The Mariners, who open their 2011 season Friday night against the Athletics in Oakland, lost 101 games in two of the past three seasons (2008, 2010). Has any team with 95 or more losses posted a winning record the following season? And has any 95+-game loser ever reached the postseason the following season?
Since the start of divisional play in 1969, 131 Major League teams have suffered 95 or more defeats in a season. Of those, just 21 went on to post a winning record the following year, led by Arizonas 35-game improvement from 1998 to 1999.
Of the 21, just four reached the postseason, most recently the Tampa Bay Rays, who went from 66 wins in 2007 to 97 and the AL East title in 1998. The Rays lost that year’s World Series, 4 games to 1.
To achieve its remarkable turnaround, when Arizona went from 65-97 (1998) to 100-62 (1999), the second-yeart Diamondbacks made several key off-season moves, including signing free agent pitcher (and former Mariner) Randy Johnson, who won 17 games, had a 2.48 ERA, and captured the Cy Young Award.
Only one other team (besides Tampa Bay) went from 95 or more defeats one year to a World Series appearance the following season. The Atlanta Braves lost 97 times in 1990 and won 94 games in 1991, a plus of 29 (like the Rays, the Braves also lost the World Series). The Braves accomplished their feat by signing free agents Terry Pendleton (hit .319 with 22 home runs) and Otis Nixon (hit .297, swiped 72 bases) and receiving a 20-victory season from Tom Glavine (20-11, 2.55).
The greatest season-to-season improvement in Mariners annals occurred from 2008 to 2009, when they went from 61-101 to 85-77, a plus of 24. The key changes: The Mariners hired GM Jack Zduriencik, who ousted manager John McLaren and hired Don Wakamatsu. Russell Branyan smacked 31 home runs and Felix Hernandez won 19 games.
The Mariners also had an 18-game improvement from 1992 to 1993, when the key change was the hiring of Lou Piniella.
Over the past decade, the AL West champion has averaged 95 victories. To reach that total (and nobody expects it) this season, the Mariners would have to improve by +33, matching the feat of the 1988-89 Baltimore Orioles, who went from 54-107 to 87-75.
The only way the Mariners can make this happen is if Felix Hernandez pitches to his Cy Young standard, Erik Bedard stays healthy, Chone Figgins has the big year the Mariners were expecting in 2010 (and didn’t get), Justin Smoak continues to develop, and newcomers such as Jack Cust make a substantial difference with their bats.
Since the start of divisional play, the following clubs lost 95 or more games one season, and made at least an 18-game improvement the next:
|Diamondbacks||65-97 / 1998||100-62 / 1999||L NLDS||+35|
|Orioles||54-107 / 1988||87-75 / 1989||None||+33|
|Rays||66-96 / 2007||97-65 / 2008||L WS||+31|
|Athletics||54-108 / 1979||83-79 / 1980||None||+29|
|Braves||65-97 / 1990||94-68 / 1991||L WS||+29|
|Rangers||57-105 / 1973||84-76 / 1974||None||+27|
|White Sox||64-97 / 1976||90-72 / 1977||None||+26|
|Brewers||67-95 / 1977||93-69 / 1978||None||+26|
|Rangers||62-99 / 1985||87-75 / 1986||None||+25|
|Indians||60-102 / 1985||84-78 / 1986||None||+24|
|Mariners||61-101 / 2008||85-77 / 2009||None||+24|
|Cubs||65-97 / 2000||88-74 / 2001||None||+23|
|Padres||64-98 / 2003||87-75 / 2004||None||+23|
|Orioles||67-95 / 1991||89-73 / 1992||None||+21|
|Giants||62-100 / 1985||83-79 / 1986||None||+21|
|Phillies||65-97 / 2000||86-76 / 2001||None||+21|
|Cubs||67-95 / 2002||88-74 / 2003||L NLCS||+21|
|Royals||62-100 / 2002||83-79 / 2003||None||+21|
|Royals||65-97 / 1970||85-76 / 1971||None||+20|
|Cubs||66-96 / 2006||85-77 / 2007||L NLDS||+19|
|Padres||65-97 / 1987||83-78 / 1988||None||+18|
|Mariners||64-98 / 1992||82-80 / 1993||None||+18|
Nobody Asks But Us is published every Wednesday as part of Sportspress Northwests package of home-page features collectively titled, The Rotation. Site visitors are encouraged to ask questions, and we will endeavor to answer them.
The Rotations weekly schedule:
Monday: That Was The Week That Was (TW3) A snarky, day-by-day review of the week just ended.
Tuesday: Wayback Machine Sports historian David Eskenazis deep dive into local sports history, replete with photo eye candy.
Wednesday: Nobody Asks But Us We ask, and answer, fun and quirky questions nobody else is asking.
Thursday: Water Cooler Cool Art Thiel takes on the weekend for the benefit of the more casual fan.
Friday: Top 5 List The alpha and omega of Northwest sports, at least as far as were concerned.