Ranking the 5 Worst Collapses in MLB History
Every year, a new MLB team pops up and surprises everyone with a hot start. In addition, there are the usual suspects who do what we expect them to. One way or another, there are a good amount of teams sitting pretty heading into the stretch run.
No matter their standing, however, nobody is invincible, and some bad luck (or terrible play) has led to the worst MLB collapses in history.
This can be something significant for bettors, as the top MLB betting sites will understandably favor the top teams with the best records that look like playoff locks. But what if they’re not?
If you want to bet accurately, sometimes looking back at the past can be useful. Let’s look at some of the biggest late-season collapses in MLB history. We’ll start with the 1995 season.
5. California Angels (1995)
Coming into the 1995 season, the California Angels, now Los Angeles Angels, we’re looking to make their first playoff appearance in nearly ten years.
On August 5, things were looking bright. The Angels had an 11-game lead in the division. They were also coming off an eight-game winning streak. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot, actually.
The Angels did struggle through a 13-17 record in August, but they still lead the AL West by six games in September. However, the final 16 games were an absolute disaster for the Angels.
They lost 10 of their next 11 games, falling three games back in the division. It certainly didn’t help that their biggest competition, the Seattle Mariners, won 10 of their 11 games in that stretch.
California did win their final five games to set up a one-game tiebreaker against the Mariners.
Seattle pitcher Randy Johnson went toe-to-toe with California’s Mark Langston. Johnson took a perfect game into the sixth inning, but the Angels still trailed by just one run. Just like their regular season, everything went downhill at the end.
The Mariners rattled off four runs in each of the seventh and eighth inning to take control of the game. California did manage to score a run in the ninth inning, but it was nowhere near enough. Seattle went on to win 9-1.
Just like that, California’s season was over. They finished 78-67 but went 24-34 over the final two months of the season. In that same span, Seattle went 36-22.
However, Angels fans had to deal with the 1995 heartbreak for years. It still lives on as one of the worst MLB collapses in history.
4. Atlanta Braves (2011)
The Atlanta Braves were arguably the most successful MLB franchise in the 1990s and early 2000s. Despite making the playoffs 14 of 15 seasons from 1991-2005, the Braves won just one World Series. Once 2011 rolled around, they were looking to return to the glory days.
Atlanta didn’t have a chance in the NL East because the Philadelphia Phillies had the best record in the MLB. However, Atlanta led the wild-card race by 8.5 games on September 1. If you’re a Braves fan, I wouldn’t blame you for skipping this next section.
Over their next 12 games, they won just three games. Three of their nine losses came to their biggest competition for the wild-card, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Braves won three of their next four games. Just when it looked like they may hang on, things took a turn for the worst.
Check out how the Braves did in their final ten games compared to the Cardinals final 10.
- Braves: 2-8
- Cardinals: 7-3
On the final day of the regular season, the teams were tied for the lone wild-card spot. The Cardinals won easily over the Houston Astros, while the Braves battled the Phillies.
Atlanta led the game 3-2 in the ninth inning before a sac fly by Chase Utley tied the game. The Phillies scored the game-winning run in the 13th, giving them a 4-3 victory.
The Braves season ended following a 9-18 record in the month of September. There were so many things that went wrong that month.
Their starting and relief pitchers struggled, and their offense had the second-worst batting average in the NL. It was a disappointing end for a team with World Series aspirations, and it goes down as one of the worst MLB collapses of all time.
Of course, the Cardinals went on to win the World Series in an unforgettable seven-game series with the Texas Rangers.
3. Boston Red Sox (2011)
While the Atlanta Braves were collapsing in the NL in 2011, the Boston Red Sox were having a collapse of their own on the AL side.
Boston initially entered the month of September with the second-best record in the MLB. They lost the division lead on September 2 but held a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card. They had a 99.6 percent chance to make the postseason at the time. That’s why their collapse surprised so many people.
The Red Sox went 7-20 during the month of September, including 1-6 against the Rays. Their collapse, combined with the Rays going 17-10 in the month, allowed them to catch up in the wild-card race. That set up one of the greatest days in MLB history.
On the final day of the season, Boston and Tampa Bay were tied for the wild-card spot. Tampa Bay had a tough game against the New York Yankees, while the Red Sox matched up against the lowly Baltimore Orioles.
