Anyone following baseball knows hitting the 100-win mark is impressive. And equally as impressive is hitting triple-figure losses in an MLB single season.
Brutal seasons often lead to nearly empty stadiums, where the silence can be so deafening that pitchers have to lower their PitchComs to prevent hitters from hearing them.
Such was the case for the Oakland Athletics at the start of 2023 when their cricket-inducing attendance in the Coliseum (aside from a handful of “reverse boycotts”) was not helped by a historically terrible start.
Five years earlier, the Baltimore Orioles ended their season 60+ games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. In 2011, the Houston Astros dropped over 100 games and continued this trend the next two seasons.
In 2003, the Detroit Tigers nearly lost 120 games.
But where do these teams stand when it comes to the worst MLB seasons of all time?
As we look back at the worst single-season records in Major League Baseball history, ironically, the list starts with the previously mentioned A’s.
Worst Records in MLB History
1. 36-117 (.235) – Philadelphia Athletics, 1916
The Athletics established themselves as a dynasty in the early years of the 20th century. Led by manager Connie Mack, they took home the American League pennant six times, and in three of those years (1910, 1911, and 1913), they won the World Series.
Following their loss in the 1914 World Series, the A’s set a precedent for losing. In the 1915 season, they went 43-106. They fell even further to an atrocious .235 winning percentage in 1916, the worst season in the modern era (the 1899 Cleveland Spiders have them beat with a .130 winning percentage).
The A’s pitchers combined for an ERA of 3.92, close to a run higher than the second-worst team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Not only did they have more than three losing streaks of 10 or more games, but the A’s ended this horrendous season 40 games back from the Cards (and the Cincinnati Reds who shared their record).
2. 38-115 (.248) – Boston Braves, 1935
Babe Ruth had big but ill-fated managerial ambitions. In 1935, he was brought to the Braves as a player-manager (and as a partial owner). But after a combined 21 seasons with the Red Sox and Yankees and four World Series championships, he was no longer in his prime. Like the team, he struggled, ultimately retiring midway through the season with a paltry batting average of .181 and only six home runs.
Though Ruth was at the peak of his decline, only one of his teammates, Wally Berger, hit more dingers than he did (and was the National League’s leader with 34). On the date of Ruth’s retirement, the Braves were 9-27 and only went on to win 29 more games throughout the rest of the regular season.
3. 40-120 (.250) – New York Mets, 1962
It’s safe to say the Mets had a disappointing inaugural season, beginning their tenure as a franchise by losing their first nine games. At one point, they dropped 17 straight, which was just six shy of the longest losing streak in MLB history set by the Phillies a year before. And as the icing on the cake, they had a horrendous team ERA of 5.04 – about half a run above the next-worst team.
Even more notable is the fact that no other modern MLB team has lost 120 games in a season (but with 119 losses, the 2003 Tigers came close). However, the Mets did find their footing relatively quickly, both making the playoffs for the first time and winning the World Series just seven years later.
4. 38-113 (.252) – Washington Senators, 1904
The Senators were no exception to the player-manager phenomenon of the early 20th century. In 1904, catcher Malachi Kittridge tried his hand as a skipper. But after the team’s dismal 1-16-1 start, he was relieved of his coaching duties. And his replacement, outfielder Patsy Donovan, was not much of an improvement (at least as manager for the Senators).
While the pitching staff was not terrible, the team’s hitters struggled. They homered only 10 times, combined for a league-low average of .227, and ranked last with a meager .288 OPS. The run support was so non-existent that three Washington pitchers had 20+ losses despite owning sub-4.00 ERAs.
5. 36-104 (.257) – Philadelphia Athletics, 1919
Once again, the A’s make the list as they continued their disastrous play to close out the decade. Despite a consistent string of losing seasons, Mack remained at the helm (and ultimately kept his role as skipper of the baseball team until 1950).
Not a single pitcher on the team had more than 10 wins, and they combined for a league-worst 4.26 ERA. In fact, five of the team’s starting pitchers made the top-10 list for most losses in the league.
On the hitting side, the A’s ranked dead last with a .244 batting average and .300 OBP. Nicknamed the “Pathetics,” the A’s wouldn’t have a winning season until ‘25 or even make the postseason until ‘29.
- 6. 43-119 (.265) – Detroit Tigers, 2003
- 7. 42-112 (.273) – Pittsburgh Pirates, 1952
- 8. 42-110 (.276) – Washington Senators, 1909
- 9. 42-109 (.278) – Philadelphia Phillies, 1942
- T-10. 43-111 (.279) – Boston Red Sox, 1932
- T-10. 43-111 (.279) – Philadelphia Phillies, 1941
- T-10. 43-111 (.279) – St. Louis Browns, 1939
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