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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Loser Scores 2015

The World Series is over, and that means it’s time for my annual foray into the World of the Losers.

The fine print:

Bill James came up with Loser Scores after the 2010 season, in an effort to measure how the Pirates’ string of losing seasons compared to other lengthy stretches of bad baseball. I’ve updated the totals every year since then.

You compute Loser Scores in this fashion:

1. A team that has a losing season adds to its Loser Score the total of games under .500, plus the number of consecutive seasons that the team has been under .500.
2. A team that has a .500 or better season takes its previous Loser Score and multiplies it by (1-number of consecutive non-losing seasons/10) - so .9 for the first .500+ season, .8 for the second, and so on - rounds that to the nearest whole number, and then subtracts the number of games over .500.
3. A Loser Score cannot go below zero.
4. Winning the World Series is an automatic reset to zero.

Updated Loser Scores through 2015:

Team			2014	W	L	Diff	Streak	2015
Pittsburgh		420	98	64	34	3	260
Colorado		187	68	94	-26	5	218
Houston			233	86	76	10	1	200
Seattle			155	76	86	-10	1	166
Milwaukee		114	68	94	-26	1	141
Miami			108	71	91	-20	6	134
Cubs			182	97	65	32	1	132
San Diego		108	74	88	-14	5	127
Minnesota		128	83	79	4	1	111
Cincinnati		67	64	98	-34	2	103
Baltimore		148	81	81	0	4	89
Arizona			71	79	83	-4	2	77
Philadelphia		35	63	99	-36	3	74
White Sox		55	76	86	-10	3	68
Mets			87	90	72	18	1	60
Washington		83	83	79	4	4	46
Atlanta			5	67	95	-28	2	35
Boston			21	78	84	-6	2	29
Cleveland		42	81	80	1	3	28
Oakland			0	68	94	-26	1	27
Detroit			0	74	87	-13	1	14
Tampa Bay		9	80	82	-2	2	13
Texas			29	88	74	14	1	12
Toronto			31	93	69	24	2	1
Kansas City		333	95	67	28	3	0
Yankees			0	87	75	12	23	0
St. Louis		0	100	62	38	8	0
Dodgers			0	92	70	22	5	0
Angels			0	85	77	8	2	0
San Francisco		0	84	78	6	2	0

For the ninth consecutive year, the Pirates remain on top of the list. But their Loser Score of 260 is

  • the lowest it has been since 2003, and
  • the lowest to top the list since 2001, when the Tigers regained the dubious leadership in this category after losing it to the Phillies for a year.
  • Other than the five-year stretch between 1997 and 2001, when the Mariners were awakening from their doldrums and the Tigers and Pirates were just starting a descent into theirs, a Loser Score of 260 has never led MLB - until 2015.

    The nine-year stretch for the Pirates is the longest single-team stretch since the Mariners had a 13-year run from 1984 through 1996 (with a tie with the Indians in 1993). If the Pirates keep winning next year and the Rockies keep losing, there will be a new leader in 2016.

    As I noted in one of the discussion threads, the Royals’ drop from 333 to zero on winning the World Series is the third-largest drop ever, behind the 1914 Miracle Braves (531) and the 1969 Mets (371). Some other items of note from this year’s list:


  • The Yankees have a 23-year run of .500 or better records. The Cardinals have 8, the Marlins have a 6-year run of losing records. No other team has a streak in either direction that exceeds 5 years. That number (3) ties 2013 for the lowest number of teams with more than a 5-year streak in either direction in the last 15 years. Not since 1997 have there been fewer than 3 teams with streaks of more than 5 years.
  • The Yankees have been at zero 81 times in their 113 years of existence (I don’t count 1901-1902, following SABR’s Gary Gillette). That is easily both the highest number and the highest percentage of zeroes for any team. The Giants are second, the Cardinals are third, the Dodgers are fourth, and the Red Sox are fifth. I doubt any of those are a surprise.
  • The Padres (47 years and counting) and the Rockies (23) have never been at zero. The Mariners and Rays have been at zero once, the Senators/Rangers twice. The worst record for any of the “Original 16” belongs to the Senators/Twins (16/115) with the Phillies (23/133) and Browns/Orioles (20/115) next.
  • The Cubs extended their string of non-zero seasons to 69, with their last zero coming in 1946. The Pirates and Brewers have the second-longest non-zero streaks of teams which have had at least one zero; both had their last zero in 1992.

