Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who Is the Worst Team in the Majors Right Now?

It's easy to ponder the best teams in baseball. The arguments would center around the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Cardinals and the Phillies (and maybe the Angels). But it's a whole other ball of wax to figure out the worst team in the majors.

First, let's pick our contenders: Washington, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, San Diego, Oakland, Cleveland and Baltimore. Let's look at a few key ratings and see where we end up.


The Indians have the worst staff ERA followed by the Orioles and the Nationals. But if you factor in ball parks, fielding and the like, you have a different statistic called ERA+ which is probably a better indicator of a pitching staff. If you go by ERA+, the Padres are the clear leader...err...loser. Their staff ERA+ of 80 is by far the worst in the majors. The Nationals are second worst at 86, but that six points are a lot higher. The Brewers are at 88 and three teams sit at 89 including the Pirates and Indians.

The Nationals and the Indians have the worst bullpens when it comes to save percentage and inherited runners scoring. The Pirates have the best starting pitching of the bunch and the most "tough losses" or games in which the starting pitcher pitched well but did not get the win or a decision.

ERA+ for our contenders: Pirates (89), Nationals (86), Padres (80), Indians (89), Kansas City (93), Oakland (92), Orioles (90).


The Reds (who maybe should have been in this argument) have the worst OPS+ in the majors with a whopping score of 79. The Giants are second worst at 81. The Royals are at 88 and the Pirates at 90.

OPS+ of our contenders: Pirates (90), Royals (88), Padres (94), Athletics (92), Orioles (93), Indians (99), Nationals (99)


Ranking fielding is almost counting against (or for) a team twice since ERA+ does account some for fielding. But for our purposes, we will count it separately. And since ERA+ and OPS+ are based on 100 (with 100 being average), we'll convert (for easy math) the fielding percentage to a hundred type score to go along with the others.

Pirates (98.8), Royals (98.0), Padres (98.5), Athletics (98.4), Orioles (98.4), Indians (98.6), Nationals (97.7).

Two comments there: First, the Pirates traded away most of the players that were responsible for this fielding percentage. Second, the Nationals are clearly the worst fielding percentage team of the contenders with the Royals second.

A different fielding statistic is Defensive Efficiency which measures balls in play converted to outs. All of our contenders are in the bottom third of teams when it comes to Defensive Efficiency. The Royals are dead last out of all the teams in the majors in this category and the Orioles are third from the bottom. Somewhat surprising, the next to last team in Defensive Efficiency? The Red Sox.

Team Record the Last Three Months

Some teams of our contenders started really poorly and others started really well. What the Fan wants to consider here is how they have played once the season was well under way to even the playing field a bit:

Orioles: 25-41 (.378)
Indians: 29-36 (.446)
Royals: 23-44 (.343)
Athletics: 33-36 (.478)
Pirates: 24-42 (.363)
Padres: 24-45 (.348)
Nationals: 29-39 (.426)

Blow Out Games

Measuring blow out games gives us some indication of how often the team has imploded or exploded.

Orioles: 13-19 (.406)
Indians: 16-15 (.516)
Royals: 14-30 (.318)
Athletics: 17-18 (.476)
Pirates: 14-19 (.424)
Padres: 6-27 (.182)
Nationals: 11-20 (.355)

One Run Games

How do our contenders fare in the tight games?

Orioles: 12-15 (.444)
Indians: 16-14 (.533)
Royals: 11-17 (.393)
Athletics: 12-18 (.400)
Pirates: 8-18 (.308)
Padres: 16-16 (.500)
Nationals: 13-17 (.433)


Okay, what have we come up with? The Indians are the best hitters of the bunch and decent fielders. They are in the middle of this pack in ERA+. They play well in tight games and have more blowouts in their favor than against. We can rule them out. The Nationals are right up there with the Indians on offense but don't field well or pitch well. Their bullpen is the worst in the majors. But they have played reasonably well in close games and over the last three months have the second best record of our contenders. We can rule them out. The Orioles are in the middle of the pack in all of our categories except for fielding where they are terrible. But we can rule them out because of the middle of the pack thing.

The Pirates are hard to consider since they aren't the same team that started the season. More than half of the opening day starting lineup have been traded away. As such, they have the third worst record the last three months and are terrible in close games. But they are not at the bottom of the pack in any other category, so we have to give them a pass. The A's are not bad (for this bunch) at the plate or on the mound. Their fielding isn't great (with the likes of Cust and Giambi lumbering around for most of the year). Their record in the last three months in comparison with the rest and their ability to win almost as many blowouts as they lose gives them an out card.

That leaves us with the Padres and the Royals. The Padres are clearly the worst pitching team in the league. Their OPS+ isn't bad with these contenders and they fare well in close games. But they have been blown out 21 more times than they blew out other teams. And they have fared really poorly the last three months.

The Royals are the worst hitting team of the bunch and the worst fielders. Their starters are mostly better than some of these other teams (thanks to Greinke). But their bullpen has been awful. They have the worst record the last three months. They are terrible in close games and get blown out way more often than they blow out the other teams.

Folks, your winner and the honor of the worst team in the major leagues goes to the Kansas City Royals. You are not really surprised are you?


Josh Borenstein said...

Ah, a very thorough approach. I'd still go with the Padres, though. To me, when someone like Jonathan Sanchez flirts with a perfect game against you, you're not only bad. You're very, very bad.

When Gonzo leaves, Kevin Kouzmanoff or Everth Cabrera will be their best player. Think about that for a second.

RPMcSweeney said...


I agree with your assessment, especially when you consider that the Royals have not only an embarrassing Major League team but also a bereft Minor League system. As you said, their one saving grace might be pitching, thanks to Greinke, Bannister, Meche, and Soria. But other that that, they are terrible, and they have next to no help coming up from the minors other than Hochevar and Moustakas.

While the Pirates are also really, really bad, at least they are doing the only sensible thing bad teams can do--trade whatever valuable players they have for prospects. Maybe those prospects pan out, and with some savvy drafting, that could lead to a Tampa 2008-style renaissance. Maybe not, but what else can they do?

The Royals, on the other hand, have scant Major League talent, next to no Minor League talent, and no clear front office leadership. It'll be a long, long time till the Royals compete--even for .500.