You'll recall, likely with some degree of pleasure, that the Baltimore Orioles and the forces of ineptitude that animate them recently teamed up for 19 straight losses. That's one of the longest losing streaks in the sprawl of MLB history (even if it's not the longest losing streak in franchise history).
Those serialized pratfalls and the appointment with #uglyhistory that was very nearly kept bring to mind the matter of records -- the unfortunate kind of record of which you don't want to be within hailing distance. Typically in sports we focus on records that signal rare achievement by design -- the most home runs or most strikeouts by a pitcher, for instance. As the 2021 Orioles would hasten to remind us, there are also other pages of the record book, and those pages smell bad.
With all that in mind, let's have a look at some of the least-hallowed marks ever achieved/backed into in baseball.
Most consecutive losses: 23 by the 1961 Phillies
We may as well wade into the most relevant puddle of untreated sewage at the outset. The '61 Phillies managed to lose 23 consecutive games from July 29 through Aug. 20. Thereupon, they won four in a row, which was their longest winning streak of the season. In the end, Gene Mauch's squad went 47-101-1 and finished 46 games behind the Reds in the National League standings.
The 1988 Orioles own the AL record, which they achieved by losing their first 21 games of the season.
Worst overall record
If we're looping in all of baseball history at the highest professional level, then this one belongs to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who went 20-134 (!), which was good for a win percentage of just .130. They finished 84 games out of first place in the National League standings.
The record for the modern era -- i.e., from 1903 onward -- belongs to Connie Mack's 1916 Philadelphia Athletics. Thanks to Mack's down-to-the-studs teardown following his team's loss in the 1914 World Series, the Athletics that year went 36-117-1 (.235) and finished 54 1/2 games back of the Red Sox. That year occasioned the Athletics' second of seven straight last-place finishes in the American League.
The Rangers keel-hauled, yes, the Orioles by a score of 30-3 on Aug. 22, 2007. That's the most vigorous baseball beating in modern MLB history and the worst overall since at the highest level since 1897, when the Chicago Colts ritually abused the Louisville Colonels by a score of 36-7. Remarkably enough, the Orioles led this game 3-0 after three innings. Texas' No. 8 and No. 9 hitters -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez, respectively -- combined to drive in 14 runs.
On the single-season front, John Coleman of the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers went 12-48 on the season, and those 48 losses are the all-time record. In the modern era, Vic Willis of the 1905 Boston Braves went 12-29. Willis, by the way, is a Hall of Famer.
Speaking of Hall of Famers, Cy Young holds the record for career losses with 316. That, however, is paired with his record 511 wins and a reflection of the fact that he was brilliant and durable enough to make 815 career starts.
Most losses with zero wins
While pitcher win-loss records are pretty unreliable in terms of measuring the quality of a given moundsman -- especially across a single season -- we'll continue giving it some air time for this particular exercise. Anyhow, the career honors for most losses without a win go to Terry Felton, who pitched for the Twins from 1979-82 and went 0-16 in 10 starts and 45 relief appearances.
Let us continue hailing Terry Felton. In 1982, he did much of the heavy lifting noted above when he finished 0-13. That's good for the single-season record for most losses without a win.
Limiting it to qualifiers, the single-season record holder is James McDermott with a mark of 8.11, which he set while toiling for the 1872 Brooklyn Eckfords. While McDermott gave up "just" 57 earned runs in 63 innings that season, he gave up a total of 144 runs across his seven starts (!). In modern times, the record belongs to Les Sweetland of the 1930 Phillies, who pitched to an ERA of 7.71 in 25 starts and nine relief appearances that season.
On the career tip, Jimmy Haynes "leads" all comers -- i.e., those with at least 1,000 innings pitched -- with a career ERA of 5.37. Was he a former Oriole? Yes, he was a former Oriole.
Home runs allowed
When you pitch more than 4,000 career innings through the heart of the "home run era," then you're necessarily going to give up an abundance of dingers. That's the case with ageless lefty Jamie Moyer, who allowed a record 522 home runs in his otherwise darn good MLB career.
Walks in a season? Come on down, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan with your record for career walks with 2,795. That's almost 1,000 free passes more than the guy in second place (Steve Carlton with 1,833). Five times Ryan walked more than 150 batters in a season and twice he walked more than 200.
Another Hall of Famer incoming … Bob Feller owns the single-season mark for walks with 208 in 1938. Of course, the then 19-year-old that season also paced the majors in strikeouts with 240, made the All-Star team, and put up a solid ERA+ of 113. Looping in the 19th century, Amos Rusie -- yet another Hall of Famer -- owns the overall record with 289 walks in 1890.
Lowest batting average
All hail catcher Bill Bergen of the 1909 Brooklyn Superbas, who managed to bat .139 despite logging a qualifying number of plate appearances for the season. Taking career honors is another catcher -- Billy Sullivan of the Boston Beaneaters, White Sox, and Tigers. From 1899-1916, he batted a measly .213 in almost 4,000 plate appearances. That's the worst batting average ever for a player appearing in at least 1,000 games.
Lowest qualifying OPS
OPS, or on-base percentage added to slugging percentage, is a much better indicator of offensive quality than batting average is. So let's include it. In terms of single seasons, let us again honor Mr. Bergen of the 1909 Superbas. His OPS of .319 is the lowest for a qualifier in all history.
Hal Lanier was a standout defensive infielder in his day, but he wasn't much of a batsman. Across 1,196 games and 3,940 plate appearances with the Giants and Yankees from 1964-73, Lanier scraped together an OPS of just .529. That's the lowest ever for a position player appearing in at least 1,000 games.
Most at-bats without a home run
Juan Pierre of the 2007 Dodgers owns this single-season mark. That year, he registered 668 at-bats (across all 162 games) without hitting a single home run. He did, however, steal 64 bases and play a solid center field for L.A.
Career-wise, we'll keep it to the modern era. That record belongs to outfielder Tom Oliver of the Red Sox. Across 1,931 at-bats from 1930 through 1933, he failed to hit a home run. Over that span he did, however, rack up 101 doubles and 11 triples.
Strikeouts and double plays
Why not lightning-round this pair of undesirable outcomes? Why not indeed:
- Single-season strikeouts: Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks, 223 in 2009 (he more than made up for it with 44 home runs that year)
- Career strikeouts: Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson with 2,597 (he more than made up for it with 563 career home runs)
- Single-season double plays: Hall of Famer Jim Rice, Red Sox, 36 in 1984
- Career double plays: Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols with 412
Now go forth, baseball teams and players, and do your best to avoid winding up on these fell pages.