Tuesday, May 14, 2013


...and if you are really good at your old, obscure 70s musical references, you'll have that one all wrapped up before you can even crawl out your window.

But the other reference, guaranteed to be at least 51% pertinent to the ostensible subject of this blog, is to teams that are seriously circling the drain.

We were out front with our friends the Fish (aka the Miami Marlins), whose current record (11-27, .289) projects them to have the 17th worst won-loss record in major league history.

However, the Fishies are not alone. The Houston Astros have found even lower realms in the tank and are currently 10-29. That .256 WPCT projects to be the fifth worst in baseball history.

Fear not, the prospect of two teams finishing with sub-.300 WPCTs in the same season would not be a "first time ever" phenomenon. The accompanying charts which display all of the sub-.350 teams from 1901 to the present show us that it's happened three times before--in 1909, 1911, and 1939.

Just as rare as the sub-.300 daily double is the "hat trick of badness" (at least that's our name for it), where three teams play sub-.350 ball in the same year. Needless to say, we've never had three teams in the same league do this...something like that might just throw the earth off its axis. And, as poorly as the Angels are playing right now, it just doesn't seem likely that they're going to have their wings clipped that badly in '13.

But two sub-.350 teams in the same year used to be a common occurrence. It happened more often than not up until 1939. After baseball's first expansion in 1961, however, it became exceedingly rare, and has only happened five times in the past half-century.

We did get a "hat trick" in 2002, however, when the Brewers, Tigers and (Devil) Rays all slid in under .350.

Green: teams in same year, different leagues
Yellow: teams in same year, same league
Orange: three teams in the same year
Those Astros have a shot to be the first three-peat bad team since the "glory days" of the New York Mets, who actually did it four times in a row from 1962-65.

Other teams that circled the drain for three consecutive seasons: the 1952-54 Pirates, the 1909-11 Boston Braves, the 1910-12 St. Louis Browns, the 1919-21 Philadelphia A's, the 1925-27 Red Sox.

The all-time champ for being buried in the valley, however: the 1938-42 Philadelphia Phillies. The concept of replacement level, which remains a bit thorny, might have its best definition right here. It's possible that the BBWAA put Chuck Klein in the Hall of Fame because he was the only player who was forced to be on all five of these woeful teams (though he did have a respite of sorts in 1939, when he wound with the Pirates for half of that season, and he hardly played in 1941-42).

One who escaped: Bucky Walters. One who didn't: Ike Pearson.

But the rueful joke is that Hugh (Losing Pitcher) Mulcahy volunteered to go into the military service even before Pearl Harbor because doing so was preferable to playing for the Phillies.

We've highlighted a few things in red on the charts. These are: extremes in runs allowed (1000 or more) and runs scored (less than 400); and teams whose actual WPCTs exceeded their Pythagorean percentages (PWP). Teams that play at this level of badness rarely exceed their Pythagorean projection; being this bad usually entails some extra bad luck as well. While this was relative common in the deadball era (about 25% of teams had WPCTs that exceeded their PWPs), it's become scarce [insert hen's teeth reference here] ever since: just over 10% of really bad teams have managed to do since 1920.

All together now: "Stay tuned...."