The worst teams in baseball from 2010-19
In baseball, there are good teams, bad teams, and horrible teams. Then some teams are so bad they make fans wonder, what if Major League Baseball (MLB) had relegation like the Premier League.
Seeing how the 2020 MLB season is just around the corner (fingers crossed) let’s take a look back on the worst team from 2010-2019 and list them according to their run differential (Run differential is calculated by subtracting runs allowed from runs scored.)
2010: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates started off the decade by winning a measly 57 games while dropping a whopping 105 (don’t worry, that’s not even close to the MLB record of 134 set by the Cleveland Spiders in 1899). But still, 105 is bad.
Future National League (NL) MVP, Andrew McCutchen patrolled the outfield but was still one year away from his first All-Star appearance. First baseman Garrett Jones led the team in home runs with 21, and McCutchen was first in hits, with 163. Jones was the team’s offensive MVP, statistically speaking, which says a lot about the team. Pittsburgh’s run differential was an astonishing -279, nearly 100 runs more than the next closest team.
If you thought hitting was a problem for the Pirates, their pitching was lending no help in attempting to erase the franchise’s then 18-year playoff drought. No starting pitcher finished the season with a winning record. Brian Burres came close, going 4-5 in 13 games started; but he was mostly a spot starter when an injury occurred to a starting pitcher. TWO starting pitchers finished with 15 losses, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke. Maholm would be out of baseball by 2015, but Duke won’t seem to quit, and as recently as last season suited up for the Cincinnati Reds.
2011: Houston Astros
In 2011, the NL Central once again claimed the title of having the worst team in baseball, only this time, it was the Houston Astros (Yes, they played in the NL Central, gasp.) Houston clawed their way to 56 wins and lost 106 games, which is tied for 43rd most losses in a season.
Houston’s best hitter came in the form of a 35-year-old, overweight outfielder, Carlos Lee. The Panamanian “clubbed” 18 homers that season, seven more than the next person, and also led the team with 94 runs batted in (RBI). The next best offensive player, a young Hunter Pence, hit 11 homers and drove in 64 runs. The team’s run differential was -181.
When a team’s closer has the second-most wins, that’s a big problem. While he saved 20 games in 2011, Mark Melancon also managed to pick up eight victories. Lefty starter, Wandy Rodriguez led the team with 11 wins and was the only starter to finish with a .500 record. Not a single pitcher threw a shutout that season. Brett Myers was the only one who managed to pitch a complete game, and for his efforts, Myers finished 7-14.
2012: Houston Astros
The 2010s were a mixed bag for the NL Central. Two teams won the World Series in the decade, the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, and the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year drought by winning it all in 2015. But for the first three seasons of the decade, the worst team in baseball resided in the division.
The Astros followed up their abysmal 2011 season, with an even worse one in 2012. Once again, they won fewer games than the previous season, this team finishing 55-107, tied for 33rd worst ever finish. Brad Mills, who had managed the team in 2010 and 2011, was fired 121 games into the season.
Journeyman Justin Maxwell led the team in homers with 18. Maxwell’s three previous homer run totals combined did not even equal 18, and never again would he hit more than seven in a season. And the guy that led the team in RBI’s? A young outfielder named J.D. Martinez, who would go on to appear in three all-star games, and receive votes in the MVP race four times, while winning the 2018 World Series with the Boston Red Sox.
While Martinez and Maxwell led the team on offense, Lucas Harrell in his first full season in the big leagues led Houston with 11 wins. Harrell also happened to be the only pitcher to finish with a .500 record. Future AL Cy Young award winner, Dallas Kuechel debuted in 2012, finishing 3-8 with a 5.27 earned run average (ERA). It would only get worse for the team, whose run differential was -211.
2013: Houston Astros (Surprised?)
A new division, a new hope, right? That’s what the Astros thought about 2013 after moving to the AL West. Wrong. They managed to top the previous two horrible years. A 51-111 record placed them tied for the 11th worst record of all time.
Some solace came in an uptick in offensive production. Four players hit over 13 home runs, including two who hit over 20. First baseman Chris Carter led the team with 29 home runs, yet he still could not crack 100 RBI’s, finishing with only 82. Alongside him, young third baseman Matt Dominguez looked to be a future staple at the hot corner, by knocking 21 home runs to go along with 77 RBI’s.
Dominguez never replicated his 2013 success and missed all of the 2015 season and played in only a handful of games in 2016 before eventually heading to Japan, where he again could not replicate his 2013 success.
Harrell, who led the Astros in wins the previous season, led Houston in losses in 2013, with 17! In his final season with the Astros, 22-year-old pitcher Jordan Lyles led the way in wins, with seven. Kuechel and Harrell came in a close second with six wins apiece. 2013 was rock bottom for the franchise. They even had the lowest run differential, -238.
2014: Arizona Diamondbacks
Not only was Houston not the worst team in 2014, four teams were ahead of them, they weren’t even the worst in their division. The Texas Rangers finished worse than Houston, but it was the Arizona Diamondbacks who took home the worst team of the year award.
Manager Kirk Gibson was fired with three games to play, In a season in which the team finished 64-98. The offense was lackluster, even though it was led by Paul Goldschmidt, who at the time, was a two-time all-star. Injuries hampered the star-first baseman and caused him to miss more than 50 games. Future World Series champion Miguel Montero led the way with 72 RBI’s. Injuries plagued the team so much in 2014, that Montero led the team in appearances, with only 136.
