Friday, August 24, 2012
Houston, You Have a Problem
The Houston Astros are bad this year, really bad. Entering today, they're at 39-86, easily the worst record in baseball, which works out to a 51-111 record over 162 games. The last team to do that poorly for an entire season was the 2004 Diamondbacks. The thing is, they've just gotten worse as the year has gone, especially after trading away what little they had to offer other teams at the deadline. Over their last 50 games, the Astros' record stands at 7-43.
Every team goes through good patches and bad patches during a season, but 50 games can hardly be called a "patch," and 7-43 goes far beyond what might be considered "bad." I found myself wondering if Houston had ever had a stretch of baseball quite that awful. Before this season, the Astros worst ever 50-game stretch came in at 11-39, so they've cleared that by a pretty good distance.
Once I knew this was well beyond any such stretch of baseball Houston had ever had, I started to look at how this run might stack up against the worst runs in modern baseball history (since 1901, which is when the American League began. The first World Series was played in 1903). It turns out, this current mess of baseball being played by the Houston Astros is tied as the third worst in modern history.
I repeat, THIS IS THE THIRD WORST 50-GAME STRETCH IN MODERN HISTORY.
The only teams to ever lose so many games over that portion of the schedule:
The 1915 Philadelphia Athletics, the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, and the 1937 Philadelphia Athletics
Hooray for the Philadelphia Athletics!!!
The 1937 team had a stretch where it won just 6 of 50 games. The 1916 team though, that was a bunch that knew how to lose, they went just 4-46 over 50 games. In fact, from May 24th and August 8th, they went an incredible 6-63 (so they had a bunch of 4-46, 5-45, and 6-44 stretches in there).
The list goes:
1) 4-46 (1916 Athletics)
2) 6-44 (1937 Athletics)
3) 7-43 (1915 Athletics, 2012 Astros)
5) 8-42 (1902 Giants, 1907 Cardinals, 1923 Braves, 1932 Red Sox, 1943 Athletics, 1949 Senators, 1961 Phillies, 1979 Athletics, 1982 Twins, 1996 Tigers, 2004 Diamondbacks)
Those are the 15 teams with the worst 50-game stretches in modern history. Incredibly, the Athletics are responsible for five of them.
Also, only 3 of these 15 stretches came in the last 30 seasons. Teams just don't seem to lose like they used to.
To support that claim, Here is the worst 50-game from each season so far this century:
2000: 12-38 (Cubs)
2001: 14-36 (Orioles, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Tigers)
2002: 12-38 (Orioles)
2003: 10-40 (Tigers)
2004: 8-42 (Diamondbacks)
2005: 13-37 (Royals)
2006: 12-38 (Royals)
2007: 13-37 (Rays)
2008: 14-36 (Athletics, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates)
2009: 12-38 (Pirates)
2010: 13-37 (Pirates)
2011: 10-40 (Twins)
2012: 7-43 (Astros)
Among all 30 teams, the Rockies have the "best" bad stretch, they've never gone worse than 14-36 over any 50 games. Of course, they've only been around for twenty years, so they have an advantage. The Pirates and Indians share the record for "best" bad stretch among the teams that have been around all the way back to 1901, at 12-38. I was surprised to see those two teams hadn't been worse, considering that Pittsburgh has had the worst stretch in 3 of the last 5 years and Cleveland is riding a 4-21 stretch right now (they're halfway to 8-42!).
Further evidence that losing ain't what it used to be, among the 16 original teams, 9 of them had their worst 50-game stretch at least 80 years ago (the Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Reds, Red Sox, White Sox, and Yankees).
Who knows how bad things will look by the end of the year. Houston could end up losing 30 of its last 37 games and finishing 46-116, which would be the worst record in the National League in fifty years. They could also rebound, win 19 of these last 37 and end up at 58-104, which would still be the worst record in the league, but not historically bad.
In any case, they've already accomplished what no teams but the Philadelphia Athletics ever experienced. A tip of the hat to the 2012 Houston Astros and two months of bad, bad baseball.