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Mike and Yikes!
2003-05-14 14:05
by Mike Carminati

The Tabbies Mike Maroth pitched six solid innings yesterday against Ted Lilly and the A's. He entered the sixth having given up just four hits and one walk against two strikeouts. His one walk scored on a triple by Eric Byrnes in the third, but Shane Halter got that run back with a home run in the bottom of the inning. Aside from that Maroth did not have more than one baserunner an inning through the first six.

Then came the seventh. He left with one out in a 1-1 tie ballgame. Unfortunately, he also left the bases loaded and when Miguel Tejada doubled off of reliever Steve Sparks, he lost his eighth straight game against not even one victory. Meanwhile his Tigers fell to 8-28 for a .222 won-loss percentage. They are 14.5 games out of first in the AL Central.

The Tigers have been historically bad yet far. Their .222 winning percentage is the worst since the infamous 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who had been gutting by an oligarchy National League, ended the season as a traveling team, and were one of the teams excised when the NL "contracted" from twelve to the sacrosanct eight clubs.

Here are the all-time major-league teams with a winning percentage worse than the 2003 Tigers, worst to "best":

1872Washington NationalsNA011.000
1873Baltimore MarylandsNA06.000
1875Brooklyn AtlanticsNA242.045
1875Keokuk WesternsNA112.077
1873Elizabeth ResolutesNA221.087
1872Brooklyn EckfordsNA326.103
1884Wilmington QuickstepsUA216.111
1899Cleveland SpidersNL20134.130
1876Cincinnati RedsNL956.138
1875Philadelphia CentennialsNA212.143
1875New Haven Elm CitysNA740.149
1871Rockford Forest CitysNA421.160
1890Pittsburgh AlleghenysNL23113.169
1883Philadelphia Quakers NL1781.173
1875Washington NationalsNA523.179
1884Washington StatesmenAA1251.190
1874Baltimore CanariesNA938.191
1889Louisville ColonelsAA27111.196
1884Kansas City CowboysUA1663.203
1873Washington Blue LegsNA831.205
1872Middletown MansfieldsNA519.208
1875St. Louis Red StockingsNA415.211
1882Worcester Ruby LegsNL1866.214
1897St. Louis Brown StockingsNL29102.221
1872Washington OlympicsNA27.222

You'll notice that only three of those teams still exist: the 1897 St. Louis Browns are now the Cardinals, The 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys are now the Pirates (in their first year), the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers are now the Phillies (in their first year). Note also that the 1882 Worcester franchise was rescinded and given to the Phils in an attempt to shore up NL power after the formation of the rival American Association. Also, the 1876 Cincinnati Reds have no relation to today's version (though the media claims they are the oldest franchise); the Reds came from the selfsame AA, jumping to the NL in 1890, two years before the leagues merged.

In the "modern" era, i.e., since 1900, the worst record in the majors is held by the 1916 Philadelphia A's, two years removed from the World Series, 36-117, .235. Since expansion, the 1962 inaugural-year Mets hold the distinction of worst record 40-120, .250.

So, yeah, the Tigers are bad and odds are they will end up being considered one of the worst teams of all time, though they will undoubtedly improve their record as the season unfolds. But Mike Maroth has a chance at all-time badness. His 0-8 record projects to 0-36. Though I doubt he can keep it up for a whole season, he would be the first to lose that many against no victories.

No one has lost thirty games since The Spiders' Jim Hughey in 1899. The last to lose 36 in a season were Wild Bill Hutchison and George Cobb in 1892. Hutchison was actually 36-36 in 75 games and 70 starts.

