Lindbergh: Meet the Orioyals: Could we combine MLB’s worst teams into a winner?

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on August 2, 2018:

Life comes at you fast. This year, the Orioles and Royals have been baseball’s worst teams, both by actual record—32-74 for the Orioles, 32-73 for the Royals—and by whichever estimate of underlying, “deserved” performance one prefers: third-order record, PythagenPat record, or BaseRuns record. Their current winning percentages of .302 and .305, respectively, would both be the worst in a full season since World War II save for three teams: the 1952 Pirates, the 1962 Mets, and the 2003 Tigers. The not-so-subtle takeaway here is that the Orioles and Royals are, by big league standards, very bad at baseball. And at least in terms of true talent, they’re getting worse: In July, the belatedly rebuilding Orioles traded Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach, and the injured Darren O’Day, while the Royals—who got started by sending Kelvin Herrera to D.C. in June—moved Mike Moustakas.

Both the Orioles and the Royals reached this point through a combination of mismanagement, failures of player development, and the natural life cycle of once-contending clubs; everywhere except, seemingly, the Bronx and Chavez Ravine, teams sometimes have to be bad before and after they get good. At this stage, it makes perfect sense for the Orioles and Royals to trade impending free agents and seed their thin farm systems with players who could help them return to the playoffs one day (however remote that prospect appears) rather than try to win one or two more games in a lost season. But their sensible decision to deal allows us to dream about how historically terrible the two teams’ records could be by the end of this season. And it also inspires us to ask the majors’ most pressing question: Could the Orioles and Royals produce one competent team if we could combine both rosters?

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Originally published: August 2, 2018. Last Updated: August 2, 2018.