Through the first four seasons of the decade, the worst team in baseball did not have a single pitcher finish with a record above .500. Arizona managed to break that. Josh Collmenter managed to win 11 games while losing nine, in 28 starts. His 3.46 ERA also led the starting rotation. Closer Addison Reed picked up 32 saves, but still went 1-7. Pitchers Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley had the unfortunate pleasure of leading the team in losses with 12 apiece. Arizona ended up with the second-lowest run differential, at -127.
Quick Baseball Themed Break:
Before we approach the second half of the decade, there’s a common theme that’s emerged throughout the piece so far: Teams are bad for several reasons. They don’t have any good hitters, the pitching staff can’t find the strike zone, they’re plagued by injuries, etc.… But some of the teams ahead sucked for all the above reasons and because the owners refused to spend.
2015: Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies had the ninth-highest payroll in 2015, $135,827,500, yet they still finished dead last in all of baseball. While they were only one game worse than the Cincinnati Reds, a 63-99 record represented a 10-game drop-off from the previous season.
For the third time this decade, the manager of the worst team got the boot during the season. This time, it was Ryne Sandberg, 76 games into the season.
Philadelphia still had some players on the roster from its 2008 World Series team, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Cole Hamels, to go along with up and coming players Aaron Nola, Ken Giles, and Maikel Franco. Howard did what he always did, led the team in homers with 23, only this time it was 16 home runs off his career average. The rest of the offense struggled to get going, with the next closest hitter amassing only 14 homers.
Nola, then 22-years-old, was the only starting pitcher to finish with an above .500 winning percentage. Two pitchers had over 15 saves, Giles and former Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Nothing went right for the Phillies in 2015, ending with the second-worst run differential that season, -183.
2016: Minnesota Twins
Once again baseball’s worst team went back to winning fewer than 60 games, courtesy of the 59-103 Minnesota Twins. The Twins had no problem creating offensive in 2016, with 11 players hitting more than 10 home runs.
Second baseman Brian Dozier led Minnesota’s power surge, crushing the baseball to the tune of 42 homers and 99 RBI’s. He even managed to steal 18 bases. Behind Dozier was former big-time prospect Miguel Sano and his 25 home runs and 66 RBI’s. The two provided a solid one-two punch for the offense. Pitching is where it all went to garbage.
Starting pitcher Tyler Duffey led the team with nine wins, and 12 losses, while close Brandon Kintzler only locked down 17 saves. 21 different pitchers recorded a loss for the Twins in 2016. It seemed as though nothing could go right for them, and that’s evident in their second to worst run differential of -167.
2017: Detriot Tigers
Less than five years removed from a World Series appearance, the 2017 Detroit Tigers tied with the team who had defeated them in that 2012 championship series, the San Francisco Giants. By way of a tiebreaker, the Tigers were dubbed the worst team for that season.
A year removed from falling short of a playoff appearance, Detroit imploded during the 2017 season. Key players were shipped away throughout the season, most notably, long-time ace Justin Verlander heading to the eventual World Series Champions Houston Astros, at the Waiver Trade Deadline.
Aside from Verlander, outfielder Justin Upton found himself in the bright sun of Anaheim with the Angels and J.D. Martinez ended up in Arizona ripping an incredible 29 home runs in only 52 games. Oh, and GM Al Avila dealt his son, Alex Avila, to the Cubs at the trade deadline. Of the nine players acquired between the four separate trades, only four players have appeared in a major league game for the team.
Justin Upton was the team’s best hitter, even though he was traded with two months left in the season, while Verlander was the team’s best pitcher. Detroit did not need to sell off their best players. They were only 10 games below .500 at the trade deadline. But ownership hit the panic button, and the team has not had a winning record since 2016. The Tigers run differential was second to last, at -159.
2018, 2019: Baltimore Orioles, Detriot Tigers
The 2018 Baltimore Orioles and the 2019 Detroit Tigers were so terrible, that they both finished with 47 wins. Due to a double-header being rained out, the Tigers only played 161 games in 2019, meaning the Orioles claim a worse winning percentage, coming in at .290, the lowest of the decade.
Baltimore is tied with two other teams for the fifth-worst season ever, while the Tigers come in behind them at number eight.
Manny Machado spent the bulk of the season smashing home runs for the Orioles before being shipped off to the Dodgers in July. Despite playing in only 96 games for Baltimore, Machado tied with outfielder Trey Mancini to lead the Orioles in home runs, with 24 apiece. Including Machado and Mancini, Baltimore had seven players hit over 10 home runs in 2018. Detroit had eight players hit 10 or more home runs in 2019.
Pitching is what sank both the Orioles in 2018 and the Tigers in 2019. The Tigers had four pitchers lose at least 12 games, led by Spencer Turnbull and his 3-17 record. Baltimore had one of the worst rotations ever in baseball-three pitchers lost at least 15 games! The Orioles had a wretched -270 run differential while the Tigers managed an even worse -333.
Teams ranked according to run differential:
2019 Detroit Tigers: -333
2010 Pittsburgh Pirates: -279
2018 Baltimore Orioles: -270
2013 Houston Astros: -238
2012 Houston Astros: -211
2015 Philadelphia Phillies: -183
2011 Houston Astros: -181
2016 Minnesota Twins: -167
2017 Detroit Tigers: -159
2014 Arizona Diamondbacks: -127
Stay tuned for Part 2!