At the break, 2023 is looking historically bad on the losses front

The record for 100-loss teams in a season is four, and it’s a possibility that record will be matched again in 2023 just like it was in 2022.

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Major League Baseball has had a problem with imbalance for too much of the last decade. As has been written about in this space on numerous occasions, there have been so many 100-win teams in the last few years, but they’re not quite as good as their record, since their 100 wins are compiled against too many clubs that aren’t trying to win. With all of those additional 100-win team clusters comes 100-win loss clusters, or at least something close.

We’re “halfway” in the All-Star break sense through the 2023 season, with the new schedule arrangement that cuts down on divisional play in favor of spreading everyone around a bit more over the course of 162. Let’s take a look at how many teams are on pace for and in danger of losing 100 games before this thing is over.

The Athletics are probably going to lose 100 games even if they do play halfway decently over the season’s remaining two-and-a-half months. They’re currently on pace for 118 losses, which gets them out of discussions for replacing the Cleveland Spiders as the most inept single season of baseball anyone has ever seen, but still leaves them in danger of matching or exceeding the 1962 Mets (120 losses) for the most losses by a modern club post-AL and NL merger, or at least replacing the 2003 Tigers as the even more modern equivalent of “whoa, what happened there?”

The Royals are right there with them, on pace for 116 losses. The A’s wounds are self-inflicted, in the sense they were trying to set fire to the club and Oakland on their way out and didn’t even bother trying to escape the blaze themselves, but the Royals are just the Royals, and this kind of thing is a distinct possibility when that’s the situation. The Rockies, similarly, are the Rockies, and they are sometimes very, very bad, because basically everything about that organization is very, very bad, and it’s going to reflect in the on-field product sometimes. They’re on pace for 101 losses, which would make for three 100-loss teams. In 2022, there were four, which matched the record set in 2019. And there could have been more pretty easily last summer, as I noted back in October:

You might find it to be a stretch to think we were that close to historic infamy, but 100 losses is something of an arbitrary benchmark, too, a round number to behold. The Royals didn’t lose 100, but they still took the L in 97 games and were terrible; the Tigers 96, and same. The Rangers and Rockies 94 a piece. The Marlins lost 93 games despite playing in a division with the 107-loss Nationals — in fact, the Marlins only avoided losing 100 games because of the Nats, a team they went 15-4 against while posting a combined 19-38 record against the rest of the NL East.

With that in mind, consider that the Nationals are playing better than expected, but are still on pace for 97 losses: a real bad week in the second half with the same pace otherwise could mean 100 defeats. The White Sox are on pace for 95 losses, and the situation there is the same, though, they can at least beat up on the Royals a little to avoid that fate: they’ve still got six games against Kansas City, as well as series against the Rockies and Nationals. The Cardinals, 94, could certainly lose 100, but it’d help (hurt?) if the Pirates were still any good. St. Louis probably isn’t the worst team in the NL Central anymore, even if they’re sitting in last place right now.

Those Pirates… man. Their record is 41-49, they’re in fourth place in the NL Central… things have just gone off the rails in Pittsburgh. They began the season 20-9, and spent 33 days of the 2023 season (including off days) in first place in the Central. Since then, however, they’ve won just 21 games and lost 40, a pace that, over 162 games, would mean 106 losses. As things stand, they could still lose 100, as continuing at the .344 mark of their last two-plus months from here on out would mean 96 losses. Even if they don’t actually end up losing 100, they’re likely to come far too close.

It’s unlikely that all seven of these teams would lose 100 games, but the possibility for three or even four 100-loss teams is real, and with plenty of mid-to-high-90s loss clubs to join them. Throw in that the A’s and Royals are in the mix for some of the worst single-season teams ever and, well, 2023 isn’t looking like much of an improvement on this front from 2022, even if they manage to have “just” two or three 100-loss clubs in the end.

Remember, too, that these teams might be worse after the trade deadline, should they move whatever useful pieces they do have. Things could get better for a couple of them, but they could just as easily get worse. Tell me, is it good when nearly one-quarter of the league can be discussed in terms of potentially losing 100 games in a season all at once? There’s some mismanagement in there, some stuff you can file under “shit happens,” but there are also too many clubs that just don’t put in the effort or dollars required to compete, even though they could. And situations like 2023’s (and 2022’s, and so on) are the result.

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