FanPost

Bad Baseball Teams. A Baseball Constant?

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports


There are various ways of determining what makes for a bad team in baseball. Maybe the most simple description of a bad baseball team is one which fails to win at least 70 games during the 162 season. A team winning only 69 of those games would have a winning percentage of .426 and I see on this Thursday morning of July 13 that eight major league teams are on pace this year to win less than 70 games. The teams are the Rangers (.426), Tigers (.421), Padres (.417), Marlins (.411), Mets (.407), White Sox (.337), Royals (.283), and the Orioles (.277). Has major league baseball ever in its history had so many bad teams at the same time? Is this a new phenomenon easily explained by some tanking "race to the bottom?"

For purposes of this exercise I looked at all major league seasons beginning when the American League was formed in 1901 and I even included the two years of the Federal League and I did a simple count of the number of teams per season which had a winning percentage of .426 or less since not all years had 162 games on the schedule. Also keep in mind that some years had more professional teams than other years with only 16 teams in the majors for a long span of time. Eight current bad teams out of thirty is 26.7% of the teams. It would take about seven bad teams when the majors had 28 or 26 teams to be similar in mediocrity, six teams out of 24, five teams out of 20 or 18, and four teams out of 16. Here are the results in search of similar years with so many bad baseball teams at the same time.

1. Thirty major league teams, eight teams with a winning percentage of .426 or less (21 seasons):

2018. This year.

2001. Steroid era.

2. Twenty-eight major league teams, seven teams with a winning percentage of .426 or less (5 seasons):

Never happened. The most were six in 1993 and that was an expansion year for Colorado and Miami.

3. Twenty-six major league teams, seven teams with a winning percentage of .426 or less (16 seasons):

1977. Two teams were expansion squads that year, being Toronto and Seattle.

4. Twenty-four major league teams, six teams with a winning percentage of .426 or less (10 seasons, 2 of those being the brief Federal League).

1969. Four teams were expansion squads that year, being Kansas City Seattle, Montreal, and San Diego.

5. Twenty major league teams, five teams with a winning percentage of .426 or less (7 seasons).

Never happened. The most were four in 1965, 1964, and 1962. The Mets and Astros were new in 1962.

6. Eighteen major league teams, five teams with a winning percentage of .426 or less (1 season):

Never happened. This one year did have four teams, but the Senators and the Angels were new.

7. Sixteen major league teams with four teams having a winning percentage of .426 or less (58 seasons).

Way back then, some seasons even had five bad teams in the same one year. They were: 1950, 1949, 1948, 1937, 1933, 1931, 1930, 1927, 1919, 1912, 1909, 1906, 1905, 1904, 1902, and 1901.

Another 22 years with sixteen teams had four teams with a winning percentage of .426 or less. They were: 1903, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1913, 1916, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1928, 1932, 1939, 1942, 1944, 1947, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, and 1960.

It appears that having this many bad teams at the same time has been very rare since 1960. Baseball tried several things to help spread talent around with the Bonus Baby Rule instituted in 1947 and the Amateur Draft in 1965. If this season continues with so many mediocre teams compared to league size it will be a rare occasion hardy seen since the 1950's. Another thing that stands out to me is the great number of bad teams compared to the size of the league in the early years of professional baseball. Maybe the "golden days" were tarnished, so I wanted to know what percentage of all professional teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less by decade, with outlier years mentioned:

31.3% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less in 1901, 1902, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1909, 1912, 1919, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1937, 1948, 1949, and 1950--the years five of sixteen teams qualified.

28.8% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1901 to 1910.

26.9% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1921 to 1930.

26.9% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the expansion year of 1977.

26.7% of all teams have a winning percentage of .426 or less this year and had so during the steroid year of 2001.

25.0% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the expansion year of 1969 and that same percentage was true for the 22 years baseball had four teams like that in the sixteen team format.

24.4% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1941 to 1950.

23,8% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1931 to 1940.

21.3% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1951 to 1960.

21.0% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1911 to 1920.

19.7% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 2001 to 2010.

18.8% of all teams had/have a winning percentage of .426 or less during the part decade of 2011 to 2018.

18.5% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1961 to 1970.

17.8% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1971 to 1980.

14.9% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1991 to 2000.

13.1% of all teams had a winning percentage of .426 or less during the decade of 1981 to 1990.

It seems to me that the true "Golden Decade" for baseball based upon most teams being at least competitive was the 1980's and the sport has been going back towards an earlier era since around the mid 1990's. Since we can't expect another Federal League like the 1911 to 1920 decade had for a couple of years, current baseball most resembles the 1951 to 1970 span as far as competitive balance is concerned, but that era still had no free agency and the amateur draft had only been introduced in the middle of the 1960's. Maybe Manfred wants it that way but I feel that too many bad teams are not good for our sport.

No season in baseball has ever had all teams with a winning percentage of over .426, but the 1925 and the 1958 years each only had one team fail that mark. At least one bad team is a baseball constant, but having a large number in the mediocre category does not happen all that often.

I hope the 2018 season is just an aberration and that all teams in the future become competitive. I don't think that this season can be explained by "tanking" as I suspect that baseball has been heading away from parity for about twenty or so years for a variety of reasons. Somebody write to those in charge of baseball that the 1950's were not really the good old days. I know, since I suffered back then with the local Athletics and I never want that to happen again for the people in this community.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.