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A Short History of Winless MLB Starts

Wire photogs already moving pics like this after one week. (By Al Messerschmidt - Getty)

Look, I'm dang sure going to Nats Park today, because there's no possible better way to spend a late afternoon in mid-April. Also, unlike many of you, I'm getting paid to do this. That alone makes me optimistic about life.

But I'm not so sure I buy all this "every team goes through slumps, and you're only noticing ours because it's the start of the season" stuff. I can't stop thinking of a certain 1-10 start thrown up by some other local team this year, a team that never exactly turned things around. My skepticism isn't enough to make me skip today's festivities in favor of Caps practice, but frankly, it's pretty close.

All I really wanted was an '09 team that could stay competitive and provide occasional thrills through the All-Star Break, at which point well-placed vacation time could carry us up to Skins training camp. But the Nats are now Major League Baseball's only winless club. That's not a good omen.

In six of the past seven years, MLB's final winless club ended up the season at least 14 games under .500. In four of the past seven years, MLB's final winless club lost at least 95 games.

I'm sure you could PECOTA your way into proof that this is the dumbest use of numbers in baseball history, but here are the worst winless starts to a season of recent vintage, and those teams' final results. It's not exactly fodder for the optimists among us.

* 2008 Detroit Tigers (Started 0-7, finished 74-88, tied for 21st overall.)

* 2007 Houston Astros (Started 0-4, finished 73-89, tied for 21st overall.)

* 2007 Washington Nationals (Started 1-8, finished 73-89, tied for 21st overall.)

* 2006 Pittsburgh Pirates (Started 0-6, finished 67-95, 27th overall.)

* 2006 Kansas City Royals (Started 2-13, finished 62-100, 29th overall.)

* 2005 N.Y. Mets (Started 0-5, finished 83-79, tied for 11th overall.)

* 2005 Colorado Rockies (Started 1-8, finished 67-95, tied for 27th overall.)

* 2004 Seattle Mariners (Started 0-5, finished 63-99, 28th overall.)

* 2004 Montreal Expos (Started 2-11, finished 67-95, 27th overall.)

* 2003 Detroit Tigers (Started 0-9, finished 43-119, 30th overall.)

* 2002 Detroit Tigers (Started 0-11, finished 55-106, tied for 29th overall.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 13, 2009; 6:47 AM ET
Categories:  MLB , Nats  
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Next: Morning Bog: Doin' the Bull Dance. Feelin' the Flow.


Why am I concerned that this pairing could be repeated this year?:

* 2003 Detroit Tigers (Started 0-9, finished 43-119, 30th overall.)

* 2002 Detroit Tigers (Started 0-11, finished 55-106, tied for 29th overall.)

Posted by: wahoo2x | April 13, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Which led to Detroit selecting Kyle Sleeth and Justin Verlander

Posted by: Brian_ | April 13, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Who needs PECOTA? Rany Jazayerli came up with some a fairly useful regression-based formulas in his article "The Break," which you can find in the Baseball Prospectus book _It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over._

Without revealing exactly what the formulas come up with based on this abysmal start, let's just say they foresee three digits in that ol' curly L column.

Posted by: Hendo1 | April 13, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Those of us who lived though that Orioles season know all too well about the winless start to a season.

Posted by: metatext | April 13, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

The problem with the nationals is they are not building a team for the newer ball parks, RFK was a great park for your average pitchers, it was hard to get a lot of runs out of it. Newer parks are all about being HR friendly, our below average pitching, and fielding makes it easy for other teams to run up the scores on us. THEY NEED SOME REAL HURLERS, The young guys are not ready, but they are all the Nats have.

Posted by: alex35332 | April 13, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Could this be another one of those "sure we started out 5-25 but since then we've played .500 baseball" seasons?

Posted by: AsstGM | April 13, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Ironically, that 2007 season was proclaimed to be a triumph.

And really, Alex, "newer parks?" The Nats have played in Miami and Atlanta so far. Dolphin Stadium was built in 1987 (and is a football stadium). Turner Field opened in 1996. Both lean toward being pitcher friendly, according to the Park Factors.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 13, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

(My point being, it's not that parks that are revealing the poor pitching - it's the poor pitching performances themselves.)

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 13, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

And the sad thing is that each of those last winless team seasons would represent an improvement from our record last year...Oh well, in another 2 hours I'm heading down to the ballpark anyway. Go Nats!

Posted by: NatsFly | April 13, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

The Nationals owners and GM didn't understand the Washington sports market despite the fact the Lerners are locals.

