Sunday, October 6, 2013

Worst 3-season stretches in baseball history

Entering 2011, the Houston Astros had never lost more than 97 games in a season. The Angels were the only other franchise that could say that. In 2011 though, Houston lost 106 games... then they lost 107 games in 2012... and then they lost 111 in 2013. They went from having one of the most impressive track records in all of baseball for avoiding really bad seasons, to putting together one of the worst stretches ever.

This is Part 3 in my look at the worst records in modern history. The first entry looked at single-season losing, while the second looked at back-to-back ineptitude.

Notes: 1901 is the starting point for all of that data. That's the year the American League began playing, and is often seen as the start of the modern era. Many teams played in different cities and/or under different names at other times in history. I've made note of such things where applicable. The sixteen "original" teams (the teams that played in 1901) are starred in the chart below, other franchises are listed with their first year of play. 

Each franchise's worst winning % over 3-consecutive seasons:


Team
Seasons
W-L (W%)
Played As
Baltimore Orioles*
1937-39
144-316 (.313)
St. Louis Browns
Boston Red Sox*
1925-27
144-315 (.314)

Chicago White Sox*
1930-32
167-291 (.365)

Cleveland Indians*
1914-16
185-274 (.403)
Cleveland Naps/Indians
Detroit Tigers*
2001-03
164-321 (.338)

Houston Astros (1962)
2011-13
162-324 (.333)

Kansas City Royals (1969)
2004-06
176-310 (.362)

Los Angeles Angels (1961)
1992-94
190-249 (.433)
California Angels
Minnesota Twins*
1903-05
145-294 (.330)
Washington Senators
New York Yankees*
1912-14
177-280 (.387)
New York Highlanders/Yankees
Oakland Athletics*
1915-17
134-324 (.293)
Philadelphia Athletics
Seattle Mariners (1977)
1978-80
182-302 (.376)

Tampa Bay Rays (1998)
2001-03
180-305 (.371)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Texas Rangers (1961)
1961-63
177-307 (.366)
Washington Senators
Toronto Blue Jays (1977)
1977-79
166-318 (.343)

Arizona Diamondbacks (1998)
2004-06
204-282 (.420)

Atlanta Braves*
1909-11
142-315 (.311)
Boston Doves/Rustlers
Chicago Cubs*
1960-62
183-287 (.389)

Cincinnati Reds*
1932-34
170-287 (.372)

Colorado Rockies (1993)
2003-05
209-277 (.430)

Los Angeles Dodgers*
1904-06
170-287 (.372)
Brooklyn Superbas
Miami Marlins (1993)
1998-00
197-288 (.406)
Florida Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers (1969)
2001-03
192-294 (.395)

New York Mets (1962)
1962-64
144-340 (.298)

Philadelphia Phillies*
1940-42
135-323 (.295)

Pittsburgh Pirates*
1952-54
145-317 (.314)

San Diego Padres (1969)
1969-71
176-309 (.363)

San Francisco Giants*
1983-85
207-279 (.426)

St. Louis Cardinals*
1906-08
153-304 (.335)

Washington Nationals (1969)
2008-10
187-298 (.386)



The Angels are not only the one franchise that's never lost more than 95 games, they also have the 'best' worst 3-year stretch. The Rockies are tops in the National League, though they've only been around for 21 years, giving them something of an advantage. Among the sixteen franchises who've been around since at least 1901, the Giants have the best bad mark. Among the eight original American League franchises, the Indians are the only one never to lose 60% of their games over a 3-year stretch.

Worst 3-season stretches (1901-2013):


Rank
Seasons
Team
W-L (W%)
20
2011-13
Houston Astros
162-324 (.333)
19
1926-28
Philadelphia Phillies
152-305 (.333)
18
1937-39
Philadelphia Phillies
151-303 (.333)
17
1903-05
Washington Senators (Twins)
145-294 (.333)
16
1916-18
Philadelphia Athletics
143-291 (.330)
15
1910-12
Boston Doves/Rusters/Braves
149-308 (.326)
14
1941-43
Philadelphia Phillies
149-310 (.325)
13
1918-20
Philadelphia Athletics
136-286 (.322)
12
1963-65
New York Mets
154-332 (.317)
11
1910-12
St. Louis Browns (Orioles)
145-315 (.315)
10
1952-54
Pittsburgh Pirates
145-317 (.314)
09
1925-27
Boston Red Sox
144-315 (.314)
08
1937-39
St. Louis Browns (Orioles)
144-316 (.313)
07
1909-11
Boston Doves/Rustlers (Braves)
142-315 (.311)
06
1938-40
Philadelphia Phillies
140-314 (.308)
05
1919-21
Philadelphia Athletics
137-310 (.307)
04
1939-41
Philadelphia Phillies
138-320 (.301)
03
1962-64
New York Mets
144-340 (.298)
02
1940-42
Philadelphia Phillies
135-323 (.295)
01
1915-17
Philadelphia Athletics
134-324 (.293)

Baseball in Philadelphia was a sad, sad thing for much of baseball history.

Of those, the 20 worst 3-year marks in modern history, 19 of them began more than 50 years ago. Then there are the 2011-2013 Astros. With so many more teams than there used to be (the Mets had just become one of the first expansion teams when they put up the awful seasons shown above), I think it's harder for any one team to lose as prodigiously as they used to. It's certainly harder to stay quite that bad. The Astros have found a way though.

Worst 3-season stretches of expansion era (1961-2013):


Rank
Seasons
Teams
W-L (W%)
10
1965-67
New York Mets
177-308 (.365)
09
1969-71
San Diego Padres
176-309 (.363)
08
2004-06
Kansas City Royals
176-310 (.362)
07
2002-04
Detroit Tigers
170-315 (.351)
06
1964-66
New York Mets
1169-316 (.349)
05
1977-79
Toronto Blue Jays
166-318 (.343)
04
2001-03
Detroit Tigers
164-321 (.338)
03
2011-13
Houston Astros
162-324 (.333)
02
1963-65
New York Mets
154-332 (.317)
01
1962-64
New York Mets
144-340 (.298)

It's interesting to me that none of these stretches took place in the 1980s or 1990s. In fact, you have to go all the way down (up?) to the 109th-worst 3-season stretch in modern history to find one contained within those years, which was the 1988-90 Atlanta Braves, who went 182-300 (.378).

Finally, not only did the Astros lose 100+ games in three consecutive seasons (which those 2006-06 Royals also managed), they also finished with the absolute worst record in MLB each of those years, which is even more rare.

Worst record in MLB in 3+ consecutive seasons:


1925, 1926, and 1927*: Boston Red Sox
1940, 1941, and 1942: Philadelphia Phillies
1957, 1958, and 1959: Washington Senators (Twins)
1962, 1963, 1964, and 1965: New York Mets
2011, 2012, 2013: Houston Astros

*tied for worst record

The Astros are the first team since those early Mets to finish with the worst record in three consecutive seasons, and while I think the franchise is headed in the right direction, doing a nice job of righting the ship, I don't think 2014 is the year we really see those dividends pay off, so they've got a decent shot at joining those same Mets as the only teams in history to finish all the way at the bottom four years in a row. In the final entry of this series (sometime in the not so distant future), I'll look at the worst four-year runs ever, and see what kind of company the Astros will be fighting to avoid.

1 comment:

  1. Kurt Penberg won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS.

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