Never mess with the '62 Mets.
Never get your team mixed up in a sentence that ends: "since the '62 Mets."
And never, ever find yourself in a chart, graph, table, list, addendum, anecdote, short story or special video presentation that includes the term "'62 Mets."
Why? Simple. Because that can't be good. Can't be. If there's even a remotely sane reason your team is being even vaguely compared with The Worst Team of Modern Times, that's what's called trouble.
Forty games into this season, both of them had worse records than Casey Stengel's lovable, ineffectual '62 Mets had at the same stage. Two teams in the same season. Amazin'. As ol' Casey would have said, you can look it up:
Record through 40 games:
• 2013 Astros 10-30
• 2013 Marlins 11-29
• 1962 Mets 12-28
Now the good news is, that's no longer true. Those Mets were helpful enough to descend into an enjoyable little 17-game losing streak right about this point in their season. So after 47 games, they were still stuck on 12 wins on the way to going (gulp) 40-120. And the Marlins and Astros now are up to 12 and 13 wins, respectively, in their first 47 games.
But the bad news is, these Astros and Marlins still need to pick up the pace, or they're in danger of venturing into historic territory themselves. And not in a Miguel Cabrera kind of way, if you know what we mean.
Before we plow into this piece, we should make it clear that we understand the big-picture philosophy of both of these teams. Let's just say they were willing to absorb a short-term whomping at the big league level now while they lay the groundwork down below for better times tomorrow. Or one of these tomorrows.
So someday, if they do this right, they'll both be good again. We promise. Don't ask us exactly what day that is (although, for some reason, May 11, 2015, comes to mind). But while they're busy reconstructing their foundation in preparation for that day, they have a chance to do some stuff this year that we haven't witnessed in years. Or decades. Or ever. Stuff like this, for example:
The Minus-300 Club: As recently as a week ago, the Astros were on pace to get outscored this season by a staggering 365 runs. That would have put them on pace to break the post-1900 record of 349, which was set by Smead Jolley's 1932 Red Sox.
It also would have wiped out the division-play record of 337, by Nate Cornejo's 2003 Tigers. And it would have blown away the '62 Mets' minus-331 run differential, too, just for fun.
But whaddaya know, the Astros have won four of their past seven games (the first time that has happened in any seven-game stretch this season). So their projected run differential is down to "only" 307, which would still rank them behind only two teams in the past 50 years but looks awesome when measured against Smead Jolley's crew.
More happy news: No matter where they head from here, the Stros have no shot at matching the record for negative run differential of (ready?) minus-719, held by the legendary 1899 Cleveland Spiders team that went 20-134.
Oh, and one more thing: In the 50 seasons since those Mets finished their legendary season's work, only one team has had a bigger southerly run differential after 40 games than these Astros (minus-90). That was Esteban Yan's 2001 Devil Rays, who were at minus-92 but finished at "only" minus-215.
The 1,600-Strikeout Club: The Orioles have struck out 10 times in a game just three times all season. This Astros lineup, on the other hand, is averaging nearly 10 whiffs in every game this season (9.6 to be precise). Astounding.
So if these guys keep on swinging and missing at this rate, they're going to KKKKKKKKKK somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,600 times. (Current pace: 1,561.) And that would be every bit as unprecedented as you'd suspect.
The only team in history that's ever even whiffed 1,400 times or more: Mark Reynolds' 2010 Diamondbacks (1,529).
Just as incredible, if we look only at lineups that didn't send pitchers to the plate every day, this team could break the American League record by more than 200. And bear in mind that record (1,387) was set just last year, by Jemile Weeks' 2012 A's.
Meanwhile at the K-Mark: The Astros are also on pace to blow away these strikeout records:
• Most games whiffing 10 or more times in a season -- Current pace: 79. Record: 73, by those 2010 D-backs.
• Most games whiffing 12 or more times in a season -- Current pace: 48. Record: 44, by those same 2010 Diamondbacks.
• Most games whiffing 14 or more times in a season -- Current pace: 21. Record: just 12, by guess which D-backs team.
• Strikeout differential -- At their current pace, Astros hitters would pile up 546 more strikeouts than Astros pitchers. Record: 459, by -- who else? -- the 2010 Diamondbacks (1,529 by the hitters, 1,070 by the pitchers).
The 1,000-Run Club: It's not as if no team has ever given up 1,000 runs in a season. Just, most of them did it a long, long time ago. Only two teams have joined that 1,000-Run Club since the 1930s -- and one of them (Curtis Leskanic's 1999 Rockies, with 1,028) had gravity issues to use as a convenient excuse. The other (Felipe Lira's 1996 Tigers) actually gave up more than 1,100 (1,103), believe it or not.
These Astros would need to serve up a whole lot of moon shots into the Crawford boxes to give up 1,100. But 1,000 remains in play. A week ago, they were on pace to allow 1,004. Fortunately, they've trimmed that all the way down to 945. Unfortunately, only a dozen teams since World War II have given up even that many.
Meanwhile on the mound: The Astros' staff could also threaten these other prestigious marks:
• Most home runs allowed in a season -- Current pace: 238. Record: 241, by the 1996 Tigers.
• Most extra-base hits allowed in a season -- Current pace: 648. Record: 660, by the 2001 Rangers.
• Highest opponent slugging percentage in a season -- Current SLG: .498. Record: .499, by the 1999 Rockies.
• Highest opponent OPS allowed in a season -- Current OPS: .863. Record: .875, by the 1996 Tigers.
So in sum, how does a team find itself on pace to go 48-114? This would be how.
