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Friday, October 01, 2021

Why Are MLB’s Worst Teams Getting Worse?

They have plenty of miserable company. Pittsburgh was the fourth team this year to lose 100 or more games. The D-backs sit at 109 losses with three games to play. The Orioles have 107 defeats and the Rangers have 100.

This is not normal. This is only the third time in MLB history that four teams have lost 100 or more games in the same season.

But maybe this is the new normal. It also happened in 2019 (with a 60-game 2020 season in between). We are in the age of utter futility when it comes to bad teams. In 2019, there were also four 100-loss teams. In 2018 there were three.

There have been as many 100-loss teams in the past three full seasons (2018, 2019 and 2021) as there were from 2007-2017 combined.

Looked at from a slightly different angle the numbers don’t change. From 1966-2018, that 2002 season was the only one where more than two teams reached 100 losses. Now that number has been topped in each of the last three full seasons.

We are right now in an era where the best teams are better and the worst teams are worse than they have been in more than a half century. With more utterly futile teams, there are also more dominant ones. From 2005-2016 there were six 100-win teams in that 12-season stretch. From 2017-2021 (four full seasons) there have been 12, and the Rays could make it 13 if they win two of their final three games this weekend.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 01, 2021 at 11:38 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tanking

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   1. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 01, 2021 at 11:53 AM (#6042788)
There's so much shared revenue now that if a team isn't a contender, it's more profitable for them to win 60 games than it is to pay for the talent to win 80 games. Owners are simply acting in their own greedy interests.
   2. sanny manguillen Posted: October 01, 2021 at 12:02 PM (#6042790)
The Pirates are a good illustration. They just reached 100 losses, but their expected/Pythagorean losses are in the 103-105 range right now. If you're really determined to tank and get the big bonus pools, you have to plan to be awful and then add a little extra awful in case you get lucky with wins.
   3. bfan Posted: October 01, 2021 at 12:57 PM (#6042806)
Wins and losses are a zero sum game, and this completely discounts that maybe we are also in a time when the best teams are getting better. The Dodgers win 6 straight division titles, and then go out and get one of the best position players in baseball (Mookie). They win the world series and then go out and get the best FA pitcher on the market (Bauer). At the trade deadline, they go out and get an MVP candidate at shortstop and a somehow still at his peak HOF pitcher with 2 cy young awards in his belt. The Yankees were a top team who went out and got the best FA pitcher that year (Cole).

The flip side of bad teams get worse is that it seems as if teams built for 95 wins are out buying the best talent, to make sure their 95 wins do not get squandered by not winning it all that year, so they are building 100 win teams. Is that relatively new phenomenon?

If a team goes 18-1 against another team in a year (hasn't that happened twice?), it takes 2 to tango. One team has to be bad; the other has to be good.
   4. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: October 01, 2021 at 01:09 PM (#6042807)
This is probably a stupid position but I think fantasy sports have made a huge impact on how we root. Not because people don't root for their teams but because the idea of "there is nothing to play for so sell sell sell" has become much more acceptable. I feel like as a kid in the 70s and 80s it was more about being as good as you could be. Yeah you might make a trade but the annual firesales we see didn't seem to be a thing. As fans have thrust themselves into GM roles in fantasy sports where boom/bust cycles are the way to go (and who cares if you don't perform) they have become more accepting of being crummy.

Or y'know, I'm a dope.
   5. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 01, 2021 at 01:32 PM (#6042816)
If a team goes 18-1 against another team in a year (hasn't that happened twice?), it takes 2 to tango. One team has to be bad; the other has to be good.


