Thursday, 30 August 2018

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Image result for baseball images faceplant

As summer transitions to fall, the days are shorter and shorter (and soon, we will be returning home from work in the dark), and the kids settle back into their school routine, the inevitable real end of the seasons approaches.

Saturday is the first of September. For baseball fans, September is a key point where the pretenders (which is most of the teams) bring their minor league prospects up for the traditional cup of coffee, and the "wait til next year" chorus begins warming up.

I am a Toronto Blue Jays fan, and 2018 has been another pretty dismal season. The team has played poorly, and worse still, has a roster stocked with an admixture of non-prospects, nobodies, and has-beens. 

No; that's not really fair, their "has beens" largely never really were much to begin with (Kendrys Morales?) Losing with a roster of young players at least offers some level of excitement. One (or more) of those guys at some point might be a star on a contending team.

The 2018 Blue Jays are losing with the oldest roster in the major leagues.

So, they are going to lose more than 90 games this year; and in all likelihood, the team will actually be worse in 2019.

In March, I thought that the team would possibly be historically awful - the Blue Jays have not lost 100 games in a season in 40 years. A "hot" start (they won 13 of their first 19 games, and were briefly in first before reality came around) made that unlikely. 

So the Blue Jays will have to settle for an unremarkably poor season - the sort that Toronto fans have come to expect over the past quarter century.

But 2018 has provided something interesting that has, as far as I know, gone un-noticed.

While this Toronto team is going to go down as yet another forgettable bunch, the Baltimore Orioles of 2018 actually can reach a level of futility for the ages.

There are, of course, many ways to answer the question. Worst, cumulatively? The most losses in a single season? Winning percentage? Who finished the furthest down in the standings.

When talking about terrible teams, you almost have start with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies were the first team in all of professional sport to amass 10,000 losses, which they accomplished in 2007. But to be fair, they’ve been in the National League continuously since 1876, so of course, they have had a lot more opportunity to lose than, say, the New York Mets (born in 1962).

They Phillies have been joined by the Cubs, Pirates, and and Braves in the 10,000 loss club.

The St Louis Browns from 1901–1953 racked up a record of 3462–4554 (.431), which translates to a 162 game average of 92 losses per season. The Browns lost more than 90 games on average every season they existed. In their 53 years in St Louis, they appeared in the World Series exactly once (in 1944 during the War when man of the top players were off in the Army). Only 3 other times did they finish less than 10 games out.

The Browns were an epically horrible team - and it's worth noting, the predecessors to the Baltimore Orioles, having moved in 1953 from St Louis to Baltimore.

The Kansas City Athletics were in KC for only 13 forgettable seasons, and in that time produced no winning seasons. The “best” record they produced (1958) saw the team win 73 and lose 81 games. They still finished 19 games out of first. Four of their 13 seasons saw the team lose more than 100 games (and for half of those, the season was only 154 games long).

In terms of single-seasons, there are of course the 1962 Mets (40–120) and 2003 Detroit Tigers (43–119) have posted the most losses in a single season.

By percentage, the 1916 Philadelphia As (36–117, .235) and 1935 Boston Braves (38–115, .248) are the only two teams to lose more than 3/4 of their games in a season.

By games behind, the 1909 Braves (65), 1939 Browns (64) and 1932 Red Sox (64) have finished the  furthest out.

So what then, does that mean for the Baltimore Orioles?

In 2018, as of today (29 August) the Baltimore Orioles stand at 39–94 (.293), and 52 games behind the Red Sox. At this pace, the Orioles will finish with a record of 47–115.

47 wins and 115 losses is a terrible record, but does not pose serious risk to the records of the Mets (total losses) or Athletics (worst winning percentage). 

Projecting their position in the standings, however, over 162 games, the Orioles are on pace to end the year 63 games out of first place. They are in a position to challenge that record.

With a little bit of luck, the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 can set the major league record for most games out of first place in the modern era.

The 2018 Orioles are within reach of a season of historical importance. Baltimore fans, it seems, do have something to be cheering for.