There are always many different ways to get to the same place. So the Marlins have their own claims to fame. Such as:
The Sub-.500 Club: More than a quarter of the way through their season, the Marlins find themselves with no Giancarlo Stanton in their lineup, for the 21st consecutive game. In a related development, they also find themselves on pace to score a whopping 431 runs. For the season.
So how improbable is that? Just last year, the Rangers and Red Sox had already scored that many by the All-Star break.
If you toss out strike-shortened seasons, those 431 runs would be the second-fewest any team has scored over a full season since 1918, trailing only Pinky May's 1942 Phillies, who somehow scored only 394 (in 151 games). And Pinky's Phillies (42-109) are another one of those teams you don't want to find yourself in the same sentence with.
That Phillies juggernaut still ranks as the only "offense" in the live ball era that has scored fewer than 400 runs in a season. But the truth is, no other team has even dropped under 450 in a non-strike season. And the fewest in a 162-game season is 463, by Buddy Bradford's 1968 White Sox.
Should we keep going? Sure. Why not. The mound was lowered the next year. And since that year, every team except one has scored at least 500 runs when the season wasn't shortened by a strike. The only exception: Soup Campbell's 1971 Padres (486).
So now along come these Marlins to threaten all of that. They'd better hope Stanton makes it back from his hamstring issues and hits, oh, about 83 home runs in the second half.
The .220 Club: The Marlins' team batting average is.222. Think about that. It's the equivalent of fielding an entire roster full of Omar Quintanillas.
Now, obviously, they have a long, long ways to go. But they should know that only five teams in the live ball era have had a team average that low. And all but one performed that trick before the mound was lowered.
Lowest team batting average in the live ball era: .214, by Horace Clarke's 1968 Yankees.
Lowest since the mound was lowered: .217, by Lenny Randle's 1972 Rangers.
Lowest in a non-strike season in the past 40 years: .229, by Derrel Thomas' 1974 Padres.
Being Larry Cox: Back in the '70s and early '80s, a longtime backup catcher named Larry Cox roamed the baseball earth, logging time with the Cubs, Phillies, Mariners and Rangers. He compiled this dazzling slash line:
His reward for putting up those spectacular numbers? He got traded pretty much once a year, for luminaries such as Puchy Delgado and Sergio Ferrer.
Now, all these years later, here's the slash line of the 2013 Marlins (all of them):
Incredibly Larry Cox-ish, isn't it?
But when an entire team lays out numbers like that, here's what it means:
• That .282 OBP? Only two teams in the live ball era have had an on-base percentage that low over a full season. And both were descendants of the '62 Mets -- Joe Christopher's '65 Mets (.277) and Greg Goossen's '68 Mets (.281).
• That .317 slugging percentage? Only one team has slugged at a clip that minuscule since the mound was lowered. That was Joe Lovitto's 1972 Rangers (.290).
• That .599 OPS? Just seven teams in the live ball era have submerged below .600. And only those '72 Rangers have done it since the mound was lowered.
We're just sorry Larry Cox didn't live to see this ongoing tribute to his career unfold in actual life. He could have thrown out the first pitch some night. Or the first Golden Sombrero.
Meanwhile at the bat rack: But wait. There's more. The Marlins are also on pace to do all this:
• Get shut out 31 times. The Fish already have been blanked nine times this year, the most by any NL team over its first 47 games since Doug Dascenzo's 1992 Cubs. That puts this group on a 31-shutout pace, which means the all-time record of 33 (by Chappy Charles' 1908 Cardinals) is still on the radar screen.
• Score three runs or fewer 128 times. Back in 2004, those curse-busting Red Sox were held to three runs or fewer only 39 times all year. But nine years later, the 2013 Marlins are already up to 37 games like that, just in their first 47 games. At this rate, they would score thrice or less 128 times this year, to wipe out the live ball record of 112 (now shared by the expansion '69 Padres and '63 Colt .45s).
• Hit 79 home runs. It took a while, but these Marlins have now pulled comfortably ahead of the Upton brothers (25-18) in homers this year. But the Fish remain on pace to hit only 79 for the season. No team has hit that few in a non-strike year since Jose Offerman's 1992 Dodgers (72) and Keith Miller's 1992 Royals (75).
• Get 321 extra-base hits. Ready for more '92 Dodgers nostalgia? At this rate, the Marlins would finish the year with a mere 321 extra-base hits. And that would be the fewest in any 162-game season since those '92 Dodgers hit just 307 and, right down the freeway, Junior Felix's 1992 Angels gapped only 310.
• Set off the Home Run Extravaganza just 26 times. Finally, out in left-center field at the super-cool, though not exactly jam-packed, Marlins Park, you'll find something you won't see anywhere else. That, of course, is a colorful $2.3 million theme-park attraction that launches into a dazzling, aquatic-themed pinball motif every time a Marlin hits a home run. Sadly, at this pace, that extravaganza is going to spring into action this year only a grand total of 26 times. Just to put that in perspective, in 1921, Babe Ruth hit two more home runs than that at home all by himself -- after Memorial Day. And 107 different players in history have made that many trots or more in their home park in a season, including Miguel Cabrera (28) and Curtis Granderson (26) as recently as last season.
Now, we recognize that all On A Pace To notes tend to dematerialize over time. So it's very possible none of the feats we've laid out in this opus will still be in play come Game 162. But it's our job to alert you to all potentially historic developments whenever we can. So consider yourself duly alerted.
And that goes for all the descendants of Casey Stengel and Marv Throneberry, too.