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The 10 worst losses by the Royals since they won the World Series

Introducing the LOSER metric

The Boston Red Sox’s Jackie Bradley Jr. scores past the throw to Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez on a triple by Mookie Betts in the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday, July 7, 2018. The Red Sox won, 15-4.
The Boston Red Sox’s Jackie Bradley Jr. scores past the throw to Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez on a triple by Mookie Betts in the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday, July 7, 2018. The Red Sox won, 15-4.
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The 2023 Kansas City Royals have clinched their spot as the worst team in franchise history, equaling the ignominious 2005 squad in on-field ineptitude. That 2005 squad, as did this year’s squad, lost 106 games in a season—a feat we had hoped never to see again. Well, folks, never say never, because that time is now.

This got me, and the Royals Review staff, to thinking: how do we commemorate this, er, achievement? I initially floated the idea of ranking the 106 worst losses of the Dayton Moore and JJ Picollo eras as a joke. Haha, funny!

But, I then thought, hey, that’s a decent idea for a piece. What factors contribute to a loss being one of the worst losses? And what are the worst losses? Unfortunately/fortunately, this won’t be a list of 106 Royals losses. Not only is putting together that list a huge amount of work, but with lists that big everyone just goes down to the top ten or so anyway. Additionally, going all the way back to 2006 is fun for us old-timers, but there are plenty of new Royals fans who won’t understand references to Jimmy Gobble and Tug Hulett.

Here’s what I landed on: the 10 worst losses by the Royals since they won the World Series, an eight-season span of time where the Royals never had a winning season. There’s a lot of crap here. Let’s get to it.


Everybody has something different in mind when it comes to awful losses, and indeed every loss can be awful to some degree. But I wanted to create an objective formula that takes into account a variety of factors. We have dubbed this metric LOSER, which (obviously) stands for LOss Score Estimation Rate.

LOSER takes into account multiple factors. These factors are:

  • Game run differential. Losing by more runs is worse than losing by fewer runs.
  • Loss streak. The longer a losing streak, the worse each successive loss is.
  • Win probability. Fumbling a game that you expect to win stings more than never being in it.
  • Games behind first. The worse a team is, the more each loss weighs on your psyche.
  • Walkoff losses. Losing on the last play of the game is gut-wrenching.
  • Shutout losses. There’s something particularly frustrating about losing and not scoring.

This is the LOSER equation, where the higher the score, the worse of a loss it was. Walkoff losses and shutout losses are flat bonuses, as they are binary and independent of the context that make a game truly awful:

= 2x game differential + 3x loss streak amount + 20x win probability amount over 50% + 0.25x games behind + walkoff bonus + goose egg bonus.


10. June 1, 2018: Royals lose 16-0 to the Athletics

  • LOSER score: 43.6
  • Losing pitcher: Ian Kennedy
  • Games behind: 10.5
  • Loss streak: 1
  • Max win probability: 55%

We’re starting off with a bang, here. Losing 16-0 is pretty, pretty bad. The Athletics struck first, then scored another seven runs in the third inning, and never looked back. Ian Kennedy did not do well. Now, why does this rank so low? Two reasons, really. First, it came after a win. Second, the Royals were never really in it.

9. April 8, 2019: Royals lose 13-5 to the Mariners

  • LOSER score: 44.5
  • Losing Pitcher: Homer Bailey
  • Games behind: 4.5
  • Loss streak: 7
  • Max win probability: 82%

In this particular Battle for Grass Creek, the Royals carried a 4-2 lead into the fifth inning. Then the wheels fell off. The Mariners tied it up in the fifth, scored eight more runs in the sixth, and grabbed an “insurance run” in the eighth. It was the seventh consecutive loss, and the Royals had a win percentage over 80%. Bad. But not the worst.

8. September 2, 2017: Royals lose 17-0 to the Twins

  • LOSER score: 45.1
  • Losing Pitcher: Onelki Garcia
  • Games behind: 12.5
  • Loss streak: 1
  • Max win probability: 50%

Aw man, Onelki Garcia! That’s a throwback. Garcia pitched in five big league games and owns an ERA of 13.50. This game was a big reason—the Twins tagged him for four runs in less than an inning’s work, and that was about it. Andres Machado and Eric Skoglund threw gasoline on the fire, and before you knew it the Twins were just roasting the Royals.

7. July 9, 2018: Royals lose 3-1 to the Twins

  • LOSER score: 45.3
  • Losing Pitcher: Tim Hill
  • Games behind: 24.5
  • Loss streak: 10
  • Max win probability: 76%

How can a game lost only by two runs score so highly in LOSER and be so high up the list? It’s simple: the 2018 sucked and sucked early; they were 24.5 games behind in early July. This game they were on track to win and had a better than three quarters chance to win, carrying a lead into the seventh inning. They blew it, which secured their 10th consecutive loss—rarified air even for a franchise as win-averse as the Royals.

