Turns out it was the 1890 Cleveland Spiders, who went 44-88. They had a two notable edges in that streak. First, a rookie pitcher who debuted in mid-season won three games in that streak for him. Some kid named Cy Young. Second, they played six games against Pittsburgh, who finished the year with a 23-113 record. Really. Nineteenth century baseball: it was a very different game.
The oddities of 19th century baseball also explain the second worst team to win 10 straight: the 1891 Louisville Colonels, who went 54-83. Please realize they did it in the American Associaiton, which was a league on the verge of collapse. The league actually contained nine teams, as one floundered mid-season and had to be replaced by another one.
In third place comes the first team since 1900, the 1976 White Sox. They were 64-97, the only post-1900 team with a sub-.400 winning percentage to win ten straight. They also lost ten straight that season. Added bonus: in the 33 years since, no Chi Sox team has won or lost ten straight. Weird.
Actually, the Sox have the lowest winning percentage for a post-1900 ten-straighter from a complete season. The 2009 Padres already won ten straight and at this moment have an even lower winning percentage than the Sox had in ’76. I made a joke last week about the Padres saying that I wasn’t sure which was more unlikely: the Tigers going 41 years without winning 10 straight or the ’09 Padres doing just that. Well, I thought it was a joke. Turns out the Padres winning 10 straight truly is less likely than the Tigers going from 1968-onward without doing it.
The next worst teams with 10-game winning streaks, and their winning percentages on the year in question:
1987 BAL .414
2003 MIL .420
1953 CHC .422
1894 CIN .423
2004 TBD .435
Honorable mention: the 1999 Padres (.457 winning percentage) somehow. won 14 straight.