As Fredericksburg wrapped up yet another loss, there was hope for the future.
“If you’re cheering for the FredNats, tomorrow has to be a better day,” Fredericksburg broadcaster Erik Bremer said as the team readied to begin the bottom of the eighth trailing by 14 runs.
It’s a hopeful thought, but so far it’s one that has yet to come true.
Every day is Groundhog Day for Fredericksburg so far this year. The team has played 15 games, and it’s lost 15 games. In doing so, the same story repeats itself. Fredericksburg doesn’t score many runs. Fredericksburg gives up many, many runs.
The Nationals’ Low-A affiliate was supposed to play its inaugural season in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic wiped that away. Its 2021 debut is already making history.
As Bremer noted on the broadcast, the worst run differential in the 43-year history of the franchise was -172 from the 1980 Alexandria Dukes. This year the FredNats have a -115 run differential after 15 games. That would be the fourth-worst mark in franchise history.
But Fredericksburg has made more history than that. According to the team’s research, this is already the fourth longest losing streak to begin a season in known minor league history. As compiled by Fredericksburg, the worst start in minor league history is an 0-26 start of the 1954 Jackson Generals of the Class D Kitty League.
As often is the case with minor league records, there is some dispute to that accuracy. According to “The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball,” the Generals withdrew from the league after going 1-44, but that was after losing 36 straight games, which means that they would have had a win in the first nine games of the season. That team was replaced at the midpoint of the season by the Central City Reds.
The other starts worse than the current Fredericksburg one belong to the 1913 Newport News, which went 0-18 in the Class C Virginia League and the 1968 Leesburg A’s, which went 0-16 in the Class A Florida State League. Fredericksburg could equal that Leesburg start today.
The longest losing streak to start a major league season is the 1988 Baltimore Orioles, who went 0-21 to begin the year.
If there are words of encouragement for Fredericksburg, Newport News did manage to avoid the cellar in 1913, finishing one game above the Norfolk Tars with a .390 winning percentage by the end of the year.
And there is the example of the 1994 Macon Braves of the South Atlantic League. Macon began the season 1-19. A flood evicted them from their stadium for a significant chunk of the first half of the season. But in the second half, they were the best team in their division. They finished the year with a 73-64 record and earned a playoff spot.
Fredericksburg has come by this record legitimately. Fredericksburg’s .486 OPS so far is the worst among all 120 minor league teams. Its 39 runs scored is third worst, with one fellow Nats club Harrisburg’s 34 runs scored is worst.
The FredNats’ .937 fielding percentage is also worst among all 120 minor league teams, as is their 8.09 ERA. Fredericksburg’s 154 runs allowed is 44 more than any other minor league team.
Fredericksburg batters are hitting .164/.273/.213 this year. Opponents are hitting .308/.408/.502.
And here’s maybe the most depressing fact. This isn’t a start where Fredericksburg has lost close games that could have turned on one or two balls bouncing a different way. There is no scenario where Fredericksburg would have won any of its first 15 games. Fredericksburg has scored five runs once this year, and never more than five runs. It has allowed at least five runs in every game this year, and has allowed exactly five runs once.
The best-case scenario of a game where the FredNats scored the most runs they’ve scored this season and the scenario where they allowed the fewest runs only gets them to a tie.
That could change tonight. Today has to be a better day.