6. July 26, 2016: Royals lose 13-0 to the Angels

  • LOSER score: 45.4
  • Losing Pitcher: Dillon Gee
  • Games behind: 9.5
  • Loss streak: 4
  • Max win probability: 50%

The Angels scored 13 runs in this game and the Royals notched four baserunners (with no extra base hits). Yep, that’s a bad loss. Dillon Gee was the pitcher of record, but he was garden variety bad in this one—five runs in five innings pitched. It was the bullpen that blew this one wide open, with the combination of Chris Young and Chien-Ming Wang combining to give up eight runs in 3.2 innings worth of work. Drew Butera had to close it out. Nasty loss.

5. June 16, 2023: Royals lose 3-0 to the Angels

  • LOSER score: 46.1
  • Losing Pitcher: Brady Singer
  • Games behind: 16.5
  • Loss streak: 10
  • Max win probability: 55%

The only game to appear from this season, this was a bummer of a game. Desperately trying to avoid a 10-game losing streak, the Royals pitched well this game. But, once again, the offense was MIA. They had their chances and blew them, as the Royals managed nine baserunners but brought none of them home. At the end of the day, it was an embarrassing loss to move the losing streak to double-digits.

4. August 28, 2017: Royals lose 12-0 to the Rays

  • LOSER score: 46.5
  • Losing Pitcher: Ian Kennedy
  • Games behind: 10
  • Loss streak: 5
  • Max win probability: 50%

You have to remember: the 2017 Royals still had a chance in August. Before this losing streak began, the Royals had a winning record and were competing for a Wild Card spot. Then they lost four games in a row, and then they lost this one: a 12-0 slaughter where the Royals, on the back of Ian Kennedy, were down 8-0 by the fourth inning.

3. April 18, 2018: Royals lose 15-5 to the Blue Jays

  • LOSER score: 47.6
  • Losing Pitcher: Ian Kennedy
  • Games behind: 6.5
  • Loss streak: 8
  • Max win probability: 60%

Sensing a pitching theme, are we? Yeah, Ian Kennedy was not good. He made a lot of money and pitched in a lot of bad games. This was one of them, where he allowed six runs in his five innings of work. But the real reason this game got out of hand was because of Kevin McCarthy and Justin Grimm, who gave up nine runs in an impressive two innings’ worth of work. Efficiency! Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler hit homers, at least.

2. July 1, 2021: Royals lose 15-1 to the Red Sox

  • LOSER score: 59.6
  • Losing Pitcher: Kris Bubic
  • Games behind: 15
  • Loss streak: 9
  • Max win probability: 54%

There’s something particularly rank about losing and failing to score any runs while you’re at it, which is why I worked in a shutout bonus into the LOSER calculations. But there’s also something that’s darkly amusing about scoring a single run, standing alone against a torrent of darkness. Indeed, the Royals scored their lone run in the ninth inning, which hardly made the 15-0 game which has been going on into something worth remembering.

From a pitching perspective, this one was truly a team effort. Kris Bubic got the loss, but the Royals used five pitchers in this one and all five gave up at least one run. Ervin Santana made an appearance! What a time to be alive.

1. July 7, 2018: Royals lose 15-4 to the Red Sox

  • LOSER score: 59.7
  • Losing Pitcher: Jason Adam
  • Games behind: 24.5
  • Loss streak: 8
  • Max win probability: 88%

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the worst loss by Kansas City since 2015, per the objective LOSER calculation. After losing their seven previous contests, the Royals on July 7 managed to ding David Price for three early runs and carried a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning. At that point, Kansas City boasted an 88% win probability.

But then, bad things happened. Brad Keller’s control vanished, and after a single and a pair of walks the Red Sox scored four runs in the fourth inning. The Royals tied it back up—or, at least, Price tied it up by hitting three batters in the next frame, including Lucas Duda with the bases loaded—but that was all the Royals would get.

Jason Adam was handed the loss when he immediately put two men on in relief of Keller, but somebody named Enny Romero, who you cannot convince me wasn’t a create-a-player character in real life, allowed those inherited runners to score in the seventh inning. But the real damage came from Brandon Maurer, who allowed another four runs in the ninth inning. At that point, Ned Yost waived the white flag and our favorite Drew Butera came in to mop up.

This game had everything: A blowout score, a long loss streak, an awful team just trying to get through the season, a position player pitching, and all this after a three-run lead halfway through.