New York looked like they would cruise to a victory, leading 7-0 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. The Rays rattled off six runs to get back in the game. In the ninth, the Rays were down to their final out when Dan Johnson hit a home run to tie the game.
Boston led the Orioles 3-2 when a rain delay postponed the game for an hour and a half. They held that lead until the bottom of the ninth. Baltimore scored two runs off closer Jonathan Papelbon to win 4-3.
Minutes later, Evan Longoria hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to send the Rays to the playoffs.
For a casual baseball fan, September 28, 2011, will go down as one of the most exciting days in MLB history.
2. New York Mets (2007)
It’s not surprising to see the New York Mets on this list. They just seem like a team known for disappointment. The 2007 season may be the epitome of that.
The Mets were coming off a loss in the NLCS the previous season to the St. Louis Cardinals. Their 2007 season initially showed that they were here to stay.
They started the season with a 34-18 record. New York struggled just a bit in June and July but went 15-13 in August to enter the month of September 74-60.
Unlike the other teams we’ve seen on this list, their collapse didn’t start at the beginning of the month.
New York lost their next five games, three to the Phillies. They did follow that up with four wins in five games. On the morning of September 24, the Mets led the division by two games.
This is what happened the remainder of the season.
|Date||New York Mets||Philadelphia Phillies|
Philadelphia took their first division lead on the season on September 28. The teams entered the final day of the regular season tied.
The Mets lost 8-1 after starting pitcher Tom Glavine allowed seven runs in the first inning. Philadelphia took care of business, beating the Washington Nationals 6-1.
Over their final 17 games, the Mets went 5-12 to lose the division by one game. Over the same span, the Phillies went 13-4.
New York didn’t make it back to the playoffs until 2015 when they lost in the World Series to the Kansas City Royals.
1. Philadelphia Phillies (1964)
I can’t imagine most baseball fans are familiar with this one, but the Philadelphia Phillies had the original late-season collapse.
Philadelphia led their division just about the entire season. They kept a consistent 5.5 to 6.5 game lead through the first half of September.
On September 20, they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 to move to 90-60 on the season. In turn, they led the division by 6.5 games with 12 games remaining. The St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds were tied for second.
First, the Reds swept a three-game series over the Phillies. Then, the Milwaukee Braves swept their four-game series. Seven straight losses combined with a nine-game winning streak by the Reds allowed them to take the division lead with six games to go.
St. Louis had an eight-game winning streak that concluded when they swept the Phillies, giving them ten straight losses. The sweep gave the Cardinals a one-game lead in the division.
Going into the season’s final three games, the Cardinals led the Reds by one game and the Phillies by 2.5 games. Philadelphia beat Cincinnati in their final two games to pass them in the division. St. Louis won their final game of the season to win the division with a 93-69 record.
Just to recap, here are the team’s records over the final 12 games of the season.
- Philadelphia Phillies: 2-10
- Louis Cardinals: 9-3
- Cincinnati Reds: 8-4
The Cardinals went on to win the World Series that season, while the Phillies didn’t make another playoff appearance until 1976. Use as standout text
Some call it “The Curse of Chico Ruiz,” and others call it the “Phold of ’64.” I think most baseball fans are willing to describe it as the worst late-season collapse in MLB history.
Other MLB Late-Season Collapses
There are quite a few late-season collapses in MLB history. I wanted to highlight the ones that spanned through September, but some happened at the very end of the season.
- Detroit Tigers (2009)
- Toronto Blue Jays (1987)
The Detroit Tigers led the AL Central from May 10 to October 2. Unfortunately, the season ended on October 4. Detroit lost three of their final four games, blowing a three-game division lead. They went on to lose a one-game tiebreaker against the Minnesota Twins.
It was a similar situation for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1987. They led the division by 3.5 games with seven to play. They lost their final seven games, with four coming against the Tigers. The Tigers were on the right end of a collapse this time, winning the division by two games.
Predicting late-season collapses in baseball isn’t easy. However, if you can do so accurately at the top US betting sites, there is major earning potential. Hopefully, this trip down memory lane showcased what led to some unfortunate collapses.
All this talk of collapsing is a bit depressing, of course. Let’s end things on a positive note with a look at some of the best rookie years in MLB history.