Dubious Company?

Today, Brad Penny played a game of “anything you can do I can do better” with Jon Lieber, seeing his four homers allowed in one inning and raising him 10 earned runs allowed in a single start. His ERA jumped from 3.19 to 4.79 with this single performance, as the Mets just throttled the Dodgers all-star starter. It’s not everyday that you see a team allow a starter to stay in long enough to give up double digit earned runs, so using Baseball Reference’s Play Index, I decided to see just how rare it is for a pitcher to take this much of a beating on a single day.

Turns out, it’s more common than I would have guessed. Justin Germano and Mark Redman both pulled it off earlier this year (they apparently don’t care about pitchers’ psyches in the NL West), and it’s actually happened 136 times in the last 20 years. The worst of those drubbings belonged to Mike Oquist back in 1998 – he gave up 14 runs (tying the major league record for runs allowed in a single game) in just five innings of work for the A’s on August 3rd of that year. If only Oquist was some sort of household pet, Tony LaRussa would have taken better care of him on that day. This joke would have worked much better if this had happened in 1988, as I originally read it, so that LaRussa would have actually been the A’s manager at that time. Whoops!

The list of guys who have had this happen to them is more distinguished than you might guess, actually. Last year, the double digit performance was put up by Jeremy Bonderman, James Shields, and Jon Garland, and Ben Sheets, Roy Halladay, and Randy Johnson have all had it happen to them at one point in their careers.

I’m sure Brad Penny won’t take solace in this knowledge, but at least he’s not the only good pitcher to take a beating for his club.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

6 Responses to “Dubious Company?”

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  1. Zach says:

    For the record, La Russa left Oakland after the ’95 season. Art Howe was the manager then.

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  2. Dave Cameron says:

    I apparently can’t see, because I read the year as 1988, which is what prompted the LaRussa joke. Thanks for the correction.

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  3. I was hoping Penny’s 10 earned runs would be a little more epic myself…. Pretty amazing how long they’ll leave a guy in there.

    Pedro Martinez in 2003 had one of these 10 earned run games. He only gave up 46 earned runs the entire season and without it he would have had a 1.73 ERA, as opposed to a 2.22 ERA. It really does happen to the best of them.

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  4. philosofool says:

    Nice. These are the kind of baseball fun facts that everyone should know. They much more interesting in a bar than VORP numbers. VORP tells you how to win baseball games, but this makes you friends (which in my experience, VORP does not.)

    The best of all of them that you linked to: Luke Hudson coughed up 10 ER while getting only one out Aug. 13th 2006, in the first inning in his only start for the Royals that season. His ERA for the outing: 272.72. At this point, don’t you just leave the guy in the game to give your bullpen a day off? (No, because he can’t throw 1269 pitches in a single game, which is what he was on pace to do over nine innings.) If anyone knows of a worse start, or a worse single inning, in the history of baseball, please pass it on.

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  5. Jason Jennings on 7/29/07 gave up 11 runs in 2/3 innings. I’m not sure if it’s a worse outing since Jennings did get double the outs….

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  6. Zach says:

    Philosofool, I believe Hudson’s 1/3 IP, 10 ER is actually the worst of all time. For some reason I had it in my head that the Royals came back and almost won, but they really lost 13-0.

    But anyway, the single outing raised Hudson’s season ERA from 4.65 to 6.39. And it was August 13th. That’s mind-boggling.

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