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*It should be noted that use of the Razzball Glossary is highly suggested in order to make any sense of the Title Heading of this article. It is likely that the development of  Razzball’s own unique symbolic system may well create the long-term effect of the formation of a Greygambelian cult, but that is outside the parameters of this article.

One year ago, Vin Mazzaro of the Kansas City Royals had one of the more memorable Craptastic performances in Razzball history, giving up 14 earned runs in 2.1 innings. It was noted that only two pitchers since World War II had reached similar depths of ineptitude:  Mike Oquist, pitching for the Oakland Athletics, turned the trick in 1998, and Bill Travers, of the Cleveland Indians, (perhaps the original Cleveland Streamer), back in 1977.

This brings up the obvious question: what was the worst individual pitching performance by a starter in baseball history?

For the answer to this question, we have to go back to the genesis of the game of Roundball. On July 24th, 1882, David Elwood Rowe of the Cleveland Blues set a Major League record that still stands: he allowed 35 runs in 9 innings of work. Seven Chicago White Stockings had at least four hits and four players scored at least six runs in that affair. This remains the all time Major League record for most runs scored against a pitcher in a single game. At first sight, Rowe’s dismal performance appears to set a high bar for future hurlers to overcome.  However, several points should be noted: Rowe was a center fielder by trade; during his career he appeared but four times as a pitcher. And of those 35 runs, only 12 were earned. Back in the days of yore, ballplayers went gloveless, and thus the error rate was inflated, although even considering this obvious handicap, the number of miscues must have been considerably above the norm.

When discussing ignominious pitching efforts, one must tell the interesting story of Aloysius Joseph Travers, who in all probability was the worst pitcher of all time. (One wonders whither Aloysius was related to Bill Travers. Maybe someday science will find the gene marker of pitching incompetence.) The tale begins exactly 100 years ago. On May 18th, 1912, Ty Cobb became enraged at a fan who was continuing to razz him, spicing up his critique of Cobb’s ability with racial epithets. Cobb, of course, was a virulent bigot. After one of his teammates stated that a man would be a craven if he failed to respond to that vitriol, Cobb rushed into the stands and pummeled the crank unmercifully. The victim of Cobb’s wrath happened to be without an arm, and had three fingers on his remaining hand, which added to the considerable outrage amongst both fans and the Lords of Baseball. American League President Ban Johnson suspended Cobb indefinitely for his actions. Cobb’s teammates were in no way fond of their teammate; nevertheless, they protested the suspension, and when Johnson failed to reconsider, the entire Tiger squad went on strike, stating that they would refuse to play until Cobb was reinstated. In response to this action, Johnson stated that the Tiger organization would be fined $5,000 for each game they forfeited as a result of the players action. In order to avoid the fine, team owner Frank Navin had manager Hughie Jennings find replacement players in short order. With little time to spare, Jennings found a group of college kids in North Philly. One of these players was Al Travers, who was chosen as starter, although he had never pitched an inning in his life at any level. Travers somehow managed to pitch a complete game, and “limited” the Philadelphia Athletics to 24 runs, 14 of them earned. Traver’s pitching line:

8 IP – 26 H – 24 R- 14 ER – 7 BB – 1 K

The 24 runs allowed remains an American League Record to this day.

The players’ strike ended the next day, which in turn ended the illustrious career of the ultimate Peg Boy, Aloysius Travers. Al was so shaken by the traumatic event that he sought spiritual solace, and joined the Catholic Priesthood.

How does Travers measure up to other ghastly pitching performances of yore? Some years ago, Bill James developed a method of discerning pitching performance, known as Game Scores.  One need not be a member of Mensa in order to calculate Game Scores (GmSc):

Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

According to my calculations, Aloysius scores -52.

In 2010, Sabermetricians analyzed and charted the worst Game Scores in the modern era. (That chart can be found at Baseball-reference.com.) Hod Lisenbee’s performance on 9/11/36 was rated as the worst in history, at -35. Travers thus tops (bottoms?) this by -17 points, a considerable number.

