April 20, 2024

Hardball Retrospective – Sustained Mediocrity

February 4, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

About the Book

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. Consequently, Reggie Jackson is listed on the Athletics roster for the duration of his career while the Mets claim Tom Seaver and the Cardinals declare Steve Carlton. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s original players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the original teams are compared against the real-time or actual team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Please see my related article regarding Sustained Excellence“Hardball Retrospective” is available in Kindle format on Amazon.com and ePub format on KoboBooks.com and Barnesandnoble.com – other eBook formats coming soon. Additional information and a discussion forum are available at TuataraSoftware.com.


OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams

OSM – Original Sustained Mediocrity – # of consecutive seasons where the “Original” team finished below the League Average in Wins Above Replacement and Win Shares 

ASM – Actual Sustained Mediocrity – # of consecutive seasons where the “Actual” team finished below the League Average in Wins Above Replacement and Win Shares

nWAR – players with negative totals in Wins Above Replacement with at least 300 plate appearances or 100 innings pitched in a single season

Expansion Teams

The average expansion team required 12 seasons to procure and develop player rosters with enough ability to exceed the League Average in Wins Above Replacement and Win Shares. The Mets achieved the goal in eight seasons while the bulk of the expansion franchises attained this milestone within 10 years. The Padres merit honorable mention (9 seasons). Four teams lagged behind the pack including the Angels, Blue Jays, Rangers and Rockies. The Halos failed to reach the OWS League Average until 1983 (the club’s 23rd season) and expended another decade before breaking even with the League in OWAR!

Sustained Mediocrity

The Mets and Yankees tied for first place with the fewest consecutive seasons of “Sustained Mediocrity” or OSM (Original Sustained Mediocrity) at 7 seasons. However the Mets’ struggles occurred during the team’s infancy and the club quickly established a talent base. Consequently let’s look at the Mets five-year OSM period from 1992-96. Lenny Dykstra was the lone Mets outfielder to play in at least 100 games during this stretch. “Nails” logged 160 games in center fielder and placed runner-up in the 1993 NL MVP balloting. He led the League with 194 hits, 143 runs scored and 129 walks along with career-bests in doubles (44), home runs (19), RBI (66) and stolen bases (37). Kevin Mitchell batted .333 over a two-year period (1993-94) with 49 jacks but he missed 136 games due to injuries. nWAR contributors include Jose J. Bautista (3-8, 6.44 in ‘95), Pete Schourek (5-12, 5.96 in ’93), Paul Wilson (5-12, 5.38 in ’96) and Anthony Young (3-30, 3.98 combined in 1992-93) along with batsmen Edgardo Alfonzo (.261/4/40 in ’96), Hubie Brooks (.216/8/36), Todd Hundley (.228/11/53 in ’93) and Gregg Jefferies (1996).

Returning to the renovated Yankee Stadium in 1976, the “Original” Pinstripers scuffled over the next seven seasons. None of the Bombers’ infielders or right fielders registered a WAR above 2.0 and several furnished substandard campaigns including Juan Bernhardt (.243/7/30 in ’77), Damaso Garcia (1980), Mario Guerrero (.239/2/23 in ’80) and Charlie Spikes (.237/3/31 in ’76). Stan Bahnsen (9-11, 5.00 in ’77), Jim Beattie (5-15, 4.85), Ken Clay (2-7, 4.63), LaMarr Hoyt (1980), Tim Lollar (2-8, 6.10 in ‘81), Doc Medich (1977 and 1982) and Chris Welsh (8-8, 4.91 in ’82) floundered for the mound crew. Ron Guidry compensated for the hurlers as the lefty known as “Gator” or “Louisiana Lightning” averaged 17 victories and 176 punch-outs per season (1977-82) with a 2.88 ERA.

Arizona paced all expansion teams with the fewest OSM (8) and ASM (2) seasons. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Angels endured 22 consecutive campaigns below the League average in OWAR and OWS from the club’s inception in 1961 through 1982. Shortstop Marty Perez labored through his first three Major League seasons (1971-73), averaging .235 with 4 home runs and 39 RBI while posting a combined nWAR of -1.9. The lineup was further diminished by the output of second basemen Doug Griffin (.253/1/31 from 1971-75) and Jerry Remy (.280/0/47 in ‘82). Halo hurlers Tom Bradley (8-11, 5.16 in ’74), Andy Hassler (3-12, 5.94 in ’75), Don Kirkwood (1976), Dick Lange (1975) and Marty Pattin (7-12, 5.62 in ’69) contributed to the misery. Balancing the Angels’ ledger, Andy “Bluto” Messersmith fashioned an ERA of 2.67 with 15 victories per year from 1969-75 while Frank Tanana delivered 16 wins and a 2.86 ERA over a five-year stretch (1974-78).

