I'm starting work on my annual preseason power rankings -- we'll start Friday and roll them out over five days -- and it's interesting looking at the Cincinnati Reds roster. They have a chance to be a pretty bad team even though they have a superstar player in Joey Votto. Now, Votto still gets a bad rap from some critics, but last time I checked, there aren't many players putting up a .459 OBP. The critics will say he only drove in 80 runs, conveniently ignoring that he hit .329 with runners on base.
Anyway, this isn't about Votto's RBI totals, though I'm sure we'll get to that yet again at some point this season, since we always do. I was curious about the best players on bad teams -- say, teams that lost 100-plus games. Votto was worth 7.6 WAR last year on a team that lost 98 games and could lose 100 in 2016.
To the record books we go ... click on each team to get their Baseball-Reference.com page.
Castro was the Astros' All-Star rep that year, and deservedly so, as he hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 home runs, although he hasn't matched that output in the past two seasons. This team -- which featured a $26 million payroll -- also included future All-Stars Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez (although he made the All-Star team when he was with the Tigers) and 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who posted a 5.15 ERA in 153.2 innings. It does show how quickly the Astros completely remade their roster: Only Castro, Altuve, Keuchel, first baseman Chris Carter and reliever Josh Fields remained as key contributors on the 2015 playoff team.
Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA in 28 starts to win Rookie of the Year. Giancarlo Stanton played 116 games and hit .249 with 24 home runs. The Marlins' pitching was actually decent (seventh in the league), but the offense was one of the worst of all time, scoring just 513 runs.
Harrell went 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA for a team that went 8-46 in July and August. So long ago, Astros fans.
There have been a lot of bad teams in Cubs history, but this may have been the worst. They lost 101 games, their first 100-loss season since 1966. They finished 14th in the NL in runs and 14th in runs allowed ... despite having some decent players. Barney's defensive metrics were off the charts, Starlin Castro had a solid season, Anthony Rizzo was very good over half a season and Alfonso Soriano slugged 32 home runs. They went 18-42 the final two months to lock in a draft pick that turned into Kris Bryant.
The starting outfield for most of the season was Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence ... which, well, the Astros still lost 106 games. This was the remnants of a team that was slowly being torn apart and rebuilt. Better than before. Better, stronger, faster.
McCutchen, in his first full season, was the team's best player on a roster that included Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and All-Star rep Evan Meek. This was a really, really bad team: Last in runs, last in runs allowed and outscored by 279 runs.
Yeah, the whole pitching and defense thing didn't exactly work out. Although King Felix did win the Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record.
What a collection of players. Elijah Dukes played on this team. Cristian Guzman was the shortstop. Nick Johnson had one last hurrah. Nyjer Morgan hit .351 in 212 plate appearances. Adam Dunn bashed 38 home runs but was so bad defensively he was still below replacement level. Zimmerman was a stud, hitting .292/.364/.525 with 33 home runs at age 24, but it wasn't enough to rescue this team. On the bright side: This was the team that gave the Nats Bryce Harper.
I think I had Guzman on my sim team that year. He hit .316/.345/.440. Not bad!
Beltre edges out Ichiro Suzuki (5.3). How many 100-loss teams had three future Hall of Famers in the primes of their career? The Mariners had Beltre, Suzuki and King Felix. As to the rest of the roster ...
Remember when the Devil Rays were the laughingstock of baseball? This was a bad team, but it had some interesting young talent: Crawford, Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Ben Zobrist, Delmon Young, Rocco Baldelli. Two years later they were in the World Series.
This was the team Dayton Moore inherited when he took over as general manager in May. It was not good. Five of the regular position players were older than 30 (most of the teams here did feature a lot of young players, but this Royals team was an exception). The top five starters had ERAs of 5.71, 5.34, 6.48, 5.12 and 5.64. In fact, most of the relievers had ERAs over 5.00 as well. Jimmy Gobble, where have you gone?
So that's the past 10 seasons of bad teams, but we had several superstar-level seasons in there. There are an additional 110 teams that have lost 100 games since 1914. I'm not going to go through all of them, although Randy Johnson had 8.5 WAR for the 111-loss Diamondbacks in 2004 and Ron Santo had 8.9 WAR for the 1966 Cubs, who lost 103 games. Santo hit .312/.412/.538 with good defense in a low-scoring era. I think those are the highest individual WAR totals on 100-loss teams, but if anyone wants to double-check, go for it.
Oh, the 1988 Braves lost 106 games and had Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Bruce Sutter, all future Hall of Famers. Plus Dale Murphy, who could get in someday. Glavine and Smoltz, of course, were just beginning their careers. Those 1966 Cubs had Santo, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins, although Banks was past his prime and Jenkins pitched primarily in relief. And the '62 Cubs had Santo, Williams, Banks and Lou Brock ... and lost 103 games.