The Worst Series

Wouldn’t it be great — or, at least, interesting — if the worst teams in the major leagues squared off in the postseason?

It could be done with baseball’s familiar playoff structure, matching not the top six clubs in each league, but the bottom six, albeit with one strange twist. Our aim would be to identify the most incompetent team in the majors, so the loser of each series — not the winner — would advance to the next round.

This weird process would culminate in an inverse World Series — the Worst Series, if you will.

We have a bit of slack time before the 2023 season gets underway, so I decided to simulate a postseason tournament of my predicted bottom dwellers.

Below are the six American League competitors, with the worst team seeded first. Each is followed by its projected team score (TS) for 2023.

  • 1. Detroit Tigers, TS 33.620

  • 2. Oakland Athletics, TS 34.955

  • 3. Kansas City Royals, TS 36.278

  • 4. Texas Rangers, TS 40.733

  • 5. Los Angeles Angels, TS 41.277

  • 6. Baltimore Orioles, TS 42.841

And the following are the six National League seeds.

  • 1. Washington Nationals, TS 30.760

  • 2. Pittsburgh Pirates, TS 34.173

  • 3. Cincinnati Reds, TS 36.298

  • 4. Colorado Rockies, TS 36.797

  • 5. Miami Marlins, TS 39.116

  • 6. Chicago Cubs, TS 41.336

The two worst teams in each league — the 1 and 2 seeds — get byes in the wild-card round. They subsequently play the two wild-card losers in the division series, followed by the league’s final series. (We couldn’t call it the championship series, could we?) The loser there, of course, heads on to the Worst Series.

I simulated each playoff matchup 1,000 times, based on the regular-season team scores predicted by my computer. The team that lost the majority of my simulations advanced to the next round.

TS, as you know, is plotted on a 100-point scale. It’s determined by a formula that gives equal weight to four factors: winning percentage, the differential between runs scored and allowed per game, the differential between bases per out (BPO) attained by batters and allowed by pitchers, and postseason success.

Spoiler alert: The Washington Nationals may need to make some room in their trophy case.

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American League Wild Card #1

  • Kansas City Royals, 555 losses

  • Baltimore Orioles, 445 losses

  • Bottom line: The Orioles are on the rise, as evidenced by their surprisingly strong 83-79 record last year. They were unable to match the Royals’ ineptitude.

American League Wild Card #2

  • Texas Rangers, 503 losses

  • Los Angeles Angels, 497 losses

  • Bottom line: This was the tightest series in the entire tournament, with the Rangers advancing on the basis of six more simulated losses.

National League Wild Card #1

  • Cincinnati Reds, 526 losses

  • Chicago Cubs, 474 losses

  • Bottom line: The Cubs are rebuilding. The Reds are, well, nobody really knows what they’re doing. Cincinnati had a clear edge here.

National League Wild Card #2

  • Colorado Rockies, 519 losses

  • Miami Marlins, 481 losses

  • Bottom line: Two perennial bottom-dwellers faced off in this series, with the Rockies showing slightly more incompetence.

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American League Division Series #1

  • Detroit Tigers, 543 losses

  • Kansas City Royals, 457 losses

  • Bottom line: On to the second round. The Tigers haven’t played .500 ball since 2016. Nor have the Royals. But Detroit clearly was the worst club in this matchup.

American League Division Series #2

  • Oakland Athletics, 556 losses

  • Texas Rangers, 444 losses

  • Bottom line: The A’s slipped into a freefall last season, dropping 102 games after four straight years above .500. They continued their losing ways here.

National League Division Series #1

  • Washington Nationals, 513 losses

  • Cincinnati Reds, 487 losses

  • Bottom line: Remember when the Nationals won the World Series just four years ago? Times have certainly changed. Washington played this series tight, but eventually came out on the short end against the Reds.

National League Division Series #2

  • Pittsburgh Pirates, 527 losses

  • Colorado Rockies, 473 losses

  • Bottom line: The Pirates are experienced losers, reaching triple digits in the L column the past two seasons. The Rockies were no match for them here.

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American League Final Series

  • Detroit Tigers, 507 losses

  • Oakland Athletics, 493 losses

  • Bottom line: This inverse of the ALCS was tightly fought, with the Tigers asserting their lack of dominance in the end. Detroit moved on to the Worst Series.

National League Final Series

  • Washington Nationals, 543 losses

  • Pittsburgh Pirates, 457 losses

  • Bottom line: The Nationals had been surprisingly combative in the previous round, but they dissipated their energy here. The magnitude of Washington’s loss to Pittsburgh was surprisingly large.

Worst Series

  • Washington Nationals, 521 losses

  • Detroit Tigers, 479 losses

  • Bottom line: Here it is, the dream matchup of the worst teams in both leagues. Washington entered the Worst Series with a greater amount of reverse momentum, based on last year’s 55-107 record. (Detroit was considerably better in 2022 at 66-96.) The Nationals lost 521 of the 1,000 simulated series to take the crown.

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