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The Worst of Series, The Not Quite Worst of Series?
2004-10-28 19:32
by Mike Carminati

As the jubilant Red Sox players, management, and fans celebrate their championship and the dispelling of "The Curse"—hopefully keeping the body count to a minimum—I am left to mull over whether or not this train wreck of a World Series was the worst in my lifetime or not.

Was it 1990 when Eric Davis dived for a ball in game four and put himself in an Oakland hospital? The Reds won so quickly that he was still there when the Series was done, and charitable then-owner Marge Schott left him there to pay his own return airfare.

Was it 1976 when the Big Red Machine at its height stormed through the NLCS and World Series without a loss, sweeping the pre-Reggie Yanks?

Those are good, but my vote goes to 1989. That's when the Series was interrupted by an earthquake postponing game three for ten days. For a time, it wasn't certain if the World Series would resume or if the Bay Area had the inclination or the wherewithal to continue. Candlestick Park sustained some minor damage. When they resumed the A's led game three 13-3 going into the bottom of the ninth after winning the first games by a combined 10-1 score. In game four San Fran starter Don Robinson lasting 1-2/3 innings and the A's led 8-0 in the middle of the sixth. It did end up being the closest game of the series though (9-6). Things were so bad for the Giants that seldom used Billy Bathe was one of four San Francisco players to homer. Aside from Dave Stewart's and Dave Henderson's performances, there wasn't much to recommend it. Maybe we should have taken the earthquake as a hint.

However, this was arguable one of the worst World Series ever from an aesthetic stand point. The Red Sox outscored the Cards by 12 runs in four games. There are only 12 Series sweeps that are that lopsided or worse:

1932New York YankeesALChicago CubsNL400371918
1989Oakland AthleticsALSan Francisco GiantsNL400321418
1928New York YankeesALSt. Louis CardinalsNL400271017
1976Cincinnati RedsNLNew York YankeesAL40022814
1990Cincinnati RedsNLOakland AthleticsAL40022814
1907Chicago CubsNLDetroit TigersAL40119613
1927New York YankeesALPittsburgh PiratesNL400231013
1938New York YankeesALChicago CubsNL40022913
1998New York YankeesALSan Diego PadresNL400261313
1939New York YankeesALCincinnati RedsNL40020812
1954New York GiantsNLCleveland IndiansAL40021912
1999New York YankeesALAtlanta BravesNL40021912
2004Boston Red SoxALSt. Louis CardinalsNL400241212

The Cardinals never owned a lead—they tied for one and two-thirds innings in game one.

The meat of the Cardinal order was historically bad. Scott Rolen was 0-for-15 with one walk and one pointless sac fly that scored one of only two Cardinal runs in game two but helped kill an eighth-inning rally (first and third with one out, trailing 6-1). Rolen's poor plate at the plate followed an 0-for-12 in the Dodgers series and a seeming rebirth towards the end of the NLCS, that turned out to be short-lived.

Here are the men who have collected at least 10 at-bats in a World Series without a hit. Rolen's is tied for the eleventh most ABs without a hit:

Dal Maxvill1968St. Louis Cardinals220310
Gil Hodges1952Brooklyn Dodgers210511
Red Murray1911New York Giants210200
Jimmy Sheckard1906Chicago Cubs210201
Billy Sullivan1906Chicago White Sox210000
Patsy Tebeau1892Cleveland Spiders180010
Lonny Frey1939Cincinnati Reds170100
Flea Clifton1935Detroit Tigers160210
Mike Epstein1972Oakland Athletics160510
Rafael Belliard1995Atlanta Braves160001
Wally Berger1939Cincinnati Reds150001
Bill Dahlen1905New York Giants150311
Scott Rolen2004St. Louis Cardinals150101
Dick Green1974Oakland Athletics130111
Elton Chamberlain1888St. Louis Browns130430
Hal Wagner1946Boston Red Sox130000
Pete Conway1887Detroit Wolverines120000
Joe Collins1952New York Yankees120110
Carl Reynolds1938Chicago Cubs120100
Barbaro Garbey1984Detroit Tigers120000
Davey Williams1954New York Giants110201
Roy Howell1982Milwaukee Brewers110010
Birdie Tebbetts1940Detroit Tigers110000
Jim Rivera1959Chicago White Sox110310
Felix Mantilla1957Milwaukee Braves100110
Lefty Grove1931Philadelphia Athletics100000
Steve Brady1884New York Metropolitans100010
Hippo Vaughn1918Chicago Cubs100000
Jim Leyritz1998San Diego Padres100100

The only ones with more hitless at-bats in recent memory were Rafael Belliard who replaced an (I believe) injured Jeff Blauser late in the NLCS in 1995. The other was Mike Epstein who led the Series-winning A's with 26 home runs (really) and had an OPS 67% better than the park-adjusted league average but went hitless in the World Series. He was no longer an A in 1973 and was out of the game within a year.

