In 2008, Art Thiel and Steve Rudman of Sportspress Northwest, in collaboration with KJR’s Mike Gastineau, published the Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists. The entries included “The Dirtiest Dozen: Seattle’s Worst Teams,” and three editions of the Mariners found their way on it, the 1983 club at No. 8, the 1978 team at No. 7, and the 2008 ragtags at the dubious No. 1.
The 1983 Mariners (63-102) scored 100 fewer runs than any club in the majors that year and featured three pitchers with at least 15 losses. The 1978 Mariners (56-104), who attracted one customer to every 10 seats in the Kingdome as shortstop Mario Mendoza created the “Mendoza Line,” led the majors in times shut out (15), lost 36 times by five or more runs, and were outscored by 220 runs over 162 games.
The 2008 Mariners (62-101) achieved the No. 1 “Dirtiest Dozen” ranking in part because of anemic hitting and bloated ERAs by the starters, but primarily for this reason: they were the first in major league history to lose 100 games with a $100 million payroll (actually $120 million).
While the 2012 season presents a small sample size — just 17 games — it’s almost always the case that trends established in April hold for the season. If that’s the case this year, we are witnessing the worst kind of history in the making.
The 1983, 1978 and 2008 Mariners hit .240, .248 and.265, respectively. The 2012 Mariners, in Detroit for a three-game series that starts Tuesday night, are batting .223.
The 1983, 1978 and 2008 Mariners had on-base percentages of .301, .314 and .318, respectively. The 2012 Mariners, “perfectoed” Saturday by journeyman Philip Humber, check in at .274.
The 1983, 1978 and 2008 Mariners had OPS numbers (on-base plus slugging) of .661, .673 and .707, respectively. The 2012 Mariners, losers of their last three, are at .616.
This year’s Mariners are batting .234 with runners in scoring position (2-for-13 Sunday). Among the 1978, 1983 and 2008 clubs, only the 1983 edition was worse, at .229.
The 1962 New York Mets (40-120) are generally regarded as the modern era’s worst team for a single season. Those Mets, though, batted .240 to Seattle’s .223 and had an OPS of .679 to the Mariners’ current .616.
The 2003 Detroit Tigers, who went 43-119 under Alan Trammell, had a .240 team batting average to Seattle’s current .223 and an OPS of .675 t0 Seattle’s .616. The 111-loss Arizona Diamondbacks of 2004 hit 30 points higher (.253) than these Mariners are hitting (.223).
Go way back in baseball antiquity to 1899. The worst major league team that year, and maybe in all of history, played as the Cleveland Spiders. A National League club, the Spiders went 20-134. Like the 2004 D-Backs, the Spiders also hit 30 points higher (.253) than these Mariners (.223).
But thank goodness for this: the 2012 Mariners have a better OPS — .616 — than the 1899 Spiders, .605.
Since 2000, 17 major league teams have lost 100 or more games, including the Mariners twice (2008, 2010). Would you be surprised to learn that the 2012 Mariners currently sport a batting average worse than any of the 17? Or that their on-base percentage is worse than any of the 17?
The 2012 Mariners would also have a lousier slugging percentage than any of the 17, but Don Wakamatsu’s 2010 Mariners trump them at .339, a few points worse than the .342 mark by these Mariners.
The following chart compares the 2012 Mariners to the 17 from 2000 that lost 100 or more games. Draw your own conclusion.