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How long does it take REALLY bad teams to get good again??


SteveA

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Looking at teams that have won 54 or fewer games (excluding strike years), how long historically does it take for them to:

   1) Have a .500 or better season

   2) Have a contending season which I will define as 86 wins in the wild card era?

I will confine my research to the free agent era (1976+).

 

1988 Atlanta Braves 54-106 ... Got to .500 (94-68) in 3 years, got to contention level (94-68) in 3 years

1988 Baltimore Orioles 54-107 ... Got to .500 (87-75) in 1 year, got to contention level (87-75) in 1 year

1977 Toronto Blue Jays 54-107 [expansion team] ... Got to .500 (89-73) in 6 years, got to contention level (89-73) in 6 years

1979 Oakland A's 54-108 ... Got to .500 (83-79) in 1 year, got to contention level (64-45 in a strike shortened year which pro-rates to 95 wins) in 2 years

1998 Florida Marlins 54-108 ... Got to .500 (91-71) in 5 years, got to contention level (91-71) in 5 years

1979 Toronto Blue Jays 53-109 ... Got to .500 (89-73) in 4 years, got to contention level (89-73) in 4 years

1996 Detroit Tigers 53-109 ... Got to .500 (95-67) in 10 years, got to contention level (95-67) in 10 years

2011 Houston Astros 51-111 ... Got to .500 (86-76) in 4 years, got to contention level (86-76) in 4 years

2004 Arizona Diamondbacks 51-111 ... Got to .500 (90-72) in 3 years, got to contention level (90-72) in 3 years

2003 Detroit Tigers 43-119 ... Got to .500 (95-67) in 3 years, got to contention level (95-67) in 3 years

 

Summary:  

There have been 10 teams in the last 42 years to win 54 or fewer games (5 of which won exactly 54; only 5 teams in that span actually won less than 1/3 of their games).   

On average, the teams took 4 years to get to .500.   But 7 of the 10 teams did it in 4 years or less, and one of the three that did not was a first year expansion team.   The true outlier was the 1996 Tigers who went 10 years before getting to .500.   Five of the 10 teams got to .500 within 3 years.

On average, the teams took 4.1 years to get back to an 86 win level that I defined as "contention".   Basically, just one team got to .500 (81 wins or better) but did not win at least 86 in the same year.   So the results for "getting to contention" are pretty much identical to the results for "getting to .500".   Once again, 7 of the 10 teams got to 86 wins with in 4 years, and 5 of the 10 got to 86 wins within 3 years.

Only two teams out of 10, the '89 Why Not Orioles under Frank Robinson, and the 1980 Oakland A's under Billy Martin, were able to get to .500 the next season, and only the '89 Orioles got to 86+ wins the next season.

 

 

 

 

  

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I haven't looked at these comeback teams closely enough to have a firm factual basis, but I suspect that one of the factors fueling a quick turnaround is the depth of the talent in a team's organization. There are at least two reasons. One is that strange thinks happen as players progress toward the major leagues. Some of a team's top prospects are not going to pan out (because of injuries in some cases), but there also may be players who are not top prospects who develop into valuable major leaguers. The more of depth of talent a team has gathered on its minor league teams, the better its chances will be to have players in that second group, and the more it will be able to rebuild quickly from internal sources. Second, no team's talent will be evenly be distributed by position and pitcher roles. A rebuild will go faster if a team has talented players it can spare, including those blocked by young major leaguers or other strong prospects, enabling it to trade some of its redundant talent to fill some spots where there is no internal solution.

The Orioles have not had deep talent in the minor leagues for a long time. I don't know all the reasons for that, but I think it's virtually possible in 2018 to amass deep minor league talent, relative to other teams, with the Orioles' current approach to scouting, signing and developing international free agents. I see no sign that the Orioles will alter that policy. But even if they changed it tomorrow, it would take at least a few years, and probably more, for the new policy to benefit the team at the major league level. 

 

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3 minutes ago, Roy Firestone said:

I remember that hideous 2012 Red Sox team managed by Bobby Valentine.(They won 74 games) It was a team we needed to beat in one weekend when the O's needed to stay with the Yankees.I was at that series. Bobby Valentine told me the Sox wouldn't be good for years...the next year they won 97 games.They won the world championship.

Chicken and Beer. With a dash of Mustache. 

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11 minutes ago, Roy Firestone said:

I remember that hideous 2012 Red Sox team managed by Bobby Valentine.(They won 74 games) It was a team we needed to beat in one weekend when the O's needed to stay with the Yankees.I was at that series. Bobby Valentine told me the Sox wouldn't be good for years...the next year they won 97 games.They won the world championship.

The 12 Red Sox had a much better team on paper than the 69 wins they produced (they went 69-93).  If you look at their personnel, it wasn't that different from their 13 title team (although they got rid of a lot of high priced, dead weight in that deal with the Dodgers).  The 12 team absolutely hated their manager and it seemed to show on the field.   The 13 team was inspired by the Marathon Bombing and getting rid of Valentine.  And then Ortiz hit .688 in the World Series and showed how one person could carry an entire team to a title.

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52 minutes ago, JR Oriole said:

The 12 Red Sox had a much better team on paper than the 69 wins they produced (they went 69-93).  If you look at their personnel, it wasn't that different from their 13 title team (although they got rid of a lot of high priced, dead weight in that deal with the Dodgers).  The 12 team absolutely hated their manager and it seemed to show on the field.   The 13 team was inspired by the Marathon Bombing and getting rid of Valentine.  And then Ortiz hit .688 in the World Series and showed how one person could carry an entire team to a title.

They hit blackjack in 13. Lackey came back from TJ surgery. Lester bounced back. Bucholz had a career year. They signed a ton of mid level FA’s and for one year they all panned out like Victorino, Drew etc. 

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On a somewhat tangential note. The Oakland Athletics are three plus years removed from their 88 win, wildcard loss, 2014 season. Since then they have not been spectacularly bad (although my goal posts on that have shifted this year).  Plus if you went to a game during that stretch you also  had to listen to that infernal drumming.They are a .500 club, ten games out of the wildcard.  But they had an exhilarating win yesterday against a rival and have been playing well.  Do they stand pat? Sell? Move to Portland?

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1 hour ago, JR Oriole said:

The 12 Red Sox had a much better team on paper than the 69 wins they produced (they went 69-93).  If you look at their personnel, it wasn't that different from their 13 title team (although they got rid of a lot of high priced, dead weight in that deal with the Dodgers).  The 12 team absolutely hated their manager and it seemed to show on the field.   The 13 team was inspired by the Marathon Bombing and getting rid of Valentine.  And then Ortiz hit .688 in the World Series and showed how one person could carry an entire team to a title.

Getting off on a tangent here, but the 2013 team was quite different. They had 3-4 free agents who they signed and had great seasons in 2013, then fell back to earth.   Victorino, Napoli and Drew produced 13.1 rWAR, and Koji was worth 3.6.     

 

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Back on the main subject, I think you’d need to look at how those terrible teams got so terrible, and how long they’d already been bad before the really awful year in question.   Some of them probably had a pretty good pipeline of minor league talent that hadn’t arrived yet.

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