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The 2013 Miami Marlins offense and the worst offenses in baseball history

The Miami Marlins had one of the worst offenses in baseball history in 2013. How bad was it, and how far back do you have to go to see a worse performance?

It seemed like the Marlins' bats were broken all season long this year.
It seemed like the Marlins' bats were broken all season long this year.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We already discussed the Miami Marlins and their terrible offense in the 2013 season, but it is important to put the team's performance in context. As mentioned, the 2012 Marlins were also bad on offense, but the 2013 crew was historically bad. Very few times do you actually get to say something occurred a historic pace, but the Fish failed to score runs at quite a historic pace.

Let's start with just runs scored. The Marlins scored just 513 runs this season. This was tied for the seventh-lowest runs scored total since the team's inception in 1993. But out of those seven other teams, six of them played in the 1994 season, which was strike-shortened. When you take those six teams away, the Marlins are left tied at the top with the 2010 Seattle Mariners with the worst runs scored total since 1993.

Here are the 10 lowest-scoring teams from full seasons (no 1994 or 1995 campaigns) since 1993.

Team Runs RPG Index*
2010 Mariners 513 72
2013 Marlins 513 76
2011 Mariners 556 80
2011 Giants 570 84
2003 Dodgers 574 75
2002 Tigers 575 77
1993 Marlins 581 78
2012 Astros 583 83
2010 Pirates 587 83
2003 Tigers 591 77

The RPG index is a measure of how much better or worse the team was at scoring runs compared to the league average that season. That allows us to normalize for the scoring environment of the day, which is important considering that the Marlins played in the lowest scoring environment since 1989.

In terms of pure run scoring, the Marlins of this year were at least competitively close to a number of other teams of recent years. They rank third lowest in run scoring when compared to the league averages for the season, having scored more than the terrible 2010 Mariners and the 2003 Dodgers. The Fish were neatly place near the 2002-2003 Tigers, infamously known for one of the worst single-season records in league history in 2003, and the 1993 Marlins that were an expansion team. It is not something to be proud of, but it is better than being the worst.

But when you look at the Marlins in terms of wOBA, their level of incompetence grows.

Team wOBA wRC+
2013 Marlins .279 72
2004 Diamondbacks .305 76
2004 Expos .306 77
1998 Pirates .304 78
2003 Dodgers .294 78
1993 Marlins .298 79
2001 Expos .309 79
1999 Twins .315 79
2010 Mariners .285 79
2010 Astros .295 79

In this view, the Marlins easily take the cake for worse batting line in recent baseball history. The Fish could not muster anything positive, as they were dead last in batting average, second-to-last in on-base percentage (ahead of only the 2011 Mariners), and last in slugging since 1993. The Fish may have scored more runs compared to the league average than teams like the 2010 Mariners, but those teams were a little worse at bringing runs home given their batting line. The Fish likely produced more productive outs than expected, leading confusingly to a better outcome than expected.

How about if we look further back in history? The New York Mets of 1963, in their second year of existence, had the worst batting line in history compared to their league average at the time. The Mets that year hit just .219/.285/.315 and scored runs at a 79 percent rate compared to league average. Their batting line was a whopping 31 percent worse than the league average. The 1965 Mets were almost as bad, hitting .221/.277/.327 and having a batting line 29 percent worse than the average.

Among the 162-game seasons in baseball, those were the only two since the "expansion era" to 20 teams began that were worse than the 2013 Marlins in terms of batting line as compared to league average. The Fish barely scored over 500 runs and they too performed almost as badly at the plate as one of the most infamously bad expansion teams in baseball history. The fact that the 2013 team could even be compared to some of the bungling Mets clubs of their early franchise history is an embarrassment to offense.

All the numbers point to the Marlins having one of the worst offenses in recent memory last season. However, it is difficult to even fathom just how bad this year was unless you watched it in person. The Marlins were never on base, they could not put the past the infield, and it was difficult to see their best players like Giancarlo Stanton struggle. It was painful to see Placido Polanco in the cleanup spot on too many nights. The Fish need to find some offense to make this 2013 season a distant memory, but no matter how much they improve, the historical record will show that they were not just terrible, but historically terrible this past year.