  • The WS win by the Royals dropped them to zero for the first time since 1989. The Tigers, who went to zero in 2014 for the first time since 1988, fell back above zero.
  • Toronto hasn’t been at zero since 1993. Since then, they’ve been in single digits 5 times without going to zero, including 2015, when all it would have taken was one more strong season. Between 2008 and 2011 the Blue Jays were at 5, 18, 8, and 6.

  • Mike Emeigh Posted: November 03, 2015 at 09:46 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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       1. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 03, 2015 at 11:41 PM (#5088116)
    If the Pirates finish 81-81 or better, they will drop to at least 156. If the Rockies went 101-61, they'd also be at 156.

    -- MWE
       2. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: November 05, 2015 at 12:19 AM (#5089009)
    Great stuff Mike! I love lists like this. Awesome that you maintain it.

    The comment on the Royals being the 3rd biggest reset ever - wow. I mean it makes sense. There aren't too many people that would have said this team was about to be a 1-run loss from *back-to-back* World Series titles at the start of 2014.
       3. Baldrick Posted: November 05, 2015 at 02:53 AM (#5089024)
    Love your loser score stuff. I was particularly astonished to see the the M's ever made it to 0. But it looks like they just barely made it in 2003.

    Where does the Pirates 160 point change rank historically? That seems like a pretty huge margin to make up for a non-WS-winning year. Or is that kind of thing actually sort of common for teams at the bottom as they start to recover?
       4. BDC Posted: November 05, 2015 at 09:51 AM (#5089100)
    It's interesting how the list, mechanically generated, really does seem to correspond to subjective senses of hope and doom. Colorado, Seattle, Miami, San Diego: these are fans without a lot of confidence going into any given season.

    Pittsburgh is on an uptick, and though they're still high I think nobody's surprised now when they contend. Toronto I'm surprised to see so low. 2015 was a recharge for them but they'd been in the wilderness for a long time – though I suppose rarely flat-out terrible. They chugged along going 83-79 for decades at a time.
       5. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 05, 2015 at 10:27 PM (#5089558)
    The 160-point margin for the Pirates ranks about 8th overall for a non-WS winner - I did run those numbers but didn't post them, and I don't have access to them now (I'm in transit from CT to AZ posting from my iPad). I remember that the 1950 Phillies had a 272-point drop, which is the highest ever for a non-WS winner.

    The Yankees' streak of 23 straight non-losing seasons is pretty amazing in this day and age. How many years have we been predicting that next year is their year to finally have a rebuilding season?

    The compression in Loser Scores is one more data point suggesting a changing of the guard in MLB. Bill James wrote an article a couple of years back that proposed a method for determining whether baseball has transitioned into a new era. At that time, I think, the current era had started in 1992 or 1993 (James called it the Camden Yards era). I should go back and rerun his methods, but I think there's no question that we are now at the start of a new chapter in baseball's history.

    -- MWE
       6. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 05, 2015 at 10:31 PM (#5089561)
    I have these tables in my database now, and all that I have to do to update them is to cut and paste the final standings into the DB and run a script to compute them. Don't know why it took me five years to figure that out.

    -- MWE
       7. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: November 05, 2015 at 10:44 PM (#5089568)
    The compression in Loser Scores is one more data point suggesting a changing of the guard in MLB. Bill James wrote an article a couple of years back that proposed a method for determining whether baseball has transitioned into a new era. At that time, I think, the current era had started in 1992 or 1993 (James called it the Camden Yards era). I should go back and rerun his methods, but I think there's no question that we are now at the start of a new chapter in baseball's history.

