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Nats Attempt to Avoid 210-Loss Ignominy

The worst. (By Paul Sancya - AP)

As the Nats have settled into the Jim Riggleman era, their total loss pace has also settled in, in a zone much less horrific than we originally expected. For weeks, they've been on pace for somewhere around 103, 104, 105 or 106 losses, none of which are historically ghastly. No big difference between those numbers, you're thinking? Well, not so fast.

See, the Nats finished with 102 losses a year ago. They'll almost certainly reach 100 losses again this year, making them one of five teams to record back-to-back 100-loss seasons in the past quarter-century. Here are those seasons:

* Kansas City Royals, 05-06 and 04-05
* Detroit Tigers, 02-03
* Tampa Bay Rays, 01-02

So this would already be very bad, in the long-term view. But all back-to-back seasons of misery are not created the same.

See, in those 25 years, 13 teams have recorded at least 200 losses in back-to-back seasons. But only three teams have recorded at least 208 losses. If the Nats limp home with, say, 103 losses this year, they'll be just extremely bad. If they reach 106, they'll be historically bad. And if they truly crater and finish the year 5-17, giving them a two-year total of 211 losses, they would have put together one of the three worst stretches of baseball in my lifetime. (I'm 33.)

I'm no Elias Sports Bureau, and I was watching Thursday Night Football while compiling this list, so feel free to fact check me. But these were the worst back-to-back seasons of my lifetime that I could find.

1. Detroit Tigers, 02-03, 225 losses
2. Toronto Blue Jays, 78-79, 211 losses
3. Kansas City Royals, 04-05, 210 losses
4t. Detroit Tigers, 03-04, 209 losses
4t. Toronto Blue Jays, 77-78, 209 losses
6t. Kansas City Royals, 05-06, 206 losses
6t. Tampa Bay Rays, 01-02, 206 losses
6t. Florida Marlins, 98-99, 206 losses
9. Tampa Bay Rays, 02-03, 205 losses
10. Toronto Blue Jays, 79-80, 204 losses
11. Atlanta Braves, 88-89, 203 losses
12t. Detroit Tigers, 01-02, 202 losses
12t. Baltimore Orioles, 87-88, 202 losses
12t. Pittsburgh Pirates, 85-86 202 losses
12t. Seattle Mariners, 77-78, 202 losses
16t. Milwaukee Brewers, 02-03, 200 losses
16t. Milwaukee Brewers, 01-02: 200 losses

(As of Friday, the Nats' 194 total losses would be something like the 26th worst back-to-back performance of my lifetime.)

(Also, the Nats/Expos franchise has never recorded back-to-back 200-total-loss campaigns. Its worst stretch was the first two seasons of franchise history, when the Expos had 199 total losses.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 11, 2009; 9:26 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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At least there's some hope. Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Detroit all reached the World Series just a few years after losing 200 games in back-to-back seasons. So get ready for the Nats to win the NL by 2012. Maybe.

Posted by: YayNats | September 11, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Did some quick research on the Baseball Almanac site and it appears that the worst records the Washington Senators ever compiled in back-to-back seasons was 207 losses in 1903/1904. The Senators (who were still officially the Nationals back then) lost 94 games in 1903 under manager Tom Loftus and 113 games in 1904 under manager Patsy Donovan. The only other time the Senators finished with more than 200 losses over two seasons seems to be the 201 loss 1948/1949 seasons when they lost 97 and 104 games respectively, both under manager Joe Kuhel (pronounced Cool).

Posted by: kevharb | September 11, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Whoops, forgot the expansion Senators. They finished with 201 losses over the 1961/1962 seasons (100 and 101 losses respectively) under manager (and all around classy former first baseman) Mickey Vernon.

Posted by: kevharb | September 11, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Wait, Steinz, you're 33 and this is what you're doing with your life?

Posted by: NateinthePDX | September 11, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Have you projected out the loss totals once you account for the difference in length of seasons? The current Nats are playing 162 games, and none of the other DC teams you mention did (the 1903 team only played 137). Steinbog's comparison is slightly more apt, since all the teams he mentions are from after the AL and NL went to 162 game schedules in 1961/62.

Posted by: jburksva | September 11, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

@jburksva - Nah, I was just interested in seeing what the 200+ loss seasons were in Washington baseball history to find out whether the Nats were in danger of passing them.

Posted by: kevharb | September 11, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

So things are too insane to worry about. Who cares!!! I just want them to make my late June predicion of 55 wins!

Sec 04 Row H Seat 4

Posted by: adhardwick | September 11, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Personally, there is little difference between two-year 200+ loss seasons. That's just more and more futility. Now, the only thing worse would be more and more and more futility (back-to-back-to-back) 100+loss seasons... but applaud-able only because of consistency.

Posted by: law3 | September 11, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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