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.