Looking at the worst road teams in club history - and where the 2018 Orioles fit - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Paul Folkemer

Looking at the worst road teams in club history — and where the 2018 Orioles fit

Photo credit: Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

The Orioles’ season-long ineptitude on the road continued over the weekend in Boston, where the Red Sox bagged three wins in the clubs’ four-game set at Fenway Park.

The Orioles now hold the worst road record in baseball at 4-19, giving them a whopping .174 winning percentage. They are 1-18 (.053 winning percentage) in road games not at Yankee Stadium this year and 1-6 in road series overall. These Orioles are on pace for a 14-67 record away from Camden Yards in 2018.

They probably won’t be that bad on the road all season. (I emphasize “probably.”) But with the massive hole they’ve already dug themselves, it seems a safe bet that they’ll finish as one of the worst road teams in modern club history.

Here’s a look at the four Orioles clubs that currently hold the franchise’s worst road records.

1. The 1988 Orioles

Road record: 20-61 (.247)

Road series record: 2-23-1

Longest road losing streak: 13 games (April 8-28)

It’s probably not a surprise that the franchise’s worst road team was also its worst team, period. The ’88 Orioles finished 54-107, but while they were merely bad at home (34-46), they were absolutely dreadful away from Memorial Stadium. They won only two road series all year, taking two out of three in Texas (July 1-3) and Seattle (Sept. 2-4). The Orioles had no success against their six AL East rivals, going 8-31 in road games and winless in series while getting swept five times.

During the Orioles’ infamous 21-game losing streak to start the season, 13 of those losses came on the road, with the club getting swept in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Minnesota. The Orioles were outscored, 87-33, in those 13 games. That was the longest road losing streak in Orioles history, a mark the 2018 Orioles matched Thursday in Boston.

The Orioles’ offense actually put up nearly identical numbers on the road and at home that season, batting .238 in both cases, with 70 homers at Memorial and 67 away. But the pitching staff was another story. Orioles pitchers struggled to a 5.34 ERA and 1.531 WHIP on the road as opposed to 3.83 and 1.343 at home. Two of the Orioles’ most-used starters, Jeff Ballard (1-8, 5.17 ERA) and Jay Tibbs (0-7, 6.91) particularly struggled on the road.

2. The 1954 Orioles

Road record: 22-55 (.286)

Road series record: 4-19-3

Longest road losing streak: 11 games (April 30-May 27)

Look at that — the second-worst team in Orioles history also had the second-worst road record. I’m sensing a pattern here. The inaugural Orioles were so hopeless on the road that they were swept 11 times in 26 road series. They also suffered 12 walkoff losses on the road.

Back then, road series tended to be stacked into longer trips than they are today. The Orioles went on only eight road trips all season. But they included a 15-game trip, a 13-gamer and the real backbreaker, a grueling, 22-game road trip that took the club through seven cities in 21 days in July. That beast of a trek included four doubleheaders and all but destroyed the already flailing Orioles. Baltimore went 3-19 during that trip, losing all seven series and getting swept in four of them.

Righty Joe Coleman alone went 0-6 on that trip, including losses in consecutive games to the Philadelphia Athletics. He started July 24 and was chased in the second inning, then came back in relief the next day and lost again.

Coleman, though, wasn’t the Orioles pitcher who struggled most on the road that year. That dubious honor belonged to right-hander Don Larsen. At home, Larsen was an unremarkable 3-7 with a 3.59 ERA. But on the road? Larsen went 0-14 with a 4.92 ERA. Overall, he led the majors with 21 losses that season. (Yes, that’s the same Don Larsen who later pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series for the New York Yankees.)

3. The 2009 Orioles

Road record: 25-56 (.309)

Road series record: 6-18-2

Longest road losing streak: 10 games (Sept. 13-30)

If the 2009 Orioles could’ve played all their games at home, they might’ve been an almost decent team; they were just three games under .500 in Baltimore, at 39-42. But their atrocious road performance doomed them to a last-place finish and nearly a 100-loss season (they finished 64-98 overall).

The Orioles saved the worst for last. On their final road trip of the season, a 10-gamer through Toronto, Cleveland and Tampa Bay, the club was steamrolled for nine consecutive losses before salvaging the final game. Six of those losses were by one or two runs, as the Orioles were constantly doing just enough to lose.

The Orioles’ offense couldn’t find a comfort zone away from the friendly confines of Camden Yards. Their team batting average (.288 home, .249 away), on-base percentage (.350, .314) and slugging percentage (.455, .376) all dipped dramatically on the road. Many of the Orioles regulars — including Melvin Mora, Matt Wieters, Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton — had an OPS more than 100 points worse on the road than at home. The worst offender was Mora, who batted .314 with an .819 OPS in Baltimore but posted dreadful .209/.546 marks on the road.

The rookie-laden rotation struggled on the road, too. First-year hurlers Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, David Hernandez, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz combined for an 8-20 record and 5.87 ERA on the road compared to 16-4 and 4.41 at home.

4. The 1955 Orioles

Road record: 27-50 (.351)

Road series record: 6-15-7

Longest road losing streak: 7 games (May 30-June 5)

The Orioles, in their second year after moving to Baltimore, weren’t much better on the road than the inaugural 1954 club. By mid-September, the ’55 Orioles were hovering around a .300 winning percentage on the road at 21-48 (.304), but they finished the season strong by winning six of eight games on their final road trip.

