How Low can Houston Go?

Five weeks ago, the Houston Astros were 32-43, in fifth place in the NL Central, 9.5 games out of first.  They had scored 316 runs, and allowed 357.  They’ve played 32 games since then, and won . . . 3.  Their 29th loss in those last 32 games came Friday night, a 4-1 decision in Atlanta.  They will start Saturday morning at 35-72, 30.5 games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds.  They’ve scored 95 runs while allowing 192 in the 32-game stretch, equivalent to being outscored 6-3 in every game.

They have lost 23 of their last 24 road games.  With a .182 winning percentage away from home (10-45), they need to win eight of their remaining 26 road games to avoid setting the record for worst road mark since the 162-game schedule was introduced (1963 Mets and 2010 Pirates each went 17-64).

How difficult is it to lose at least 29 games in any 32-game stretch?  Let’s see if any other team has matched that mark (or come close).

In recent history:

  • 2004: Arizona went 4-28 from late June to late July.  They ended up 51-111.
  • 2003: The worst 32-game stretch the 43-119 Detroit Tigers had was 5-27.
  • 2002: The Orioles started the season 63-63, then proceeded to finish an amazing 4-32.  But they never had a 3-29 streak in there.

In case you were wondering, in 1962 the Mets, who famously went 40-120, won five games during their worst 32-game stretch.

Our last instance of a 3-29 span was in 1982, when the Minnesota Twins ended May 5th at 10-17, and when they woke up on June 10th, they were 13-46.  They would finish 60-102.  The 1961 Phillies matched the 3-29 skein, as did their 1919 squad.  The Cardinals team of 1909 and their franchise predecessor Browns of 1897 each had a 3-29 period of the season.

There has been at least one franchise to win fewer than three out of any 32-game span:

  • 1916: The legendary Philadelphia A’s squad won two out of 32, on their way to a record (bad) 36-117 ledger.
  • 1920: The A’s did the 2-30 schneid again, this time ending up at 48-106.

If you want to go back to the 19th century again, the National League’s 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys somehow endured a 1-31 stretch, part of a 23-113 season.

Most smart baseball fans consider the Astros to be in good hands now, with new ownership and progressive thinkers in the front office.  But the teardown and rebuilding of this franchise is, in this moment, historically painful.

[Postscript: Alert (and smart) reader Andy Glockner pointed out to me that the 1899 Cleveland Spiders had some wretched stretches during their 20-134 campaign. Indeed, they lost 40 of their last 41 games and 44 of their last 46.  Then again, they DID play 112 of their 154-game season on the road.  Nonetheless, I should have mentioned in the original post that I was only considering active franchises.]

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