Meanwhile, Jim Edmonds and Reggie Sanders, the number five and six hitters, were the strikeout kings. Edmonds K'ed 6 times in 15 at-bats or 40% of the time. His batting average was .067 for the series. He's one of 36 players to strike out that many times and have 40% of his at-bats consist of Ks.

Sanders sat out most of game four but still managed to strike out five times in nine at-bats (plus four walks and one stolen base, the only Cardinal SB for the series). He's one of 30 players to strike at least 50% of the time in the Series

Here are the worst strikeout offenders in the Fall Classic (>60%):

Joe Black1952Brooklyn Dodgers3606100.00%
George Mogridge1924Washington Senators2505100.00%
George Pipgras1932New York Yankees1505100.00%
Curt Schilling2001Arizona Diamondbacks360583.33%
Danny Jackson1985Kansas City Royals260583.33%
Jim Kaat1965Minnesota Twins361583.33%
Jim Lonborg1967Boston Red Sox390777.78%
David Justice2001New York Yankees5122975.00%
Mel Stottlemyre1964New York Yankees381675.00%
Ralph Terry1962New York Yankees381675.00%
Jimmie Hall1965Minnesota Twins271571.43%
Johnny Beazley1942St. Louis Cardinals271571.43%
Ray Kremer1925Pittsburgh Pirates371571.43%
Schoolboy Rowe1934Detroit Tigers370571.43%
Lefty Grove1931Philadelphia Athletics3100770.00%

Basically, David Justice and a bunch of pitchers. Others in recent memory (last 40 years):

Damian Miller2001Arizona Diamondbacks62141152.38%
Ken Caminiti1998San Diego Padres4142750.00%
Damon Berryhill1992Atlanta Braves62221150.00%
Carmelo Martinez1984San Diego Padres5173952.94%
Greg Luzinski1980Philadelphia Phillies390555.56%
Bob Allison1965Minnesota Twins5162956.25%
Sandy Koufax1965Los Angeles Dodgers391555.56%

The Cards batted .190 as a team. That ties them for the 16th worst all-time. They also had a .261 on-base percentage and slugged.302 for a meager .563 OPS:

Los Angeles Dodgers1966120171328.142
Baltimore Orioles1969157231528.146
New York Metropolitans18847511015.147
Philadelphia Athletics190515524525.155
New York Yankees196312922537.171
Philadelphia Athletics1914128221328.172
New York Giants1911189331444.175
Oakland Athletics1988158281741.177
Cleveland Indians1995195352537.179
Brooklyn Dodgers1941159291421.182
Philadelphia Phillies1915148271025.182
St. Louis Browns1944197362349.183
New York Yankees2001229421663.183
St. Louis Cardinals1985216401842.185
Boston Red Sox1918172321621.186
Cleveland Indians1954137261623.190

By the way, the Sox .283 team batting average was good for 22nd best (.404 OBP, .478 SLUG, and .882 OPS). Here are the top ones:

New York Yankees1960269911840.338
Pittsburgh Pirates1979251811635.323
Philadelphia Athletics1910177571724.322
Cincinnati Reds199014245159.317
New York Giants18893241023126.315
Cincinnati Reds1976134421216.313
New York Yankees1932144452326.313
Toronto Blue Jays1993206642530.311
Anaheim Angels2002245762338.310
New York Yankees1998139432029.309
New York Giants1922162501215.309
New York Yankees1978222681640.306
New York Yankees1936215652635.302
Oakland Athletics1989146441822.301
Brooklyn Dodgers1953213641530.300
Philadelphia Phillies1980201591517.294

The Cardinals pitchers registered a 6.09 ERA struck out only 20 and walked 24. Their team ERA ties them for eighth worst all-time and the highest since 1993:

Chicago Cubs19329.261.13
San Francisco Giants19898.211.22
Philadelphia Phillies19937.571.20
Pittsburgh Pirates19607.112.22
New York Giants19366.791.35
Cincinnati Reds19706.701.65
Brooklyn Bridegrooms18896.280.84
St. Louis Cardinals19286.091.00

Their strikeout-to-walk ratio (.833) is the seventh worst in World Series history and the worst since 1990:

Oakland Athletics19904.330.600
Chicago Cubs19454.150.667
New York Giants18893.970.706
Los Angeles Dodgers19813.290.727
Boston Red Sox19181.700.778
Brooklyn Dodgers19412.660.783
Brooklyn Bridegrooms18896.280.839
Chicago White Sox19193.680.880
New York Yankees19511.870.880
New York Giants19514.670.885
Philadelphia Phillies19502.270.923
Brooklyn Dodgers19475.550.974

The Red Sox meanwhile registered a 2.50 ERA with 12 walks and 32 strikeouts. That's the 66th best ERA and 32nd best strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.667).

