At 44-108, 2018 has officially become the worst season in franchise history for the Orioles. In 65 years of Orioles baseball, 2018 marks just the third 100-loss season. The Birds lost 107 games in 1988, when they began the year 0-21, and 100 games in their inaugural season in 1954. Their .289 winning percentage this season is their lowest in franchise history.
With 10 games remaining this season, the Orioles sit 59 games out of first place in the American League East. The last team to finish further out of first was the 1962 Mets, who finished 60.5 games back in their first year as an expansion team. It may seem crazy to think about it now, but Baltimore began the 2018 season with its sights set on the postseason. After all, they last made the playoffs in 2016 and won the AL East with 96 victories in 2014.
In the modern era, the 1916 Phillies have the worst winning percentage in baseball history at .235 (36-117). The 2003 Tigers hold that record for the 162-game schedule, losing a whopping 119 games. Even if the Orioles go winless in their remaining games, they will fall short of that total.
Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda famously broke down the major league season by saying, “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” The Orioles would have to finish the season 10-0 to win one-third of their games.
The 2018 Orioles season certainly feels like an anomaly, but 100 loss seasons are all too common in Major League Baseball. The Royals join the Orioles on the list this season. The Marlins, White Sox and Padres have 92 losses, and could join the O’s and Royals as 100-loss teams with a rough finish in September.
Over the last 10 years, there have been 13 teams who have lost 100 games in a season. Three teams are on that list twice - the Nationals (2008, 2009), Astros (2011, 2012) and Mariners (2008, 2010). Interestingly, no teams lost 100 or more games in 2014, 2015, and 2017.
Despite having a losing record from 1998-2011, the Orioles managed to never lose more than 98 games. They did that twice over that span (2011 and 2009). Given the state of their rebuild, I have to wonder how 2019 will look for the Orioles. Will they follow the Nationals in 2008 and 2009, and the Astros in 2012 and 2013, and have back-to back-100 loss seasons? Or will their rebuild begin to propel them forward, even with a losing record, and get them out of the 100-loss category.
As difficult as this season has been, I’m grateful that in my lifetime it’s only the second time the franchise has reached this milestone. In the current era of baseball, a 100-loss season can actually signify a turning point for a franchise. It seems that being stuck in the middle of the standings is worse than starting from the bottom. In fact, three of the 100-loss teams of the last decade have gone on to win the World Series (Royals, Cubs and Astros). That’s the good news and it’s the optimistic side of the 2018 story that I choose to focus on going forward.
The 2018 season is almost behind us. I just hope that the Orioles follow that blueprint of the Royals, Cubs and Astros and build a contender that will be around for years to come. This trade deadline they laid the foundation of this type of team. Hopefully, that trend will continue into the offseason and in 2019.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.