Sports Analytics Blog


2016 Reds pitching was the worst. Really.

As a sports fan, it’s common practice to say you’re team is THE WORST. But when I said that about the Cincinnati Reds 2016 pitching, I may have been right. Let’s start with who pointed out in mid-September that the Reds’ pitching might be the worst of all time:

But it’s also symptomatic of a pitching staff that is, by another measure, the worst ever — and the only one in history that would have been better off being stocked with replacement-level players instead.

A day later, the Ringer offers Understanding the Plight of Cincinnati’s Historically Awful Starting Pitching Staff:

Even more troublingly, Reds pitchers have combined for negative 1.1 wins above replacement this season. The 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys — a team that went 23–113, finished 66.5 games out of first place, and featured a veteran pitcher named Phenomenal Smith — were the last team with a staff below replacement level over a full season.

The day after the season ended, FanGraphs proclaims The Reds Actually Did It:

To be absolutely clear about what we have here: By our numbers, the Reds just became the first pitching staff in modern history to finish with a negative WAR. It’s only slight, sure, and the difference between them and those 1915 Athletics is less than one win, but that negative symbol is conspicuous. It pushes the digits over to the right, so they can stand out. The Reds, as a collective, featured a major-league pitching staff that was a worse-than-replacement-level pitching staff. That’s almost unfathomable, is what that is.

Yeah, but what would Bill James say?

I didn’t do this to pick on the 2016 Cincinnati Reds; I was just doing the Reds as I was doing every team. Also, it should be noted that in a hitter’s year, in a hitter’s era, the numbers go up. If you’re 10% worse than league in 1930, that’s more runs than if you’re 10% worse than league in 1968. But the study concluded that the worst pure-pitching stats of all time by far belonged to the 2016 Cincinnati Reds.

So there you have it. The 2016 Reds pitching was THE WORST.

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