Did the Orioles just play the worst stretch of baseball in modern MLB history?

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

Whew! The Baltimore Orioles won a game this week for the first time since Aug. 2. In between the victories were 19 straight defeats.

That matches the 2005 Kansas City Royals for the longest losing streak of the wild-card era. But hey, the silver lining is that Baltimore did not reach the depths of its 1988 Oriole predecessors, who set an American League mark with a 21-game skid. And the Orioles fell a full four games shy of the longest losing streak of the modern era, which was the 23-game slide of the 1961 Phillies. And if you go back even further into baseball’s misty past, two teams in the 1800s had even longer losing streaks.

There have been 20 losing streaks since 1900 of 17 games or longer, including one by the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this season. While Baltimore lands on that list, it’s just another long losing streak, right?

Actually, no. The Orioles might have ended their streak short of setting some unwanted records in duration, but the three weeks in which Baltimore knew nothing but pain, despair and defeat might well have been the worst extended stretch of baseball in the modern history of the sport.

To reach that conclusion, dig a little deeper than the final tally of losses and consider just how noncompetitive the Orioles were. To make our point, we will examine all 20 losing streaks of 17 games or longer that have occurred since 1900. We will rank them in reverse order, from the lowest run differential to the highest.

By that criterion, where do the Orioles rate when compared to the exclusive class of baseball’s worst slumps? And what do the O’s have to look forward to? How long did it take each of those losing teams to get better?

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