Wasn't 1801, only 10-1, but that was the Mets' regular season against the Dodgers in 1988, and we all know how that turned out.
   6. Bad Fish Posted: October 01, 2021 at 01:33 PM (#6042817)
There are MLB teams that are the moral equivalent of bottom 25% D1 football teams that accept a $1M or $2M payment to go to some power 5 school to get their asses kicked. As long as there is no penalty for not trying to win some of these owners are completely happy to field AAAA teams and pocket their profit share.
   7. The Duke Posted: October 01, 2021 at 01:36 PM (#6042819)
Haven’t we always had a bottom tier of absolutely awful teams in every generation ?
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 01, 2021 at 01:42 PM (#6042823)
Wins and losses are a zero sum game, and this completely discounts that maybe we are also in a time when the best teams are getting better.
I mean, other than the part where it says "We are right now in an era where the best teams are better."
   9. Rally Posted: October 01, 2021 at 02:04 PM (#6042831)
Maybe we can change the incentives a bit:

First overall draft pick goes to the team with the best record which did not make the playoffs. Then after the Orioles/D Backs pick at spots 19-20, the playoff teams get to pick.

I think you’d still have incentive to make the playoffs, that is usually a big financial windfall for teams. At least I hope the incentives won’t make teams like Seattle eye that #1 pick as more valuable than getting a wild card.

But for teams like Sea, Tor, NYY, Bos, that is all in the hands of the players at this point. If an exec on one of those teams thinks it’s better to get the #1 pick instead of a wild card game on the road, it is too late for them to do anything about it.

There would be major incentive changes for how the weak teams are run. Even if playoffs are out of reach, you get a much better reward for winning 77 games than you do for winning 52. Orioles might have tried to bring in some moderate priced free agents to fill holes instead of dreck. And they probably would have promoted Rutschman if he could help improve draft position with good MLB play.
   10. Jaack Posted: October 01, 2021 at 02:07 PM (#6042834)
On a single season basis, teams are pretty bad. But we also aren't seeing the long stretches of complete ineptitude that the Brewers, Pirates, Royals, and Tigers had in the 90s/00s.

The only teams with a 10+ playoff drought are the Mariners and the Phillies, and both have been competitive into deep into September in that span. Sure, 100 loss seasons suck, but I'd take 2 of them over 15 90 loss seasons in a row.
   11. kcgard2 Posted: October 01, 2021 at 02:09 PM (#6042836)
Rally, that is exactly the fix I would propose also. A simple fix that incentivizes winning as much as possible, even if not still in playoff contention.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 01, 2021 at 02:15 PM (#6042839)
There's so much shared revenue now that if a team isn't a contender, it's more profitable for them to win 60 games than it is to pay for the talent to win 80 games. Owners are simply acting in their own greedy interests.

This is the answer; got it in one.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 01, 2021 at 02:24 PM (#6042840)
First overall draft pick goes to the team with the best record which did not make the playoffs. Then after the Orioles/D Backs pick at spots 19-20, the playoff teams get to pick.

I'd love that, but it's probably too radical. How about you start docking teams' draft and international signing pools if they lose too much? Every loss over 90 costs you $200K off each signing pool.

If you lose 105, you'll still have the #1 pick, but you'll have to take a ton of signability picks.
   14. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 01, 2021 at 03:28 PM (#6042852)
I'd love that, but it's probably too radical. How about you start docking teams' draft and international signing pools if they lose too much? Every loss over 90 costs you $200K off each signing pool.

Penalize them by making them spend even less money at the draft stage? No, I'd think the penalty has to come out of the revenue pool.
   15. TJ Posted: October 01, 2021 at 04:28 PM (#6042865)
There's so much shared revenue now that if a team isn't a contender, it's more profitable for them to win 60 games than it is to pay for the talent to win 80 games. Owners are simply acting in their own greedy interests.


Lose 100 games, lose the shared revenue for that season.

Will never happen so long as the commissioner is a toady of the owners, but it would be great to see an owner who would usually tank tell his GM to keep fighting til the end so they win at least 63 games to keep the shared revenue gravy train rolling…
   16. bfan Posted: October 01, 2021 at 04:39 PM (#6042868)
How about every first place team at the AS break can protect 15 players, but the last place team in the division of that team can pick any other player from the roster of the 1st place team, for the remainder of the season? That would make lesser teams better and better teams lesser, increasing the wins of the lesser teams and the losses of the better teams, which is what we are calling for, correct? That would at least put a dent in the dodgers ridiculous practice of having all-stars or near all-stars to replace their front line players if they get hurt.

