The Worst Relief Outings Since 2002

Ryan Franklin‘s outing last night was historically bad. Given that the worst possible WPA for a pitcher in a single inning is -1.00, Franklin — with his -.99 WPA last night in Colorado — came dangerously close to setting a record that could never be broken. However, there have been three pitchers since 2002 to eclipse the -1.00 WPA mark in relief appearances spanning two innings.

Click on the game graphs below for the entire FanGraphs game logs, box scores, etc.

June 5th, 2002: Hideki Irabu, Texas Rangers

Hideki “The Fat Toad” Irabu entered this game against the Angels up 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning, looking to close it out. Back-to-back solo homers by Brad Fullmer and Tim Salmon tied the game, but Irabu managed to get out of the ninth inning with the game tied. At this point, Irabu already had a -.410 WPA.

The Rangers took the lead in the top of the tenth, thanks to a Herbert Perry RBI triple. The Rangers had a terrible bullpen in 2002, with a 4.99 ERA and a 4.76 FIP. Only Francisco Cordero, C.J. Nitkowski, and Joaquin Benoit posted FIPs below 4.00 in the Texas bullpen that season. That only slightly explains why the team would send Irabu out for the 10th.

A Darin Erstad RBI fielder’s choice scored Adam Kennedy, tying the game at 5-5. With Erstad at first, Troy Glaus homered off of Irabu to end the game. Irabu racked up another -.801 WPA in the 10th, and finished with an unenviable total of -1.211 WPA on the game.

June 1st, 2007: Todd Jones, Detroit Tigers

Todd Jones entered in the 8th inning of a 9-5 contest against the Cleveland Indians after Wil Ledezma gave up two straight two out hits, putting runners at the corners and two outs. Back-to-back hits by Trot Nixon and Josh Barfield scored two runs, making it 9-7 before Jones could get out of the inning. The Tigers still had an 91.7% chance of winning despite the scoring; Jones’s WPA was a mere -.036.

Thanks to RBIs by Mike Rabelo and future all-star Omar Infante, the Tigers had an 11-7 lead and a 97.8% chance of victory entering the bottom of the 9th. Despite getting the first batter to ground out, Jones got into trouble quickly, as the next two batters reached and then scored on a Victor Martinez home run. A Jhonny Peralta double and then back-to-back singles by Barfield and David Delucci plated the final two runs of the game to give the Indians a 12-11 victory. Jones’s WPA in the 9th was -.978 for a total of -1.014.

April 7th, 2009: Brandon Lyon, Detroit Tigers

Yet another Detroit Tiger, this one came on Brandon Lyon’s first appearance with the team. Edwin Jackson ran out of gas in the 8th inning of a start against the Blue Jays, and between Jackson and Bobby Seay, the Tigers had allowed two baserunners in a 3-1 game. Lyon entered and immediately allowed a home run to Aaron Hill, putting the Jays up 4-3. That would be all the damage against Lyon in the 8th; his WPA was -.712 at the time.

The Tigers tied it in the top of the 9th against B.J. Ryan, and Lyon was given the chance to get the game into extras. After getting a groundout to start the inning, the next three batters reached via the walk, single, and intentional walk. Rod Barajas then hit the game-winning sacrifice fly, closing out easily the worst relief pitching debut this decade. Lyon’s WPA in the 9th was -.358, and his total for the game came in at -1.070.

The loss for the Cardinals last night was heartbreaking, both for their fans and for Ryan Franklin as well. At least Franklin can take solace in the fact that these guys had worse nights than he did in Colorado last night.

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15 Responses to “The Worst Relief Outings Since 2002”

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  1. Matt says:

    I was taking a sip of water when I read “future all-star Omar Infante,” and almost gave my monitor a shower. Luckily, the sadness that is associated with that being the truth quickly over came me and prevented my spit-take.

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  2. Samuel says:

    I’m trying to forget about this, why do you guys have to keep bringing it up in articles?

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  3. Detroit Michael says:

    The Brandon Lyon outing left such an awful impression that Jim Leyland switched to Fernando Rodney as closer. Lyon never did get another crack at the closer’s job for the 2009 Detroit Tigers.

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  4. Detroit Michael says:

    I know this is being picky, but what the heck.

    I disagree with the first sentence of this post. It is impossible for any pitcher to have a WPA of 1.00 in a single inning (unless the pitcher moves off the mound while a teammate records one or two outs and then returns to the mound in the same inning). Understanding this, Franklin was in no danger at all of recording a WPA of 1.00 in a single inning and setting a record that could never be broken.

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    • Torgen says:

      If a pitcher enters a game in a situation in which no team in his position has ever lost a game (or at least none in the population used to generate the numbers), then single-handedly loses it, he would record a WPA of -1.0.

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      • Wally says:

        The only way a team actually has a WP of 1 is if the game is over and they won. In all other cases, even if an actual team has never lost in that situation, you are rounding to one. So, no, no pitcher can actually have a WPA of -1 or 1 in a single inning.

        Though on a larger note, I dislike WPA’s method of assigning the outcomes to the pitcher and the hitter. The fielders also play a role here. But that’s kind swept under the rug in the name of simplicity. Given that, I’d argue the only you could even approach .99 is to allow a HR against every batter you face. And even in that case, HRs would not always HRs in different parks. So you’d have to allow 400+ foot HRs each batter as well.

        Just one reason why I think WPA is cute and has its uses, but is often not particularly instructive.

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      • Wally says:

        wow should have reread that. I skipped 3 words in 3 sentences. Let me correct:

        iven that, I’d argue the only *way* you could even approach .99 is to allow a HR against every batter you face. And even in that case, HRs would not always *be* HRs in different parks. So you’d have to allow 400+ foot HRs *to* each batter as well.

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  5. I was at the June 1, 2007 game. A particular note about that game if you were a Tiger fan in attendance: The day before that game the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals and LeBron James essentially single-handedly beat the Pistons in Overtime. Why is this relevant? Well after this game ended, Cleveland fans (remember, Cleveland won the AL Central in this season…..they had a good team) were awful full of themselves and deservedly so on some “Beat Detroit” Kool-Aid. That was a very, very, very long walk out of the stadium and walk to the car.

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    • Souldrummer says:

      Did anyone bother to remind the Cleveland fans when the last time they won a championship? I’m expecting some sad Cleveland fans circa 9:00 tomorrow night.

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  6. Jesse says:

    I gotta bring up the Reds giving up 7 runs in the ninth to the Braves on May 20th this year while only recording one out. The incredible trio of Mike Lincoln, Nick Massett and Coco Cordero faced a combined seven batters without recording an out. The only out of the inning came when King Arthur was called in and struck out Jason Heyward, Cordero then came in and after six pitches gave up the game winning granny. Coco had a WPA of -.815 and Massett was at a pretty -.212. That was a depressing inning.

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  7. Rust says:

    A pitcher can have a WPA of < -1 in 1 inning, but he has to hit in the top of the inning.

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  8. chongo says:

    April 24, 2009, a day in fantasy infamy.

    Florida enters 9th ahead of Philly 3-0. Lindstrom starts inning to close it out, gives up 7 ER and loses game. Seems worse than what these three did…

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  9. Prettyy interesting stuff here. Pretty cool if I dont say so myself.

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