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March 12, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Being Bad Birds

by Joe Sheehan and Clay Davenport

Last week, I received a note from one of our readers, Peter Simon:

Is there any chance this year's Orioles will be the worst offensive team ever, compared to league averages? I haven't done any statistical research of my own on it, but just looking at their lineup, things look bleak for them.

The Orioles weren't going to be relevant this year even before the career-ending injury to Albert Belle, but the loss of the team's best player certainly didn't help their outlook. Here's the Orioles projected lineup, along with their projected Equivalent Average from Baseball Prospectus 2001:

C:  Brook Fordyce    .250
1B: David Segui      .288
2B: Jerry Hairston   .244
SS: Mike Bordick     .243
3B: Cal Ripken       .245
LF: Delino DeShields .258
CF: Melvin Mora      .228
RF: Brady Anderson   .270
DH: Chris Richard    .252
UT: Jeff Conine      .251

That's unimpressive, even if Belle's projected .297 EqA had been in the mix. The Orioles aren't that young for a team that's supposed to be rebuilding, and their few young players aren't very good. That said, they have no terrible players, no one as bad as the 2000 version of Vinny Castilla in the lineup.

So I was prepared to let Peter know that the Orioles wouldn't even be special in their badness. First, though, I asked Clay Davenport for his perspective:

Even with the loss of Belle, I don't think things look any worse for the current O's than it did for, say, the Twins in recent years. Of course, the 1999 Twins make the list of 10 worst teams since 1950. I have the O's ranked about 8 points of EqA behind everyone else in the AL, projecting a .246 for them.

The worst offensive teams ever, as ranked by EqA (3000 PA required to weed out short seasons from the 1800s).

1. 1899 Cleveland (NL) .220 Not a big surprise.
2. 1884 Detroit (NL) .224
3. 1886 Kansas City (NL) .225
3. 1920 Philadelphia (AL) .225
5. 1886 Washington (NL) .226
6. 1884 Pittsburgh (AA) .228
6. 1886 Baltimore (AA) .228
6. 1894 Louisville (NL) .228
6. 1981 Toronto (AL) .228
10. 1896 St Louis (NL) .229

The worst teams post-1900:

1. 1920 Philadelphia (AL) .225
2. 1981 Toronto (AL) .228
3. 1930 Boston (AL) .232
4. 1981 Minnesota (AL) .232
5. 1909 Boston (NL) .233
5. 1963 New York (NL) .233
5. 1965 New York (NL) .233
5. 1979 Toronto (AL) .233
9. 1905 Boston (NL) .234
9. 1932 Boston (AL) .234
9. 1954 Philadelphia (AL) .234
9. 1999 Minnesota (AL) .234

Teams under .240 since 1990:

1. 1993 Florida (NL) .237
1. 1998 Tampa Bay (AL) .237
1. 1999 Anaheim (AL) .237
4. 1997 Toronto (AL) .238
4. 2000 Tampa Bay (AL) .238
6. 1996 Kansas City (AL) .239

Worst teams by year since 1990:

1990 Yankees .243
1991 Indians .241
1992 Angels .235
1993 Marlins .237
1994 Pirates and Angels .246
1995 Royals .243
1996 Royals .239
1997 Blue Jays .238
1998 Devil Rays .237
1999 Twins .234
2000 Devil Rays .238

So to answer your question, Peter, the Orioles don't look to reach the depths of the worst offenses on the past decade or two.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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