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Will 2018 be the worst Baltimore Orioles team ever?

1954 and 1988 were bad seasons. 2018 is trending to be even worse.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Just when it seems this season can’t get worse at Camden Yards, it goes another step in the wrong direction. As of this writing on June 14, the Orioles are 19-48, good for a .284 winning percentage. That projects to 46 wins if they keep up the pace, which would far and away be the worst O’s team ever.

There basically are three things left to play for with 95 games to go until the end on Sunday, September 30 against the Houston Astros. First, building for the future and acquiring maximum return for tradeable players, including Manny Machado, Adam Jones (it pains me to write this about AJ), Zach Britton, Brad Brach and others.

Second, giving young players such as DJ Stewart, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, as well as prospects acquired in trades, opportunity to shine at the big-league level. And finally third, pride. Pride to not be the worst Orioles team in the history of a franchise that dates to 1954 and their inaugural season in Baltimore.

Looking back from 1954-2017, the Birds have had 100 losses twice – 1954 and 1988. In 1954 they were 54-100 (.351) and in 1988 the record was 54-107 (.335). They are almost certain to reach 100 losses in 2018. To avoid that dubious mark, they would have to go at least 44-51 (.463) to close this season. That is very unlikely.

Over their 63 seasons, five times they had a winning percentage between .400 and .425 – 1987, 1991, 2002, 2008, 2010 – and five times they had a winning percentage lower than .400 – 1954, 1955, 1988, 2001 and 2009. The current .284 clip pales in comparison to previous rough seasons in Charm City.

1988 – A year to forget

As Orioles fans know, the 1988 team, which will get a lot of attention and mentions in the coming months as the current team chases them, lost their first 21 games. The season started on Monday, April 4, and they didn’t get their first win until Friday, April 29, in Chicago against the White Sox. At least the 2018 team won on Opening Day before losing five in a row.

The 1988 offense was led by Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Billy Ripken, Larry Sheets and Joe Orsulak, who all played at least 125 games. Offensively, the club was last in the American League in at bats, runs, hits and doubles. They were second to last in home runs. The pitching wasn’t much better with a rotation that included Jose Bautista, Jay Tibbs, Jeff Ballard, Mike Boddicker, Oswaldo Peraza and a bullpen anchored by Tom Niedenfuer. For their efforts, the staff was last in the American League in wins, ERA, strikeouts and saves. And, of course, they were first in losses.

The year also saw two managers at the helm with Cal Ripken, Sr. going 0-6 before being unceremoniously fired and Frank Robinson finishing the season with a 54-101 record.

A glance on paper at the talent of the 1988 and 2018 team shows that the Orioles this year are considerably more talented than the club 30 years ago, but that fact does not show itself in the standings. As hard as it is to believe, the 2018 team is trending to be significantly worse than the 1988 club, by as many as eight games. And unlike 1988 when a manager was fired, 2018 has not seen anyone – manager, coaching staff or front office – lose their job.

On the positive side, the 1989 Birds – dubbed the “Why Not?!” club, just a year after 1988 – finished an impressive 87 and 75, two games behind the AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays. With history as an indicator, I guess that means there is hope for 2019.

1954 – Another year to forget

The 1954 team was managed by Jimmy Dykes. Undoubtedly the city was excited to have a team, but their performance on the field was less than successful. Their 54-100 record was highlighted by being shutout 14 times, a 14 game losing streak, as well as 12 walk off losses. Rough.

Of course, the game was different then, but third baseman Vern Stephens was the offensive standout with eight home runs and 46 RBI. Cincinnati’s Ted Kluszewski led MLB with 49 HR and 141 RBI, but the entire O’s team only had 52 bombs. As a team offensively, the Orioles were last in the AL in runs, home runs, walks and SLG, as well as next to last in OBP and OPS.

From the bump (15 inches in 1954, as opposed to 10 inches from 1969 until today) the Birds had four pitchers with 25 or more starts and three of them with over 200 innings pitched. That sounds good, but it wasn’t. None of it translated to wins as they were second to last league wide in that category, as well as last in walks and sixth of eight in ERA. It wasn’t pretty.

Other MLB dumpster fires

The worst MLB team in recent memory is the 2003 Detroit Tigers. Their record was 43-119 (.265). The year before they were 55-106 (.339). That’s a bad two year run. By September 1, 2003, they’d already lost 100 games and their pitching staff was “led” by Mike Maroth (9-21), Jeremy Bonderman (6-19) and Nate Cornejo (6-17).

For the Orioles, it’s not back to back miserable seasons – remember, they were in the Wild Card race around Labor Day 2017 with a 69-66 record – but it is a horrible September and October 2017, combined with an even worse April, May and June 2018. Counting the final months of last year, along with this season, the Orioles are 26-69 in their last 95 games. That is a .273 winning percentage. Almost as bad as the 2003 Tigers, which is practically unfathomable.

Looking again for a positive, despite the miserable 2002 and 2003 seasons, the 2006 Detroit Tigers won the AL pennant and played in the World Series. Is it too early to place a futures bet on the O’s making the Fall Classic in 2021?

2018 – Time will tell

It is undeniable that this season is a disaster that gets worse by the day. Earlier this week, my Camden Chat colleague Mark Brown summed up the team by writing – “The 2018 Orioles are a miserable failure of a baseball team. They are the product of several years worth of bad planning combined with some bad luck. The result is that they are the worst team in MLB by far, with poor hitting, pitching, and defense combining to make you wonder if they will be the worst Orioles team to ever play a season.”

The worst Orioles team ever? That’s a good question.

To not be as bad as the 1954 and 1988 teams – each had 54 wins, and the 1988 team had worse .335 winning percentage because they played more games – the Orioles would need to go 36-59 (.378) from today to the end of the season.

Surely they have it in them to be better than that, right?


Will the 2018 Orioles finish with a better record than the 1988 Orioles?

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