Every proposal I ever here puts obligations on the lesser teams to act in a way they are not currently acting, while never addressing the uber team problem. I want to address the uber team problem, and if salary caps and luxury taxes are not the answer, then this could be. If you do not want the diamondbacks to be 65 games behind the dodgers, equalize their talent.

If you are concerned that teams would try not to be in 1st place, just allow the 2nd worst team in the division pick from the roster of the second best team.
   17. donlock Posted: October 01, 2021 at 04:59 PM (#6042875)
Why do some folks believe that the number one pick in the player draft is extremely valuable? Worth losing fans and revenue to make it happen? Do these names spell champs?

2012 Carlos Correa៛
2013 Mark Appel
2014 Brady Aiken°
2015 Dansby Swanson
2016 Mickey Moniak

2017 Royce Lewis
2018 Casey Mize
2019 Adley Rutschman
2020 Spencer Torkelson
2021 Henry Davis

Some talent here but nothing earth-shattering. Tanking and/or playing to lose doesn't seem to be a great strategy.
   18. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 01, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6042877)
Many studies have shown that top five picks are waaaay more valuable than the rest of the draft.
   19. JRVJ Posted: October 01, 2021 at 05:15 PM (#6042878)
There's a difference between bad because you're in a down/rebuilding cycle and being bad because you're just a terrible organization.

I don't necessarily mind the former (e.g. the Tigers), but I absolutely loath the latter (e.g., Pirates and Orioles).

The problem is that I'm not entirely sure that MLB will ever be willing to take the kind of measures needed to right a terrible organization (I may be dating myself, but I'm thinking of something akin to the pressure the NBA placed on Ted Stephien / Cleveland Cavaliers circa 1982/1983).
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 01, 2021 at 05:19 PM (#6042879)
Why do some folks believe that the number one pick in the player draft is extremely valuable? Worth losing fans and revenue to make it happen? Do these names spell champs?


They don't lose much revenue, and they increase profits, by slashing payroll.
   21. John DiFool2 Posted: October 01, 2021 at 05:21 PM (#6042882)
#17, Correa seems a bad choice, over 30 WAR but still only 26, 7 WAR this year. Sounds like a champ to me. esp. since he is on the best team in the league.
   22. donlock Posted: October 01, 2021 at 07:23 PM (#6042905)
9 years ago. You found probably the best on this list!
Is he the best ss in baseball? One of the top 10 players in mlb? A good player
but not worth crashing your team for a chance to get him or the other guys.
   23. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 01, 2021 at 08:44 PM (#6042912)
At the trade deadline, they go out and get an MVP candidate at shortstop and a somehow still at his peak HOF pitcher with 2 cy young awards in his belt.

Max Scherzer's third Cy Young award says: *Ahem*
   24. Rally Posted: October 01, 2021 at 10:44 PM (#6042935)
Sounds like a champ to me. esp. since he is on the best team in the league.


I thought the trade deadline had passed. Who did the Rays give up for him?
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 01, 2021 at 11:02 PM (#6042940)
This is not normal. This is only the third time in MLB history that four teams have lost 100 or more games in the same season.

The whole premise behind this article is completely ahistorical. Someone should take the author on a guided tour of the first half of the 20th century, when there were only 16 teams and 154 game seasons, and 100 losses was still a routine occurrence. Teams like the Browns, the A's and the Phillies could go multiple decades without having a single winning season, and the Red Sox missed finishing last for nine straight seasons only because they didn't lose one more game to the White Sox in the year they finished seventh.
   26. sanny manguillen Posted: October 01, 2021 at 11:29 PM (#6042946)
Why do some folks believe that the number one pick in the player draft is extremely valuable?


It's not just the top pick. It's the biggest draft signing pool. The Pirates got to spend about $6 million above the median on its draft this year. That sounds like loose change in today's game, but every amateur penny counts when you're not bidding on any professional player who any other team wants.
   27. Dr. Pooks Posted: October 02, 2021 at 03:04 AM (#6042953)
If a team goes 18-1 against another team in a year (hasn't that happened twice?), it takes 2 to tango. One team has to be bad; the other has to be good.


