unearned as the Browns made 3 errors.
Later, with 2 games for each team left, the Browns were 2 back. But both of them won game 153 and so it was over. But if the Browns had just one more win against NY, they would have been tied with 2 games left.
Udate at 7:43 am central time, 8-11-2009: Chirs Jaffe had a good discusssion of this team last year at October country’s refugees (part 2 of 2)