Big Losers

Posted by Baseball Bob at 11:33
Apr 092017

After a week of play, the Yankees are 1-4 and both Sanchez and Bird are hurt – what a great start! The only decent start by a starting pitcher is by Sabathia, which is not likely to be a repeatable phenomenon, and Tanaka, by far the most reliable starter, has looked bad twice (though the second start looks great compared to the first one!). It looks like the prognosticators were right and I was wrong. Of course, it is only 5 games, so I am not quite ready to throw in the towel on the season just yet. Still, when your RBI leader is your #9 hitter, who is only playing at all because of an injury, well, you could be in some trouble.

So I am not going to talk about that. I was thinking to myself “now that the Cubs won the World Series, which team’s fans have the claim to be the most long-suffering. THEN I remembered an article by Bill James from 2010 which attempted to quantify this (I can’t figure out how to do hyperlinks, but if you want to read the article search “Bill James misery index”. The article is lots of fun, mostly detailing the most miserable fans through the years, and the Cubs don’t actually qualify, by his measure.

But I thought I would calculate it for all current teams, and see what it gives us. The number measures how big a loser the team is, the bigger the number the more loser the team.

287 Pirates

202 Rockies

163 Brewers

158 Astros, Padres

155 Marlins

143 Reds

131 Twins

128 Diamondbacks

124 Mariners

98 Phillies

95 Orioles

78 White Sox

63 Braves

53 A’s

46 Rays

41 Tigers

16 Mets

15 Angels, Nationals

5 Red Sox

2 Indians

0 Yankees, Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers, Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants

This doesn’t FIT with our concept of the most disappointing teams, which of course it isn’t trying to calculate. It ONLY figures wins and losses and losing or winning seasons, and thus is trying to measure “tradition of losing”. The Pirates had a LONG tradition of losing, and their score cleared 600 after 20 consecutive losing seasons, so their recent success has whittled away at that mountain but has not yet obliterated it. A World Series win automatically resets your score to zero, but the Cubs were NOT at the top of the list before winning: If they had LOST the WS their loser score would have been 90 (and the Indians would have been zero).

I would like to rework this formula to include adding score for missing the playoffs (even with a winning record) and reductions for making the postseason, and also for postseason series wins. I may not do it, though: it is perhaps more work than it is worth.

C’mon Yankees. Make me proud. Or at least less cringing.


2 Responses to “Big Losers”

  1. My Misery Index (admittedly more simplistic than Bill James’) is:

    Years since last World Series win +
    Years since last World Series appearance +
    Years since last Playoff appearance

    By that measure, every year the WS winner resets to 0, but everyone else has a score of at least 1.

    By my method, I cherry-picked a few teams rife with “misery””
    Pirates score 37 + 37 + 2 = 76
    The Indians would be worse: 69 + 1 + 1 = 71
    The Mariners: 40 + 40 + 16 = 96 — more futile for never having even appeared in the WS. Same goes for the Brewers and Nats/Expos, though they have appeared in the playoffs more recently.
    Padres: 38 + 19 + 11 = 66
    Orioles: 34 + 34 + 1 = 69

    I don’t have time to do them all, but it’s not a bad method…

    • I like it! Maybe it could be slightly refined with coefficients? Like 3 x Yrs since WS win, 2 x Yrs since WS appearance + Yrs x PO appearance or some such. You could add a fourth factor – Years since winning a postseason series (see: Oakland) who were in the PO a lot but seemed to bow out in the first series each time. I do like including something about losing seasons, though, which is James’ focus.

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