The Rays are 18-1 against the Orioles this year.

That makes up at least half of their division lead compared to their rivals.

NYY 11-8
BOS 13-6
TOR 12-5 (2 games to play)
   28. BDC Posted: October 02, 2021 at 11:01 AM (#6042965)
The whole premise behind this article is completely ahistorical. Someone should take the author on a guided tour of the first half of the 20th century, when there were only 16 teams and 154 game seasons, and 100 losses was still a routine occurrence.

True, but TFA is not talking about that. Cooper's point is
From 1966-2018, that 2002 season was the only one where more than two teams reached 100 losses. Now that number has been topped in each of the last three full seasons

So the observation is that there was a middle period where a truly abject team was rare (and several of those, related to being in the first or second year after an expansion draft).
   29. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 02, 2021 at 11:53 AM (#6042975)

9 years ago. You found probably the best on this list!
Is he the best ss in baseball? One of the top 10 players in mlb? A good player
but not worth crashing your team for a chance to get him or the other guys.


I mean, the team had Chris Johnson, Hunter Pence, and a very old Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee with no farm system. You really think it was worth spending money on that team rather than going out and getting guys like Correa and Bregman?

Criticize tanking cause its bad for the game, but there's a reason why teams do it - it's very effective. The Astros, Cubs, Braves, and White Sox are all pretty good examples.
   30. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 02, 2021 at 12:54 PM (#6042979)
BDC,

Fair enough. I should've just said that the premise behind the headline is completely ahistorical. Wouldn't be the first time a headline didn't capture the entirety of a story.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 02, 2021 at 01:00 PM (#6042982)
If a team goes 18-1 against another team in a year (hasn't that happened twice?), it takes 2 to tango. One team has to be bad; the other has to be good.

Since I always like going back a ways for examples, here's one of my favorite illustrations of why beating up on stiffs is important:

1954 Indians
Record vs the other three teams with winning records (including in the World Series): 22-26
Record vs the five bottom AL teams: 89-21

That year the Indians were 11-11 against the second place Yankees and the third place White Sox, whose margin over the fourth place Red Sox was 25 games. It was just about the most topheavy league in history, and those 111 wins didn't do the Indians much good in the World Series against the champs of a far superior league.
   32. DFA Posted: October 02, 2021 at 02:08 PM (#6042997)
Criticize tanking cause its bad for the game, but there's a reason why teams do it - it's very effective. The Astros, Cubs, Braves, and White Sox are all pretty good examples.


Teams are doing because it pays dividends in the short term (literally) and the in the long term, possibly (competitive?). MLB could institute a draft lottery, but the problem is that MLB is such a different sport than the NBA in terms of minor leagues, development, CBA, etc.
   33. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: October 02, 2021 at 04:33 PM (#6043020)
those 111 wins didn't do the Indians much good in the World Series against the champs of a far superior league.

Was the National League superior, let alone far superior? Well, just for fun I fired up my OOTP game and put all 16 teams in one league and had them play a 150-game schedule (10X each team). No trades, and historical lineups used. I ran the 1954 season five times, and here were the top 3 teams each season (NL teams in bold):

1: CWS, CLE, BOS
2: BKN, CLE, NYY
3: CLE, BKN, PHI/WAS (tie)
4: CLE (won one-game playoff), NYY, STL
5: NYY, BKN, CWS

That's four out of five pennants for the AL teams, and 11 out of the top 16 spots total.

No, this doesn't prove anything, but it's helluva better than basing the NL's "far superior" status on four lousy games.
   34. cookiedabookie Posted: October 03, 2021 at 02:41 PM (#6043246)
Re: 9

At the end of the season, I'd have a single elimination, neutral site tournament with the 8 worst teams, to compete for the top draft pick the following year. More baseball is always good. It gives those fanbases their own bit of "playoff" baseball, and gives teams a reason to not completely tank for a draft pick.

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