Other expansion teams suffered OSM growing pains in the early stages of development including Montreal (9 OSM seasons), San Diego (9), Florida (10), Tampa Bay (10), Seattle (11), Toronto (13), Colorado (14) and Texas (17). Dave W. Roberts batted a paltry .167 in 1974 and Mike Champion notched a .229 BA with 1 dinger and 43 ribbies for the Padres in ’77. Andy Larkin was pummeled to the tune of a 9.64 ERA and 2.089 WHIP in 14 starts for the 1998 Marlins. On the other hand, Houston, Kansas City and Milwaukee succumbed to productivity slumps long after the franchises were fruitful. The Astros 14-year recession started in 1982 as the farm system failed to yield any shortstops with a WAR above 2.0 along with a dearth of outfielders until Luis E. Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton emerged in the early Nineties. The Royals were unable to deliver any right fielders or shortstops during a nine-year OSM famine spanning 1995-2003. Quality moundsmen were in short supply throughout the Brewers 12-year OSM run (2001-12). Manny Parra notched 11 victories in 27 starts for the ’09 crew despite a 6.36 ERA and a 1.829 WHIP. Allen Levrault furnished a 6-10 record with a 6.06 ERA in 2001 and Steve W. Sparks posted an 8-16 mark along with a 5.52 ERA one year later.

Traveling back to the beginning of the 20th century, the Cardinals accrued 8 OSM seasons from 1901-08. George “Deerfoot” Barclay managed to play in 127 contests despite a .205 BA in ’04. Chappy Charles (.205/1/17) supplied similar numbers in his rookie campaign (1908) while Pete Childs pulled off a .198 BA with no home runs and 25 ribbies for the ’02 squad. Cleveland suffered a nine-year drought covering 1909-17. “Harvard” Eddie Grant logged 532 plate appearances in 1911 in spite of a .223 BA and four years later Bill Wambsganss recorded a .195 BA.

The Browns/Orioles and the Dodgers tied for the runner-up slot among the worst OSM totals in Major League history with 37 seasons apiece. Brooklyn’s futility commenced in 1908 as Phil Lewis forged an underwhelming .219 BA in 444 plate appearances. Johnny Babich fashioned a 7-14 record with a 6.66 ERA in 24 starts for “Dem Bums” in 1935. Hal “Skeets” Gregg paced the League with 137 free passes, 120 earned runs, 10 wild pitches and 9 hit batsmen in ’44. Lonny Frey was the first Dodgers shortstop to accrue at least 2.0 WAR in a single season (1934). Jim Levey sandwiched batting averages of .209 and .195 around a .280 campaign in 1932 for the Browns. Ernie Wingard fashioned a record of 2-13 along with a 6.56 ERA and a WHIP of 1.868 for the ’27 crew. St. Louis’ first-sackers fell below the 2.0 WAR standards for the duration of this period, bookended by George Sisler (.420/8/105 in ’22) and Roy “Squirrel” Sievers (.295/28/93 in ’60).

Jose Lima’s career coincides with Detroit’s 13-season OSM sequence. “Lima Time” managed to compile a 5.26 career ERA and yield 32 home runs per 162 games. The Cubbies went into hibernation from 1974-87. Chicago botched the replacement of Ron Santo at the hot corner as none of the Cubs’ third basemen registered at least 2.0 WAR from 1973-2001. Likewise the organization proved deficient at the backstop and keystone positions for nearly three decades (1963-1991)! Using the same criteria the Giants have not produced a worthwhile outfielder since Marvin Benard and Chris Singleton (1999). Robby Thompson was the last Giants’ second baseman of note (.312/19/65 in ’93).

The Senators / Twins were deficient in the selection and cultivation of catchers and shortstops during a 16-year OSM run covering 1946-61. The organization spent more than 30 seasons seeking an effective backstop following Jake Early’s All-Star campaign in 1943. The Athletics recorded 18 successive years below the League average in WAR and Win Shares including the entirety of the club’s stopover in Kansas City.  Carl Schieb delivered a 3-10 mark with an ERA of 7.22 for the 1950 squad while Arnie Portocarrero (2-7, 6.80 in ’59) was similarly ineffective.

Pittsburgh endured nearly two decades of ineptness (1940-57) which corresponds with a developmental gap at first base for the Buccos. Subsequent to Gus Suhr’s lone All-Star appearance in ’36, the Pirates fruitlessly searched for a replacement until Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart slugged 27 round-trippers in his first full season (1959). The Boston Braves, briefly renamed the “Bees” in 1936, were unable to extract any honey from the hive over a twenty-year stretch (1920-39). The void at the corners presented substantial concerns. “Who’s on First?” remained an unanswered query for 30+ seasons after Fred Tenney tallied 101 runs for the ’08 crew.

