Worst Team in Baseball?

Are the Rockies the worst? No, but pretty close.

Instead of doing a Power Rankings update this week, I've decided to tackle perhaps a more pressing question as it pertains to the Rockies. That question, of course, is are the Rockies the worst team in baseball? And if not, who is? At this point in the season it's safe to conclude that Colorado is one of the worst in baseball, but who will have the most losses when all is said and done?

There are currently seven teams in baseball right now that have lost at least 50 games this season. Here's the list: Philadelphia, Minnesota, Seattle, Chicago (the Cubs), Colorado, San Diego, and Houston. Kansas City has 49 losses entering Monday and they could join the fray soon as the Royals have lost seven of 10 games. 

For now we can eliminate the Phillies, a team that was hit hard by the injury bug in the first half. Philadelphia was missing stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but the club is still a veteran team with a monster payroll and doesn't figure to be big time sellers at the deadline unless the front office philosophy changes in a hurry. Roy Halladay returning from injury on Tuesday can't hurt either. Even though the Phils chances of coming back in the division are essentially nil and Philly has lost 20 of its last 30 games, I expect enough of a second half push from Philadelphia to keep them out of the quest for the first selection in the 2013 MLB draft. Now, that may sound like a backhanded compliment, but that's more than I can say about the rest of these teams on the list. 

Minnesota: Pitching has been the big problem for the Twins as they have the highest team ERA in the American League. Francisco Liriano is the ace of the staff and over the last two seasons he's thrown 225 innings with a 5.03 ERA. On Friday, Liriano became the 30th pitcher ever to strikeout 15 batters in a start and lose the game. It's a dubious honor, certainly one befitting a pitcher like Liriano who has shown just how good and how bad he can be on a major league mound. He threw a no-hitter while allowing six walks in the game last year. 

Liriano has been better of late as he has a 2.95 ERA in his last six starts and Scott Diamond has been great in his 12 starts this year (2.62 ERA). Assuming Liriano isn't traded this month, the Twins look like they have enough pitching to make it through the year without leading the league in the loss column.

The offense has actually been fine after recovering from an awful April. Josh Willingham (156 OPS+) was a smart free agent signing as he's vastly outperforming Michael Cuddyer for less money than Cuddyer. Ryan Doumit has been a solid contributer. Trevor Plouffe (134 OPS+) was one of the great surprises from the first half of the season as he's emerged as a legitimate power threat. Joe Mauer can't hit for big power at Target Field, but his .417 OBP will play anywhere. Mauer has reestablished himself as one of the most valuable players in the AL. 

The Twins had a good draft this year in terms of upside, but obviously Minnesota will have to string together multiple good drafts before that starts to bear fruit at the big league level. Still, just looking at the current true talent level of their big league club, I don't think Minnesota is even the worst team in the AL.

Seattle: That would be the Mariners, who have a lot of trouble scoring runs and put out slightly better than league average pitching as a whole. This hasn't been a recipe for success as even though Seattle has scored more runs than the Oakland A's, they find themselves looking up at the A's in the standings. Also, though the M's have technically scored more runs per game, Seattle is dead last in the AL in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Nothing has gone right for the Mariners offense as highly touted offensive prospects Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley haven't progressed, Ichiro is clearly in decline, and Brenden Ryan remains one of the worst offensive players in baseball. It's a complete horror show offensively, which is how Casper Wells becomes the premier bat in a major league lineup. 

There's a chance that the M's sell off a few veteran pitchers at the deadline (possibly Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood) and that certainly isn't going to help the end of season win total any. Despite all the Mariners' issues, at this point it's likely that Seattle finishes the season ahead of the quartet of truly terrible teams in the NL. 

Colorado: The Rockies are a fairly interesting bad team in that they wouldn't be nearly this bad if not for horrible management and injuries, which would make them funny if it wasn't so sad. The Rockies inability to win at Coors Field this year (19-28 at home) should be directly attributed to management. The Rockies got away from what made the team successful in the past, which was a ground ball and strikeout pitching staff. The Rockies spent the offseason taking a look at every fly ball pitcher under the sun—everyone from Kevin Slowey to Guillermo Moscoso and many in between—and this strategy has lead to what will likely be the worst season in Rockies history. The most losses in a single season for the Rockies is 95, which they've done twice ('05 and '93).

With a sub .400 winning percentage, the Rockies are on pace for the most losses in their history. The Rockies will likely deal Marco Scutaro to a team desperate for middle infield help at the deadline, but assuming they keep the major pieces in their bullpen and Troy Tulowitzki returns to the lineup in August, Colorado should be able to avoid being the worst team in baseball and maybe even elude loss number 96. 

The Cubs: Believe it or not, but the Cubs have played better of late. The Cubs swept the Diamondbacks at Wrigley this weekend and now hold an 8-3 record in July. Now, it's no secret that pitchers Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster are on the trade block. So is Alfonso Soriano, but getting a team to take on that much money may be wishful thinking. We can definitely assume a few wins going out the door upon Garza and Dempster's likely departures (it's possible Dempster has made his last start for Chicago), but there are still some positives for the Cubs in the last two months. Carlos Marmol has reclaimed the closer role and stabilized the bullpen, which was a real problem for the Cubs in the first half of the season. Anthony Rizzo has been a revelation in a small number of plate appearances since his call up. Assuming Rizzo and Soriano stay hot for the Cubs, I think they hold off the Padres and Astros down the stretch even if they don't get back anything major league ready for Garza and Dempster. 

San Diego: Huston Street and Carlos Quentin figure to be the big names that will be packing their bags at the deadline for the Padres. The loss of Quentin will leave this lineup in shambles and without very much power to speak of. The interesting question for the Padres, as it has been the past few trade deadlines, is the prospect of trading favorite son Chase Headley, who has been held back by the Padres and the spacious park they play in. For his career, Headley is a .815 OPS hitter away from Petco Park and a .664 hitter at home. He's been even better on the road this year (.875 OPS). The theory around the game is that the Padres have valued Headley that much more than other teams in the past, it'll be interesting to see if that changes this year. If they keep Headley and Andrew Cashner comes back healthy in mid-August, I think the Padres finish ahead of the Astros.

Houston: Or as I call them the DisAstros. Houston's baseball team is a pit of darkness right now. The Astros have lost 22 of 30 games and there just aren't many reasons to tune in on a nightly basis for Astros fans. This team is starving for more guys with at least a .330 OBP as one of the four that they had left when Carlos Lee was traded. Despite an exciting and young double play combination of Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie, the position players leave much to be desired outside of Justin Maxwell's majestic home runs. 

The scary thought for the Astros this year is that the club could get significantly worse if Wandy Rodriguez is dealt at the trade deadline. In the long term, the Astros are in good hands with new GM Jeff Luhnow, who could get another shot at Stanford RHP Mark Appel if the Astros end up picking in the top spot for the second year in a row. This year the Astros selected SS Carlos Correa 1st overall for less money than Appel would take in order to get another high upside and high dollar talent in Lance McCullers 41st overall. Not only was this a good move for the organization, but it displays that Luhnow understands that the Astros aren't just one player away. He was able to assemble high upside talent in St. Louis, but also high volume talent. That's what he'll have to do to get the Astros out of the basement. 

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