Washington, like NY, comes out to see WINNERS. With the exception of the Redskins, there are no sports options that keep the interest of a diverse metropolitaion area when they are struggling.

The Nationals came in with a developmental model based more appropriately on a small market like Kansas City or Pittsburgh.

Yes, the team needed to draft well and acquire prospects for the future. All agreed on that.

The question was and is, does that have to happen in a vacuum on the major league level?

Do the Nationals have to be SO awful on the field during that development process that a close to .500 baseball team could not be put on the field to at least be competitive?

The Nationals wasted $5M on Dmitri Young, $5M on Felipe Lopez, $5M on Paul LoDuca and then complain that the market for free agent pitchers is to expensive for them to compete for the likes of a Joe Wolf from the Dodgers in the offseason.

Only minimum vet deals to 33 year old borderline players are possible for the staff?

I don't understand why a consistent strategy could and SHOULD not have been developed to add selected younger veterans in free agency that could help shape this club as the youngsters started to emerge.

This team was so far below the competitive salary ranges of the other teams in its division that there should have been no bar to cherry-picking 2 or 3 players like a Jake Peavy or Matt Holliday that could have helped form a core here to build on.

Instead the club decided it was going to field a AAA team for 4 years waiting for its prospects to reach the majors and then another 1-2 years for those youngsters to learn how to play under siege while the losses piled up.

The management team here simply failed.

I think they woke up in 2009 with the move for Teixeira and Dunn but now the goodwill of waiting 3-4 years for a decent club has been dissipated, and no one wants to wait ANOTHER 3-4 years for the younger players to develop at the major league level with only one or two mid-tier veterans to bring people to the park.

Posted by: leopard09 | April 13, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

@leopard09: I am beginning to come around to your POV.

I generally was of the view that signing B-level free agents was a guarantee of permanent mediocrity; better to save the money and build for the long term. I'm still not entirely sure that's wrong.

But the dissipation of goodwill, the widening aura of negativity that has now surrounded this team for at least three years -- some of it caused by unbelievably stupid off-field management decisions like the rent debacle, some of it the team's on-field performance -- is becoming a long-term problem for the franchise. Maybe some short-term acquisitions to make the team more watchable would have been smarter.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 13, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

74-88 - I'll take it!

Posted by: flynnie1 | April 13, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Steinberg, You are a terrible influence on the DC Sports Community. Maybe just ONCE have something positive to say. Just once. Hope you get that ESPN job someday.....

Posted by: amavroukakis | April 13, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

No one cares about baseball in DC!!!!

Posted by: RedskinAddict | April 13, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

How did baseball pick this owner?????? CLULESS! and SAD for DC. They were better without an owner

Posted by: LongTimeSkinsFan | April 13, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

How did baseball pick this owner?????? CLULESS! and SAD for DC. They were better without an owner

Posted by: LongTimeSkinsFan | April 13, 2009 1:58 PM

Ted Lerner is Bud Selig with a law degree. That's how he got picked.

Posted by: gbooksdc | April 13, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

The Nationals organization is pathetic. Anyone who employs and pays idiots like Bowden as a GM (look at Cinci Reds) apparently doesn't get it. This isn't Atlanta. I went to 8 games last year and won't even watch this embarrasment on tv this year. I bought in to the whole rebuild and not spend. But I've waited too long. I see no young talent. Someone fill me in who the future #1 or #2 starter is. And don't tell me Lannan. He's a 3 at best. I wonder what they'll do with the new ballpark when it looks like a Marlins game. I was embarrassed last year watching games and seeing 3-4 people in the television when focused on the batter. I even got calls from friends in Chicago laughing.

Speaking of rebuilding and Marlins. Haven't the Marlins rebuilt their club 3 times in 10 years and all became winners quicker than the Nationals. Even being competitive would be nice. Untill then Kastin should be fired and the Lerners made to watch all 162 games the last 4 years. Thats torture enough.

Posted by: oneft2dice | April 13, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

0-15 guarantees that Manny inActa will be fired.

"LET'S GO (insert name of whichever team the Nats are playing here)!

Acta needs to be gone yesterday!

Posted by: DudeCameron | April 13, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

>Steinberg, You are a terrible influence on the DC Sports Community. Maybe just ONCE have something positive to say. Just once. Hope you get that ESPN job someday.....

He's not done sniveling in DC yet. All 98 pounds of him.

Posted by: Brue | April 14, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

The team has gotten worse. UFb. If they lose more than last year maybe the Lerner's will fire this trainwreck of a baseball operation and start over. They suck.

Posted by: ridgely1 | April 14, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

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