Si Johnson composed a record of 12-33 with a 5.60 ERA (1934-35) at the tail end of Cincinnati’s 21 consecutive OSM seasons (1915-35). The Reds toiled for three decades without substantial production from shortstop. In spite of Babe Ruth’s presence in the lineup the Red Sox declined dramatically in the years between World War I and II. Red Ruffing was the lone contributor in the rotation, surpassing the 20 Win Shares plateau in 6 campaigns. The White Sox reeled off an astounding 35 straight seasons of incompetence. Rival batsmen pounced on Pat Caraway (10-24, 6.22 in ’31), Vic Frazier (3-13, 6.23 in ’32), Doug McWeeny (4-10, 6.10 in ’29) and Russ “Mad Monk” Meyer (9-11, 5.30 in ’50).

The Philadelphia Phillies own the longest consecutive OSM streak in Major League history at an incredible 38 seasons (1912-49). Infielders Heinie Sand (.211/0/38 in ’28) and Del Young (.194/0/24 in ’37) cracked the -3.0 nWAR list. Seven pitchers dispensed nWAR campaigns of -2.0 or worse including Huck Betts, Lefty Hoerst, Hugh Mulcahy, Eppa Rixey, Charley Schanz, Curt Simmons and Charlie Sproull.

The Giants and Yankees share the best ASM (Actual Sustained Mediocrity) among the “Turn of the Century” franchises with 4 seasons apiece. Pittsburgh established the record for futility with 20 ASM seasons covering the 1993-2012 campaigns, surpassing the previous record of 16 seasons shared by the Phillies (1933-48) and Red Sox (1919-34).

Franchise OWAR/OWS< LeagueAvg Consecutive Seasons OSM AWAR/OWS< LeagueAvg ConsecutiveSeasons ASM
NYM 7 1962-1968 7 1962-1968
      7 1977-1983
NYY 7 1976-1982 4  
ARI 8 1998-2005 2  
STL 8 1901-1908 9 1905-1913
CLE 9 1909-1917 7 1987-1993
KCR 9 1995-2003 9 2004-2012
SDP 9 1969-1977 9 1969-1977
  9 2005-2013    
WSN 9 1969-1977 6 2006-2011
FLA 10 1993-2002 3  
TBD 10 1998-2007 10 1998-2007
SEA 11 1977-1987 10 1977-1986
MIL 12 2001-2012 12 1993-2004
DET 13 1994-2006 6 1994-1999
TOR 13 1977-1989 6 1977-1982
CHC 14 1974-1987 5 1947-1951
      5 1953-1957
COL 14 1993-2006 5 2002-2006
HOU 14 1982-1995 7 1962-1968
SFG 14 2000-2013 4  
MIN 16 1946-1961 11 1901-1911
TEX 17 1961-1977 8 1961-1968
OAK 18 1950-1967 15 1953-1967
PIT 18 1940-1957 20 1993-2012
ATL 20 1920-1939 11 1903-1913
CIN 21 1915-1935 9 1929-1937
      9 1945-1953
 LAA  22  1961-1982  6  1971-1976
 BOS  23  1918-1940  16  1919-1934
CHW 35 1927-1961 9 1927-1935
BAL 37 1923-1959 11 1930-1940
      11 1946-1956
LAD 37 1908-1944 9 1904-1912
PHI 38 1912-1949 16 1933-1948


References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database


James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database 

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive

About the Author

I am a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games who enjoys spending quality time with his family.

“Hardball Retrospective” is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.

“Hardball Retrospective – Addendum 2014 to 2016” supplements my research for Hardball Retrospective, providing retroactive standings based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Win Shares (WS) for each “original” team over the past three seasons (2014-2016). Team totals from 2010 – 2013 are included for reference purposes. “Addendum” is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. 

Hardball Retroactive”, published in June 2018, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. A cross-section of essays that I penned for Seamheads.com along with my Baseball Analytics blog spanning nearly a decade touching on subjects including “Taking the Extra Base”, “General Manager Scorecard”, “Worst Trades”, “BABIP By Location” and “Baseball Birthplaces and the Retro World Baseball Classic”. Rediscover your favorite hardball arcade and simulations in “Play Retro Baseball Video Games In Your Browser” or take a deep dive into every franchise’s minor league successes and failures in relation to their major league operations in “Minors vs. Majors”.


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