By Stephen Nover
Thu, Jul 6, 2006
Who’s the worst starting pitcher in the major leagues?
Let the debate begin - just make it fast because they might not be in the rotation much longer.
“Kansas City had almost cornered the market for worst starters for a while,” says professional gambler Russ Culver.
OK, not including any Royals, who is the least effective starting pitcher?
Here’s a nomination for Josh Towers of the Toronto Blue Jays. Towers’ record: 1-9 (-8.69 units). ERA: 9.11. WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched): 1.86. Yearly salary: $2.3 million.
“You look at his stats and you just scratch your head wondering how the Blue Jays keep letting this guy go out there,” Culver says.
A case might be made for Jason Johnson of the Boston Red Sox, formerly of the Cleveland Indians.
Johnson went into Wednesday’s action with these figures: Record: 3-9 (-8.99 units). ERA: 6.22. WHIP: 1.70. Yearly salary: $3.5 million.
“You have to put him on that list,” professional bettor Dave Malinsky says of Johnson.
Malinsky looks at two factors when determining how bad a pitcher is - statistics, and what, if anything, that pitcher can do to turn things around.
In the case of Joe Mays, formerly of the Royals and now lighting matches for the Cincinnati Reds, the answer is nothing. Malinsky thinks he`s the worst starter in the bigs.
Mays’ numbers: Record: 0-5 (-3.20 units). ERA: 8.21. WHIP: 2.02. Yearly salary: $1 million.
“Mays can’t strike a hitter out,” Malinsky says. “He has no velocity. So he just lobs the ball up there hoping it will get hit at somebody. At least with Johnson of the Red Sox he does get the ball to be hit on the ground, and sometimes groundball pitchers can get away with some things.”
Mays faces a stiff challenge. The New York Mets recently called up Jose Lima, he of the 0-3 record, 8.79 ERA and 1.81 WHIP. In the last two years the only thing “Lima Time” has meant is boosted bankrolls for faders. Since 2005, Lima is 5-19.
“Mays just doesn’t have anything,” Malinsky says. “Lima, at least, can go out on days where his stuff is working and be effective. Mays just throws batting practice.”
My candidate for title of worst starter is Russ Ortiz of the Baltimore Orioles, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ortiz’s numbers: Record: 0-5 (-4.02 units). ERA: 7.33. WHIP: 2.30. Yearly salary: $7.8 million.
There may not be a more overpaid person on the planet than Ortiz.
Somehow the Diamondbacks were able to pass the old maid card, err make that Ortiz, on to the Orioles. Someone in Baltimore must really be eager to nominate pitching coach Leo Mazzone for sainthood.
Mazzone and Ortiz were together in Atlanta for two seasons, 2003 and 2004. Ortiz went 36-16 during those two seasons.
“You have to wait and see on Leo Mazzone,” Malinsky says. “The last couple of seasons under Mazzone, Ortiz wasn’t that bad. You want to give that a little time.”
It was typical Ortiz in his debut with the Orioles this past Saturday. Ortiz gave up nine hits and walked four pitching 4 1/3 innings against Atlanta.
In 28 starts with the Diamondbacks over the past two years, Ortiz was 5-16. He pitched 137 2/3 innings surrendering 174 hits and walking another 87 while striking out 67. His ERA was 6.89 last year and was 7.54 with Arizona this season.
Large contract or not, how can someone stay in the majors with those kind of numbers?
“The Arizona pitching coaches, outside of Brandon Webb, haven’t done anything right with anybody,” Malinsky said. “Look at how many relief pitchers Arizona has blown through the last couple of seasons.
“You have to wonder if it just might be a bad coaching staff.”