    I think that era ended around 2012, give or take a year, and we've been in a new era since. Could be wrong. Might be a few more years till we know for sure where to draw the line.
       8. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 05, 2015 at 11:34 PM (#5089581)
    The essay about eras by James was published in Fools Rush Inn in 2014. I think he wrote the essay in 2012 and then in the book commented on the emergence of the Pirates and Royals in 2013 as indicators of a new era.

    The method for determining era boundaries was, like many of James's methods, based on a weighted system where events were awarded points, and then when 100 points (I think, I'm going from memory here) had been achieved, a new era starts. Again, I'll have to look at the method when I have time.

    -- MWE
       9. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 07, 2015 at 05:59 PM (#5090486)
    More details:

    James did write the article in 2012. The Camden Yards era did start in 1993.

    James doesn't describe the specifics of how he allocates points to events, but he indicates that as of the middle of 2012 there had been 74 points accumulated since 1993. The method requires 3 conditions to be satisfied before an era can be declared to be closed:

    1. An era must have lasted at least 10 years;
    2. At least 100 points must have been accumulated over the era;
    3. There must be a separation of at least 10 points between years - to prevent drawing a line between two years where there is little difference between the years; i.e. moving from 98 to 100 points doesn't justify drawing a line, but moving from 90 to 100 would, or moving from 98 to 108.

    Since the middle of 2012, we've had the following events:
    1. The transition in the Commissioner's office from Bud Selig to Rob Manfred;
    2. The new CBA kicking in, with its changes to the amateur draft and to free agency;
    3. The emergence of the Pirates, Royals, Astros, Mets and Cubs as competitive franchises, and the decline of the Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, and (to a lesser extent) Yankees;
    4. The A-Rod and Ryan Braun suspensions;
    5. The wave of front office changes which have lessened the importance of the traditional "GM" role - as teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays, etc. bring in big names with titles like Director of Baseball Operations while still keeping a GM;
    6. The arrival of the next generation of superstars: Trout, Harper, Bryant, maybe Machado, Correa, Sano;
    7. Increasing use of defensive shifts;
    8. James mentioned in the article that the MLB ERA dropped below 4 in 2011. It's been below 4 in four of the last five years, although just barely in 2015.

    I'm sure I could think of more. Whether that gets us to the magic 100-point level I don't know; James has already awarded points for the end of the steroid era in 2005, but I think that the A-Rod and Braun suspensions are watershed events in their own right.

    I'm tempted to draw a line at the end of 2014, and to declare 2015 as the start of a new era in baseball. But I think we'll know better at the end of next year.

    -- MWE
       10. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: November 15, 2015 at 12:51 PM (#5095540)
    Since the middle of 2012, we've had the following events:

    Also, from 2011-2012, the MLB average K/9 jumped from 7.1 (which I think was already a record) to 7.6, and has been higher than that every year since.
       11. kaline Posted: November 15, 2015 at 10:38 PM (#5095815)
    Just from looking at the link below and without being very systematic about it, it looks like the changeover happened in 2010-2012 and we have been in a new era since then.

    In 2010, Runs, Hits, Doubles per game all dropped noticeably to levels not seen in some time, and all of those categories have stayed below their 2010 level since then. 2011 was the year walks dropped below where they'd been since 1968, and they haven't been back up to the 2011 level since. The new strikeout record was first set in 2008 (and every year since) but the really big jump came in 2012. My hazy guess is that shifts for more than just a few batters started to be a thing for a few teams in 2011-2012 as well but I might be off on that. Those strike me as the big changes in the new era: shifts, more strikeouts, less walks, hits and runs. And the Giants winning every other World Series. So I'd say the '93 era ended in 2009.
       12. jingoist Posted: November 17, 2015 at 02:28 PM (#5097186)
    I believe Al Leiter on MLB network quoted a huge increase in the number of 95+ and 100+ mph pitches thrown in 2015 by current pitching staffs and wondered what the short and long term effects that might have on K/9 stats and pitcher durability.
    As a lifelong Bucco fan I am eagerly looking forward to the removal of the Pirates from your top position

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