Let’s go back to where we first started the discussion. Putting Mazzaro’s effort into historical context, how does he measure against the most inept starting performances in history?

Here was Vince’s line:

2.1 IP – 11 H – 14 ER – 14 R – 3 BB – 2 K

According to the GaSc, Vin’s total was -19. This would place him 10th on the Baseball Reference list; impressive, but not conclusive. Mazzaro had one major advantage over Aloyious Travers, as well as every other hurler listed: his manager took him out of the game before he completed four innings. Let me make an approximate projection of  Mazzaro’s performance if he had been allowed to remain in the game one inning less than the hapless A. Travers, assuming, of course, that his efforts would not improve or diminish as the game went along:

7 IP – 33 H – 42 ER – 42 R – 9 BB – 6 K

Using this extrapolation, Mazzaro finishes up with a GaSc of -174, which is more than 3 times worse than A. Travers.

Now consider a more recent effort; this one by Bud Norris on 5/31/12:

1.2 IP – 7 H – 9 ER – 9 R – 3 BB – 2 K

Let’s project Norris’ efforts to 8.1 IP

8.1 IP – 35 H – 45 ER – 45 R – 15 BB – 10 K

Which gives Norris a GaSc of -111; not quite as bad as Mazzaro’s effort, but still twice as bad as Aloysius Travers. Now I am certain that there must be quite a few games pitched each season which resemble Norris’ line. Which brings up the final point: modern day clubs carry many more pitchers, and especially relievers, than teams in years past. Sixty years ago, very few teams even carried relievers; the relief pitcher was typically the worst starter on the squad, and would pitch in games where the starter was injured or performed particularly poorly. But oftentimes no pitcher was available for relief duties, and the manager had to stick with his starter no matter how badly he performed. Thus, the question concerning which starter gave the worst performance of all time is a bit more complicated than it seems to be on the surface, for if Mazzaro or Norris pitched, say, in 1922, there would be a chance that he would not be taken out of the game, thus allowing them the opportunity to replace poor Aloysius in the sacred texts at Cooperstown, New York.

  1. Wudaben says:
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    Interesting stats! I personally had a couple historically bad starts that derailed my championship run back in 2004 thanks to Jose Contreras. During a 2 start week in Sept 2004 I remember getting stuck with close to -50 in my points league because of this bum!

    While not as bad as a few of those one day lines these two were equally damaging and still haunt me to this day!

    9/7/04: @TEX 1.2 5H 8ER 5BB 2K
    9/12/04: @ANA 3.0 10H 7ER 1BB 2K

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Wudaben, I remember Jose well. He got banged up quite a bit occasionally, but seemed to take it with equanimity. I figured that nothing he would ever face in MLB could ever be quite as stressful as fighting off sharks while paddling on a raft between Cuba and the U.S.

  2. Pokey Reese says:
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    What about Bumgardner’s line of

    .1 IP with 8 ER on 9 hits with 1 strikeout (The strikeout was to Mr.Carl Pavano who I am sure got confused thinking he saw the word Bum-gardner)

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Pokey Reese, Thats pretty bad.

      In a nine inning game: the GaSc = -407, which is the worst that I have yet seen. Hope you weren’t pitching him during the game…

      • Pokey Reese says:
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        @Paulie Allnuts, I might be mistaken with my math but I got a GaSc = -1286.

        Bumgarner only recorded 1 out (a strikeout) and gave up 8 ERs and 9 Hits. Calculated out that would be 243 hits (-486), 216 ER (-864), 27 SO (+27), 5 innings after 4 (+10), 9 innings pitched (+27).