Here are the best:

New York Giants19050.005.000
Baltimore Orioles19660.502.154
New York Yankees19500.733.429
Chicago Cubs19070.752.444
Cleveland Indians19200.892.000
Los Angeles Dodgers19631.007.400
Chicago Cubs19181.041.313
Boston Braves19141.152.154
New York Yankees19391.223.667
Boston Beaneaters18921.292.500
Philadelphia Athletics19111.293.143
Chicago White Sox19061.331.556
New York Yankees19431.402.364
New York Giants19541.461.438
St. Louis Browns18851.472.308
St. Louis Browns19441.492.263

New York Giants19112.837.750
Los Angeles Dodgers19631.007.400
New York Giants19050.005.000
Chicago White Stockings18851.734.857
Philadelphia Athletics19312.664.556
Chicago White Sox19172.774.500
New York Yankees20002.684.364
New York Yankees19381.754.333
Baltimore Orioles19831.604.143
New York Yankees20014.264.118
Arizona Diamondbacks20011.943.938
Philadelphia Athletics19292.403.846
Philadelphia Phillies19833.483.700

The one thing that you can criticize the Sox for was their defense. They recorded 8 errors and had just a .946 fielding percentage though they did turn 5 doubleplays. There were 42 teams who erred more often a Series though. Here are the worst:

YrTmTotal E
1903Pittsburgh Pirates19
1909Detroit Tigers17
1912New York Giants16
1911New York Giants16
1934St. Louis Cardinals15
1906Chicago White Sox15
1903Boston Pilgrims14
1916Brooklyn Robins13
1919Cincinnati Reds13
1912Boston Red Sox12
1909Pittsburgh Pirates12
1917Chicago White Sox12
1924Washington Senators12
1934Detroit Tigers12
1919Chicago White Sox12

Here are the last teams to flub at least 8 balls:

2001New York Yankees8
1997Florida Marlins8
1982Milwaukee Brewers10
1981Los Angeles Dodgers9
1979Pittsburgh Pirates9
1979Baltimore Orioles9
1973New York Mets10
1973Oakland Athletics9
1972Oakland Athletics9
1971Baltimore Orioles9

The Red Sox errors led to only 2 unearned runs, but that did help keep the team ERA low. Bill Mueller committed three errors all in the drizzle of game two. There have been 24 players who erred more often. The worst offender was shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh for the 1924 Senators with 8 errors. SS Joe Sewell (who replaced ay Chapman on the 1920 Indians), 2B Davey Lopes (1981 Dodgers), and SS Hans Wagner (1903 Pirates) are next with 6. No one since 1982 (Brewers Robin Yount (3) and Jim Gantner(5)) has recorded more than three. The only players with three since then are 1B Jim Lindeman (1987 Cardinals), 2B Alfonso Soriano (2001 Yanks), 3B Aaron Boone (last year's Yankees), and C Joe Oliver (1990 Reds).

Let's measure the disparity between the two teams by looking at some basic stats. The difference between their team ERAs is 3.59, fifth greatest all time:

1932New York Yankees3.00Chicago Cubs9.266.26
1884Providence Grays0.00New York Metropolitans5.575.57
1989Oakland Athletics3.50San Francisco Giants8.214.71
1928New York Yankees2.00St. Louis Cardinals6.094.09
2004Boston Red Sox2.50St. Louis Cardinals6.093.59
1960New York Yankees3.54Pittsburgh Pirates7.113.57
1976Cincinnati Reds2.00New York Yankees5.453.45
1954New York Giants1.46Cleveland Indians4.843.38
1961New York Yankees1.60Cincinnati Reds4.913.31
1970Baltimore Orioles3.40Cincinnati Reds6.703.30
1936New York Yankees3.50New York Giants6.793.29
1938New York Yankees1.75Chicago Cubs5.033.28
1927New York Yankees2.00Pittsburgh Pirates5.193.19
1939New York Yankees1.22Cincinnati Reds4.333.11
1998New York Yankees2.75San Diego Padres5.823.07

The Red Sox batting average (sorry, I don't have the other ratios' historical values) was 93 points higher than the Cards'. That's the fourth largest difference between opponents batting average in the history of the World Series:

YrTeamBATeamBABA Diff
1990Cincinnati Reds.317Oakland Athletics.207.109
1922New York Giants.309New York Yankees.203.106
1985Kansas City Royals.288St. Louis Cardinals.185.103
2004Boston Red Sox.283St. Louis Cardinals.190.093
1989Oakland Athletics.301San Francisco Giants.209.092
1976Cincinnati Reds.313New York Yankees.222.091
1979Pittsburgh Pirates.323Baltimore Orioles.232.091
1884Providence Grays.235New York Metropolitans.147.088
1910Philadelphia Athletics.322Chicago Cubs.234.088
1908Chicago Cubs.293Detroit Tigers.209.084
1889New York Giants.315Brooklyn Bridegrooms.231.084
1960New York Yankees.338Pittsburgh Pirates.256.082
1915Boston Red Sox.264Philadelphia Phillies.182.082
2001Arizona Diamondbacks.264New York Yankees.183.081

You'll notice that the 1989 Series is very high on both lists, but so is 2004. It has a very strong argument for Worst Series ever.

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