As with the previous season, the ’55 Orioles slogged through several long road trips, including four stretches of 12 games or more. They had a losing record on each of those four trips. Their longest was a 17-gamer in mid-July, during which the Orioles swept the Kansas City Athletics but went 3-11 against everyone else.

The Orioles’ bats weren’t to blame; they actually hit better on the road (.247 average, .658 OPS) than at home (.233, .608). The problem was the pitchers, who stumbled to a 5.07 ERA on the road in contrast to their 3.51 mark at Memorial Stadium, giving up 19 more homers in the process. The club didn’t have anything resembling a regular starting rotation; 19 different pitchers made at least one start, and only two started at least 20 games. Those two — Jim Wilson (4.77 road ERA, 2.55 home) and Erv Palica (4.58, 3.25) — both struggled on the road.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Orial

    May 21, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Only encouraging thing I can cipher out of that is if you go thru other teams’ history you could probably come up with similar stats. Until they rid themselves of one dimensional play this trend will continue.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 21, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Sure, other teams have also had horrible seasons on the road. But most of them aren’t on pace to set a new franchise-worst this season. We could be witnessing history here…and not the kind we want to be witnessing.

  2. Quote27

    May 21, 2018 at 8:14 am

    The organizational philosophy on how to build a team was totally exposed during the KC playoffs a few years ago. A 1 dimensional team can be shut down. Good pitching should be your starting point and build from there. You can’t expect to out slug bad pitching. From there you need guys that get on base and hit for avg. HR’s in the game today will come from just about anybody

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 21, 2018 at 8:54 am

      I agree with your premise that a one-dimensional team can be shut down, but 2014 isn’t a good example. The 2014 Orioles were far from one-dimensional. They had the third-best team ERA in the AL (and better than the Royals). Their four most-used starting pitchers all had ERAs below 4.00. And their bullpen and defense were outstanding.

      The O’s should be so lucky to have that kind of team again — they’d have been World Series-bound if a couple breaks had gone their way in the ALCS.

  3. Eldersburg Enigma

    May 21, 2018 at 8:25 am

    I’m all for the tanking they’re doing that’s all the rage, but typically this is accomplished with a much smaller payroll.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 21, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Yep, that’s the sad part. The Orioles aren’t the only bad team out there, but most of the other bad teams are those who weren’t actually trying to win this season (i.e., the White Sox, who are committed to a rebuild). For the Orioles to be this bad, in a season where they fancied themselves contenders, is ugly.

  4. Gibbyx

    May 21, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Agreed. Not to mention this “let’s try and build a team around 6 first basemen” idea is likely hurting the development of a guy like Sisco. We should be getting him every day ABs to get him hitting to his capabilities while still slow walking him into the every day catcher role, alas no DH time for him with Mancini, Davis, Trumbo, Alvarez

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 21, 2018 at 9:10 am

      I’m OK with backing off Sisco a bit. Catching is a brutal grind, and this is his first full year in the majors (he never played more than 116 games a year in the minors). You don’t want to wear him out. Even DH’ing isn’t a full day off, so I’m OK with keeping him out of the lineup every few days.

      That said, I’d like to see Sisco get more of an opportunity against lefty pitchers. Buck seems to be hiding him against southpaws — Sisco hasn’t started against a lefty this year — but I think it’s too early in Sisco’s career to be labeling him a strict platoon player. This is basically an evaluation year at this point, so why not see what he can do against lefties?

    • Orial

      May 21, 2018 at 10:07 am

      Gibby that is an Excellant point whether it reflects on Sisco or not. A team filled with 1B/DH types. Get athletes. What’s so hard about that?

  5. Stacey

    May 21, 2018 at 8:34 am

    So they have to go 17-41 the rest of the way to be better than the 1988 team. Sounds doable but requires they play .293 baseball the rest of the way instead of .174. They are just so bad.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 21, 2018 at 9:18 am

      On paper, they should be able to play at least .293 ball going forward. As of now, 37 of their remaining 58 road games are against teams that are currently under .500 (although some of those, like the Indians, are better teams than their record shows). So maybe the Orioles can sneak out some wins.

      This week’s games, on the road against the White Sox and Rays, should tell us a lot. Can the Orioles take care of business against bad teams on the road, or is their own badness too much to overcome?

  6. Dblack2508

    May 21, 2018 at 9:14 am

    If and when they do a sell off, most likely the record would get worse. I know hard to believe it could get any worse.

  7. Bancells Moustache

    May 21, 2018 at 10:20 am

    The sun finally comes out, things appear to be looking up and *BAM*, Orioles potentially historic suckage rears its ugly head. The good thing about this is it does give certain things meaning, like this series in Chicago. If the O’s were merely mediocre, we would roll our eyes at the thought of having to watch the White Sox but, now, this series has a genuine storyline! I mean, if you get pumped up about a series with first place on the line, you may as well get just as amped when last place is on the line as well. So Buckle Up boys and girls, lets show those eaters of over-rated pizza how its done.

  8. JParsley

    May 21, 2018 at 11:04 am

    At least we have Manny

  9. ubetonit

    May 22, 2018 at 1:29 am

    I have often wondered what % of O’s HR’s at home are 1st or 2nd row (of seats) HR’s. It is no mystery why they have floundered at Oakland Alameda Stadium even against lesser teams. OPACY is obviously a delightful place but not conducive to winning b/c it gives up cheap runs unlike pitcher-friendly Memorial Stadium.

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