I was hoping to get this done prior to the start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, but such is life. Anyway, the title of this post should say it all. Just as I did for the NHL last year, I’ve devised a super-secret, proprietary system for ranking all current baseball franchises. To see my rankings for other leagues, as well as all my sports lists, check out this page.
But before I get to the list of the ten worst MLB teams of all-time, a few notes of explanation are needed.
- Rankings are based on average points per season, not total points.
- For the few franchises whose history stretches back to the 19th century (Braves, Cardinals, Reds, etc.), I am only counting seasons played as members of the National League.
- I am awarding points for a playoff series win for teams that won the special Division Series held at the end of the strike-shortened 1981 season.
- Records from previous franchise locations are included. So for example, the Nationals’ totals include their time as the Montreal Expos.
The categories and point values are as follows:
- 20 points for a World Series title. Pre-1903 titles are not counted.
- 15 points for a league pennant.
- 6 points for a playoff series win (e.g. Division Series or Wild Card Game).
- 4 points for a division title.
- 3 points for a regular season winning percentage of .556 or higher, -3 points for a percentage of .444 or lower.
- 1 point for a winning season, -1 point for a losing season.
- Consecutive winning regular seasons are worth 2 points starting with the second, 3 points for the third, 4 points for the fourth, and so on. The counter is reset after any non-winning season. So if a team has three winning seasons in a row, they get a total of 5 points.
- A multiplier is included, which is based on a franchise’s all-time regular-season winning percentage.
While I may tweak my formula in future years, I think what I have now accomplishes my two most important objectives — to reward consistently good play in the regular season and to not give older franchises too much of an advantage just by virtue of being around for so many years. World Series titles alone do not a great team make.
That’s about it! Let’s get to the rankings, good through the end of the 2013 MLB season.
#1. Seattle Mariners (-0.57 avg.)
After 37 seasons in the books, all the Mariners have to show for their time in baseball are three division titles and three ALDS wins. Seattle didn’t even complete a winning season 1991, their fifteenth in Major League Baseball.
Since their last playoff appearance, in 2001, the Mariners have completed just four winning campaigns and have lost more than 100 games twice.
#2. Colorado Rockies (-0.25 avg.)
20 years is probably enough time to stop using the excuse of being an expansion franchise, wouldn’t you say? Nevertheless, other than a Cinderella run all the way to the World Series in 2007, Colorado hasn’t had much going for it. In fact they have almost as many 90-loss campaigns (5) as they do winning seasons (7).
#3. San Diego Padres (-0.0270 avg.)
All you need to really know about the Padres is that they currently boast the worst all-time regular season winning percentage (.464) of any team currently in existence. To be fair, they have advanced to the World Series twice (1984 and 1997) since joining the league in 1969. But those two seasons are the only ones in which they’ve won a playoff series.
#4. Washington Nationals (-0.0268 avg.)
The Nationals missed out on third place on this list by a mere fraction, but it really doesn’t matter much. Since joining the league as the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969, the franchise has captured a measly two division crowns and won a single playoff series.
The current Nats squad might help put some more distance between themselves and San Diego, but they have a climb in front of them to catch the number five team on this list.
#5. Milwaukee Brewers (0.37 avg.)
Speaking of which, how strange of a coincidence that three of the four ’69 expansion teams are clumped together on this list? The Brew Crew has been mediocre or just plain bad for much of its 45-year history, with more than twice as many losing seasons as winning ones, and an astonishing 14 seasons in which they lost at least 90 games. That’s almost one out of every three years on average that the Brewers have stunk.
#6. Texas Rangers (0.71 avg.)
By average, the Rangers are almost twice as good as the Brewers. Unfortunately that’s not saying much. Texas managed an amazing streak of futility when they went their first 36 seasons before making the playoffs. They have picked up the pace since then, advancing to the postseason six times since 1998 — and the last four years in a row — but they need to do a lot more winning to move out of this list.
#7. Tampa Bay Rays (1.04 avg.)
It truly is a tale of two franchises with Tampa. From their inception as the Devil Rays in 1998 through 2007 they were not just bad, they were really bad. Like, 90-plus losses every year bad. But since 2008 the franchise has undergone a remarkable transformation, winning two AL East titles and making the playoffs four times in the process. They’ve also won at least 90 games in each of the last four campaigns and have battled for divisional supremacy with the Yankees and Red Sox.
#8. Kansas City Royals (1.61 avg.)
Two teams on this list, of which the Royals are one, have the dubious honor of actually winning at least one World Series title. But since winning their lone championship in 1985, the Royals have wandered the baseball desert. In those 28 seasons KC has had losing records in 20 of them, four of which also featured more than 100 losses. And on top of all that (there’s more?), the Royals have had two winning seasons — TWO — since 1994.
#9. Minnesota Twins (1.63 avg.)
And the Twins are the other team to achieve ultimate glory and still sit in the bottom ten. Setting aside Minnesota’s two World Series titles in 1987 and 1991 — as well as their 1924 title won as the Washington Senators — the franchise has simply compiled too many bad seasons to not reach the bottom of the league’s proverbial barrel.
Consider the following as well: 113 total seasons (the Senators were a charter AL franchise), 66 losing seasons, 40 seasons at or below .444, and almost 700 games below .500.
#10. Houston Astros (1.75 avg.)
It took the team formerly known as the Colt .45s a whopping 44 years to reach their first World Series. In the interim, the Astros didn’t compile more than three consecutive winning years until the 1990s. The last three seasons of Houston baseball have been historically awful, as the team lost 100+ games in each of them.
The Mediocre Five — #11. Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim (1.92); #12. Philadelphia Phillies (2.06); #13. Miami Marlins (2.23); #14. Baltimore Orioles (2.78); #15. New York Mets (3.02)