Here is the all-time list of 30-game losers:

1873Jim Britt1736.321
1874George Zettlein2730.474
1874Tommy Bond2232.407
1875Bobby Mathews2938.433
1876Bobby Mathews2134.382
1876Jim Devlin3035.462
1878Sam Weaver1231.279
1879George Bradley1340.245
1879Harry McCormick1833.353
1879Jim McCormick2040.333
1879Will White4331.581
1880Lee Richmond3232.500
1880Mickey Welch3430.531
1880Pud Galvin2035.364
1880Will White1842.300
1881Jim McCormick2630.464
1881Jim Whitney3133.484
1882Jim McCormick3630.545
1882Lee Richmond1433.298
1883Frank Mountain2633.441
1883Hardie Henderson1033.233
1883John Coleman1248.200
1884Adonis Terry1935.352
1884Bob Barr1234.261
1884Dupee Shaw3033.476
1884Fleury Sullivan1635.314
1884Jersey Bakely1630.348
1884John Harkins1232.273
1884Larry McKeon1841.305
1885Hardie Henderson2535.417
1885Jim Whitney1832.360
1886Charley Radbourn2731.466
1886Dupee Shaw1331.295
1886Jack Lynch2030.400
1886Jim Whitney1232.273
1886Matt Kilroy2934.460
1886Stump Wiedman1236.250
1887Al Mays1734.333
1887Billy Crowell1431.311
1887Phenomenal Smith2530.455
1888Henry Porter1837.327
1888Jersey Bakely2533.431
1888Toad Ramsey830.211
1889John Ewing630.167
1889Mark Baldwin2734.443
1890Amos Rusie2934.460
1890Ed Beatin2230.423
1891Kid Carsey1437.275
1892Amos Rusie3131.500
1892Bill Hutchison3636.500
1892George Cobb1037.213
1895Ted Breitenstein1930.388
1897Red Donahue1035.222
1899Jim Hughey430.118

Note that none of the thirty-game losers had zero in the victory column. The worst percentage is Hughey's at .118. Here are the worst all-time losers with no wins:

Terry Felton19820134.99
Russ Miller19280125.42
Steve Gerkin19450123.62
Bill Stearns18720116.91
Charlie Stecher189001010.32
Earl Hamilton1917093.14
Heathcliff Slocumb1997095.16
Rod Beck1996093.34
Stump Wiedman1880093.40
Tom Tuckey1909094.27
Bill Grahame1910083.56
Ed O'Neil1890089.26
John Franco1998083.62
John Malarkey1895085.99
Milt Wilcox1986085.50
Neil Allen1987085.93
Todd Burns1993085.08

Maroth is not pitching that badly-his 5.27 ERA belies a 1.13 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). It seems unlikely that he will go the entire season without a win. However, he could definitely break the twenty-game mark in the loss column.

The last man to lose twenty was Brian Kingman then of the Billy Ball A's, who now wears the title as a mark of distinction. It seemed for years that team's would go out of their way to ensure that none of their pitchers collected a score of losses.

What's odd about that is that Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro fell just two losses short of 20 for 1980 (15-19 with a 3.63 ERA). Niekro had lost 20 games and won 21 in 1979 and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote. He had lost 20 in 1977 (16-20) and 18 in '78 (19-18, also 6th in the Cy Young). Over that span Niekro started between 38 and 44 games a year, a bit more than today.

In the Seventies, pitchers collected 20 losses a total of 14 times and most of those pitchers were stars if not successful starters:

1971Denny McLain3310224.28
1972Steve Arlin3810213.60
1973Stan Bahnsen4218213.57
1973Steve Carlton4013203.90
1973Wilbur Wood4924203.46
1974Bill Bonham4411223.86
1974Clyde Wright389204.42
1974Mickey Lolich4116214.15
1974Randy Jones408224.45
1974Steve Rogers3815224.47
1975Wilbur Wood4316204.11
1977Jerry Koosman328203.49
1977Phil Niekro4416204.03
1979Phil Niekro4421203.39

As a matter of fact 20-game losers seemed to evaporate overnight. As rotations grew very quickly to four men in the early 1900s, the number shrank quickly. But between the Twenties and Seventies their number held relatively steady:

DecadeNumAvg Team WAvg Team LAvg Team PCT

Twenty-game losers were usually on poor clubs, but note that in the Seventies their teams' average record was better than it had been since the 1890s when 20-game losers were plentiful.

So when and how did losing 20 become such an embarrassment?

To be continued...

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