The Twins, should they hold on to their wild card spot in the American League, would be the first-ever Major League team to lose 100 games one season and then make the postseason the followering year, according to Zach Kram of The Ringer.
Kram, in a recent column, wrote that 142 teams have lost 100 or more games during the World Series era in MLB. Exactly zero of them have made the postseason the following year. The Twins, as it stands now, look like they’re going to snap that streak.
Now, this is not to diminish what they might accomplish. Let’s just be clear about the math here.
A 2017 postseason berth wouldn’t be a 1-in-143 rarity. Yeah, it’d be improbable, but keep mind that only a handful of those 100-loss teams had the opportunity that the Twins had. The 2012 season was the first year in which MLB granted postseason access to 2 Wild Card teams in each league. And the first Wild Card wasn’t added until after the 1994 player’s strike.
So, to be fair, the Twins had a much easier path to bouncing back from triple-digit losses to cruise into the postseason. If they were required to win their division to get there, they almost certainly would not be playing meaningful games in October. It’s anybody’s guess whether or not the Indians will ever lose again.
Here’s a look at the teams that have lost 100 games since MLB started allowed four total Wild Card teams in 2012. There are only five of them, including last year’s Twins.
2016: Twins 59-103
2013. Marlins. 62-100 (next year: 77-85, +15) … Astros. 51-111 (next year: 70-92, +19)
2012. Astros. 55-107 (next year: 51-111, -4) … Cubs. 61-101 (next year: 66-96, +5)
So the Twins would need to win 78 games to top the 2014 Astros for the biggest year-to-year improvement among these teams (+19). They entered Saturday with 74 wins, so it’d be shocking if the Twins didn’t set the new high-water mark for former 100-loss teams. They’ll probably set the new record this upcoming week.
Kram points out the second Wild Card deal in the final graf of his column. And he also includes the current record holders for futility-to-postseason.
For now, data derived from the Baseball-Reference Play Index reveals that the worst teams to reach the playoffs in the subsequent season are the 1990 Braves, 1998 expansion-year Diamondbacks, and 2010 Diamondbacks, who all finished 65–97. The 2007 last-year-of-Devil Rays, at 66–96, hold the AL record.
The Twins — again if they make it — would be the new best of this bunch. “Best” should maybe be quotation marks, in this case.
Whether or not the Twins actually make the postseason, they’ll set a new recent record for biggest improvement after losing 100 games—at least in the 2 Wild Card era. I think they’ll probably make the postseason, too, but either way, the 2017 Twins are an incredible story.