        (-486)+(-864)+27+10+27 = GaSc-1286

        His GaSc = -48 for his start that day when he pitched 0.1 innings with a 216.00 ERA, 27.00 WHIP, & 27.00 SO/9

  3. Beau says:
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    10 team auction keeper league…

    I have Trout for $6 next year and then possibly $21 in 2014 or else I have to let him go. Owner offred Bautista straight up who is $27 in 2013 and then FA. Crazy to not at least consider it?

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Beau, I would gently refer you to Grey, as I am presently in 9th place in my RCL. I wouldn’t take advice from a 9th place team and neither should you. But thanks for commenting!

  4. Beau says:
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    At this point I’m in 9th place and need power…but not sure I can make up enough ground at this point anyways.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Beau, See above

  5. gambz says:
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    Fascinating.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @gambz, Thank you, Great Gambino. As a fellow sportswriter who has written some great pieces in the past, your approval is always greatly appreciated!

  6. David says:
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    Since Bill James published an article about game scores this week (The Greatest of Games), since he invented the stat, and since it is available for free, I provide the following link:
    http://www.billjamesonline.com/the_greatest_of_games/

    It is about Matt Cain’s perfect game, and much more. It focuses more on good than bad.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @David, Thanks so much! Will get to it as soon as I have some time. Presently reading a great book , 27 Men Out, by Michael Coffey, concerning an excellent summary and chapter on all of baseball’s perfect games; (not the most recent ones, of course.) i always thought the most dominant game in baseball’s history was Kerry Wood’s masterpiece, which I see is mentioned in James’ article. BTW, Coffey’s book as a forward by James. I recommend it highly.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Lou, Thanks! Not good memories for Yankee fans. Was that the year that Kevin Brown smashed a water cooler and broke his hand?

  7. Hunter says:
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    For what it’s worth, the fact that Cobb’s teammates all were behind him, even the ones who hated him, speaks to the idea that this wasn’t just some harmless guy shouting the occasional “yo mamma” type insults.

    I’d like to see some unbiased accounts. Too often in speaking of Cobb, reality is subsumed into the caricature of the evil, argumentative, pugnacious, unlike able, backwards racist from the Georgia sticks.

    Maybe what you state is exactly what happened, but somehow it seems like it was probably a bit more complicated than “evil Cobb beats defenseless man for no reason”.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Hunter, No doubt that Cobb was a complex man. On the day of his debut in the Major Leagues, his mother murdered/accidentally killed his father, depending on what you believe about the mother’s motives. Cobb often stated that he played his entire career with a rage that emanated from that tragic event. As for the account, there is no doubt that the individual yelled racial epithets at Cobb. According to one account, Cobb was goaded by one or more of his teammates to respond, stating something like a real guy with cajones wouldn’t put up with anyone calling them the “n” word. There is no doubt that Cobb was a virulent racist, but that was certainly not uncommon in those days. To put it into perspective, Ron Artest, a.k.a. Metta World Peace, likely had a lot less provocation when he went into the stands and beat up fans who were completely innocent.

  8. Carns says:
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    Very entertaining article. 3 of these have been on my FBB team, the latest being the Smokin Bud @COL debacle. I would also like to point out this gem from Johnny Cueto @PHI on 7/6/09:

    0.2 IP, 5H, 3BB, 9ER, 2HR. Not even sure how that’s possible (maybe HBP in there somewhere?).

    Anyways, the Fightins won the game 22-1 thanks in part to Cueto’s masterful meltdown.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Carns, Thanks. I was unaware iof that particular gem by Cueto. Part of the growin’ pains…

  9. Cheese says:
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    ARod for Jennings?

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Cheese, It would be best if you questioned Grey, the Master.

  10. the bat rastard says:
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    I am killing my brother in a yahoo league but he is still under the delusion that he knows what he is doing. What should I do? oh…another good intriguing article.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @the bat rastard, Thanks, Bat, you should have accepted my trade offer:)

  11. Susie Blackledge says:
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    I have learned a new word… Craptastic.
    Good read Allnuts:)

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