The worst of the worst

No team since 1961 has been more inept than the 10 on this (dis)honor roll

I have been guilty — once again — of focusing on the first half of this blog’s title.

Recent entries have dealt with the best players and clubs in a variety of categories — among them, the all-time great pitcher Sandy Koufax, the current batters and pitchers who are nearing historic milestones, the greatest players of the 21st century, and the continuing team-by-team series of stories about retired numbers.

But, in the process, I’ve forgotten about the second half of the title, the “(and Worst)” part.

So here’s a compensating entry — a look at the 10 worst clubs since the beginning of the Expansion Era in 1961.

These ratings encompass all 1,596 teams that took the diamond over the past 60 seasons. They’re based on my team score (TS) formula, which allows direct comparisons of clubs from different seasons.

The formula gives equal weight to four factors: winning percentage, the differential between runs scored and allowed per game, the differential between bases per out (BPO) attained by batters and allowed by pitchers, and postseason success. It generates a score for each club on a 100-point scale, which is equalized from year to year. That means it’s possible to say that a 1965 club with a TS of 85 was better than a 2015 team with a score of 83.

Or, in this case, it can be asserted that a team with a TS of 5 was worse than another with a score of 7, though both were very, very, very bad.

The Detroit Tigers and New York Mets have the dishonor of placing three clubs apiece on the following list of the Expansion Era’s worst teams, which are listed below, starting with the very worst of all.

These 10 clubs accumulated a collective record of 511 wins and 1,098 losses. Each team suffered 103 or more defeats, finished at least 30 games out of first place, and was outscored by an average of more than 1.1 runs per game.

That’s awful by anyone’s definition.


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1. Detroit Tigers (1996)

  • Team score: 5.197 points

  • Quality rank: 1,596 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 53-109 (.327)

  • Games behind: 39.0 in AL East

  • Runs per game: 4.83 for vs. 6.81 against

  • BPO: .701 for vs. .902 against

  • Year to forget: Right fielder Melvin Nieves struck out 158 times, yet managed only 106 hits. Pitcher Greg Gohr was saddled with a 7.17 ERA in 16 starts.

  • Key negative fact: The Tigers posted a pair of four-win months. They went 4-23 in May, then virtually duplicated their frustration with a 4-22 mark in September.

2. Detroit Tigers (2003)

  • Team score: 7.040 points

  • Quality rank: 1,595 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 43-119 (.265)

  • Games behind: 47.0 in AL Central

  • Runs per game: 3.65 for vs. 5.73 against

  • BPO: .619 for vs. .791 against

  • Year to forget: Center fielder Alex Sanchez drove only 22 runs home in 423 plate appearances. Pitcher Mike Maroth lost 21 games, while fellow starter Jeremy Bonderman lost 19.

  • Key negative fact: The Tigers lost 40 games by at least five runs. Detroit pitchers surrendered 10 or more runs on 21 occasions.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (2010)

  • Team score: 7.550 points

  • Quality rank: 1,594 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 57-105 (.352)

  • Games behind: 34.0 in NL Central

  • Runs per game: 3.62 for vs. 5.35 against

  • BPO: .620 for vs. .787 against

  • Year to forget: Shortstop Ronny Cedeno had a dismal .293 on-base percentage in 139 games and also made 18 errors, the most of any Pirate. Starting pitcher Charlie Morton went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA.

  • Key negative fact: It was a long, dismal summer for the Pirates. They went 23-57 between June 1 and August 31.

4. New York Mets (1963)

  • Team score: 8.162 points

  • Quality rank: 1,593 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 51-111 (.315)

  • Games behind: 48.0 in NL

  • Runs per game: 3.09 for vs. 4.78 against

  • BPO: .524 for vs. .690 against

  • Year to forget: Shortstop Al Moran batted .193 with just one home run in 119 games. He also committed 27 errors. Starting pitcher Roger Craig went 5-22.

  • Key negative fact: The Mets were shut out 30 times in 1963, and they scored a single run in another 21 games.

5. Detroit Tigers (1989)

  • Team score: 8.859 points

  • Quality rank: 1,592 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 59-103 (.364)

  • Games behind: 30.0 in AL East

  • Runs per game: 3.81 for vs. 5.04 against

  • BPO: .619 for vs. .748 against

  • Year to forget: Starting pitcher Doyle Alexander posted a 6-18 record in the final season of a 19-year career. Infielder Doug Strange committed 19 errors in just 62 games.

  • Key negative fact: The Tigers pulled themselves up to a somewhat respectable 22-28 record on May 31, but then the bottom fell out. They lost 39 of the next 53 games to plummet to 36-67 by the end of July.

6. Philadelphia Phillies (1961)

  • Team score: 8.887 points

  • Quality rank: 1,591 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 47-107 (.305)

  • Games behind: 46.0 in NL

  • Runs per game: 3.77 for vs. 5.14 against

  • BPO: .606 for vs. .724 against

  • Year to forget: Catcher Clay Dalrymple batted only .220 in 129 games. Starting pitchers Art Mahaffey and John Buzhardt suffered 19 and 18 losses, respectively.

  • Key negative fact: The Phillies beat the Giants 4-3 on July 28, but didn’t win another game for more than three weeks. Their losing streak reached 23 before they defeated the Braves on August 20.

7. New York Mets (1965)

  • Team score: 9.282 points

  • Quality rank: 1,590 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 50-112 (.309)

  • Games behind: 47.0 in NL

  • Runs per game: 3.02 for vs. 4.59 against

  • BPO: .520 for vs. .680 against

  • Year to forget: Shortstop Roy McMillan was surehanded in his prime, but he committed 27 errors at age 35. Starter Jack Fisher was saddled with 24 losses despite an ERA of only 3.94.

  • Key negative fact: The Mets lost 32 games by one run, but they were blown out by margins of five runs or more in another 32 contests.

8. Baltimore Orioles (1988)

  • Team score: 9.850 points

  • Quality rank: 1,589 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 54-107 (.335)

  • Games behind: 34.5 in AL East

  • Runs per game: 3.42 for vs. 4.90 against

  • BPO: .601 for vs. .725 against

  • Year to forget: Second baseman Billy Ripken managed only two homers and a .207 batting average in 150 games. Starting pitcher Jay Tibbs went 4-15 with a 5.39 ERA.

  • Key negative fact: The season was over for the Orioles before it began. They lost their first 21 games. The composite score for the losing streak was Opponents 129, Baltimore 44.

9. Cleveland Indians (1991)

  • Team score: 9.976 points

  • Quality rank: 1,588 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 57-105 (.352)

  • Games behind: 34.0 in AL East

  • Runs per game: 3.56 for vs. 4.69 against

  • BPO: .592 for vs. .674 against

  • Year to forget: Designated hitter Chris James drove home only 41 runs in 463 plate appearances. Starter Greg Swindell finished with a 9-16 record.

  • Key negative fact: The Indians were outscored 261-165 in June and July. Their collective record for the two months was 16-39.

10. New York Mets (1962)

  • Team score: 10.038 points

  • Quality rank: 1,587 (of 1,596 clubs since 1961)

  • W-L record: 40-120 (.250)

  • Games behind: 60.5 in NL

  • Runs per game: 3.83 for vs. 5.89 against

  • BPO: .628 for vs. .771 against

  • Year to forget: The pitching staff was anchored by a pair of 20-game losers: Roger Craig with 24 and Al Jackson with 20. Utility man Rod Kanehl made 32 errors in 112 games.

  • Key negative fact: Mets pitchers gave up at least 10 runs in 23 games — and eight or nine runs in another 22 games. The team’s mark in those contests was 2-43.