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The Cardinals worst start to a season - A Hunt and Peck

The Cardinals season that began with the most consecutive losses...

Ray Lankford

In 1988 the Baltimore Orioles lost 21 straight games to start the season. It was a historically disastrous start to a season and the lovely Grant Brisbee wrote all about it earlier this week:

Opening Day wasn’t ruined when the 1988 Orioles lost, a loss that began their 21-game losing streak. The larger crime was committed against opening week, opening fortnight, and the entire opening month of April. The Orioles opened the season by setting an awful record that was so unbreakable, the universe rewarded them with a much better unbreakable record just a few years later.

The Cardinals have not come near breaking that record, fortunately, but the team has had some fairly rough starts to seasons. Here are the five worst:

1902 Cardinals

Overall Record: 56-78
Finish: 6th in National League
Pythagorean Record: 49-85 (517 Runs Scored, 695 Runs Allowed)
Longest Winning Streak: 6
Longest Losing Streak: 8
Began the season with 5 consecutive losses

Three seasons after changing from the Perfectos to the Cardinals, this team ended the season 44.5 games behind the leading Pittsburgh Pirates, who finished the 1902 season with a 103-36 record. The team’s rWAR leader was Mike O’Neill with 3.9, a pitcher with a .319 batting average and .444 slugging percentage. He led the pitching staff with sixteen wins in just over 288 innings pitched and had a 2.90 ERA.

1919 Cardinals

Overall Record: 54-83
Finish: 7th in National League
Pythagorean Record: 58-79 (463 Runs Scored, 552 Runs Allowed)
Longest Winning Streak: 7
Longest Losing Streak: 9
Began the season with 5 consecutive losses

The 1919 Cardinals were managed by Branch Rickey in his first season managing the club. They ended up 39 games back of the first place Cincinnati Reds, who boasted a 96-44 record. The team was led by future Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby with 6.7 rWAR. Hornsby played in 138 games and hit for a .318/.384/.430 slash line.

1960 Cardinals

Overall Record: 86-68
Finish: 3rd in National League
Pythagorean Record: 80-74 (639 Runs Scored, 616 Runs Allowed)
Longest Winning Streak: 7
Longest Losing Streak: 8
Began the season with 5 consecutive losses

In 1960 the Cardinals put up a winning record despite starting the season a bit poorly. This was mostly due to being outstanding at home, going 51-26, a winning percentage of .662. The team’s poor play on the road was ultimately their downfall. A .455 winning percentage - a 35-42 record - sealed their fate. The team finished nine games back of the first place Pittsburgh Pirates, who at 95-59 were in a class all their own. The team was led by Ernie Broglio, who put up 7.6 rWAR in just over 226 innings pitched - good for a 21-9 record and 2.74 ERA.

1973 Cardinals

Overall Record: 81-81
Finish: 2nd in National League East
Pythagorean Record: 86-76 (643 Runs Scored, 603 Runs Allowed)
Longest Winning Streak: 8
Longest Losing Streak: 8
Began the season with 5 consecutive losses

In Red Schoendienst’s ninth season as the Cardinals manager, the team began the season with what might be their worst record ever. The Cardinals not only opened up the season with five consecutive losses, but finished the month of April with a 3-15 record. They went on to do spectacularly in the May, June, and July going 53-33 during that time, but fell apart in August and September to fall back into second place after spending 44 days in first, finishing the season one game behind the New York Mets. Catcher Ted Simmons led this team in rWAR with 5.5 in 161 games.

1997 Cardinals

Overall Record: 73-89
Finish: 4th in National League Central
Pythagorean Record: 79-83 (689 Runs Scored, 708 Runs Allowed)
Longest Winning Streak: 5
Longest Losing Streak: 7
Began the season with 6 consecutive losses

In Tony LaRussa’s second season as the Cardinals Skipper, the team began the season with six consecutive losses - the most in Cardinals history to begin a season. Despite this, the Cardinals actually spent five days in first place before ultimately falling eleven games back of the Houston Astros. Ray Lankford led this team in rWAR with 5.3, sporting a slash line .295/.411/.585 in 133 games.

The Cardinals had four seasons where the team started off with four consecutive losses (1985, 1958, 1898, 1883) and twelve seasons with three straight losses (1907, 1908, 1921, 1925, 1938, 1940, 1959, 1969, 1988, 2001, 2007, 2016). There were eleven with two losses in a row and thirty-seven season that began with one loss. That means in the organization's 137 years of existence, the team began the season with a win (or tie) sixty-eight times. That gives the Cardinals a 68-70 record on the first game of the season.

Losing is not fun and therefore not that fun to discuss, which is why later this week we will look at the best starts to a season for the Cardinals. Stay tuned!

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