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As Matt Boyd laid an enormous turd on the Rogers Centre mound last night, Bauxite scottt was moved to express a cri du coeur:

Worst start in Jays history?

My kind of question!

What would be needed to answer such a question, of course, would be a database containing all 6114 starts by Toronto pitchers. I have such a database. Let's just sort them by Game Scores and PRESTO! We have... the wrong answer.

Boyd's Game Score last night was 9, which is pretty terrible. It's the worst ever by a Jays starter who failed to record an out. However,  to post a really horrendous Game Score you need to go a little deeper into the game. You need to trick your manager into leaving you out there just a little longer, so you can really do some damage. Boyd didn't post the worst Game Score by a Jays pitcher this season. (He didn't even post the second worst.)

All told, there have 10 other starts in franchise history that posted a Game Score of 9, same as Boyd; there have been 44 starts in franchise history that were even worse than that.  But there were four starts that were so truly horrendous, so gob-smackingly awful that they actually produced a negative Game Score. I think it's there that we'll find the answer to scottt's question.

The worst of all, as was quickly noticed last night, was David Wells' famous effort against the Brewers on 20 August 1992. In 4.1 IP, Boomer allowed 11 H, 4 BB, 2 HBP and 13 ER, good (bad?) for a Game Score of... wait for it... -14. The 13 runs allowed is the most ever by a Jays starter.  But there were special circumstances attendant to that game, which is why I think we should let Boomer off the hook.

A little history. Wells had started the 1992 season in the rotation, although it was understood by one and all that he would go to the bullpen as soon as Dave Stieb returned from the DL in late April. Which is what happened. Wells went back into the rotation when Stottlemyre missed some time in June. Gaston pulled Stieb from the rotation around the same time - Pat Hentgen came out of the pen to make a couple of starts, and went back to the pen when Stottlemyre returned to action.

And so the Jays headed into August 1992 with Morris, Guzman, Key, Stottlemyre, and Wells in the rotation. That month, Morris was a rock (5-1, 3.07, 41 IP) and Stottlemyre was solid (3-2, 3.76). But Key was scuffling (1-4, 6.25) - and the other guys were even worse. If they were there at all.  Guzman was hurting. He had missed his start on July 29. Dave Stieb had filled in that day and pitched well, but his elbow was starting to become a problem. Guzman made one more start (August 3) and then went on the DL. Guzman wouldn't pitch again until the end of the month. Stieb got a cortisone shot for his aching elbow and went back into the rotation. It didn't work -  Stieb would make just one start, getting beat up by Detroit, before going on the shelf for the remainder of the season.  While all this was going on, Pat Hentgen had posted a 9.24 ERA since the All-Star Break and his arm wasn't feeling right. Hentgen went back down to Syracuse in mid-August. The Jays had started the month with six men in the bullpen (Henke, Ward, Stieb, Timlin, Hentgen, MacDonald) but with Stieb and Hentgen now gone, they were down to four. They obtained Mark Eichhorn from the Angels to give them five relievers. And Doug Linton came up and joined the rotation.

Linton made his second start on August 19 and lasted just three innings: Timlin, MacDonald, and Eichhorn went the rest of the way. Which means that when Wells took the mound in Milwaukee on August 20 his mission, above all else, was to go deep into the game. After Linton's poor effort the day before, the only relievers Gaston wanted to use at all were his two short men, Ward and Henke. After three innings, Wells was losing 5-1. But the Jays had no bullpen this day, and Wells went out for the fourth inning. The Brewers scored three more runs. With the Jays now trailing 8-2, but with Ward and Henke the only fresh arms available in the pen, Wells came out to pitch the fifth inning. He allowed a home run to Jaha and a double to Seitzer before getting Surhoff to ground out. He then hit Fletcher with a pitch, walked Listach, and gave up a two-run double to Hamilton. With the score now 11-2, Gaston finally made the call to the pen, and brought in Bob MacDonald. Before the game was over, Mark Eichhorn, Duane Ward, and Tom Henke would all end up having to appear in the Brewers 16-3 win.  Gaston couldn't have been too pleased about that development. The next day David Weathers was called up from Syracuse to give the staff a sixth arm in the bullpen. Randy Knorr was sent down to clear room for Weathers, making Ed Sprague the backup catcher.

Anyway, I've always been inclined to give Wells a mulligan for that one. Gaston certainly would have pulled him in the fourth inning, if not sooner, if not for the team's desperate need to get some innings from a starter.

So that leaves us three other starts with negative Game Scores. The Royals beat Brian Tallet seneseless on April 29 2009 - they pounded him for 11 hits, 3 HRs and plated 10 runs in just 4 innings. Game Score of -1. Really, really awful. But we can do worse...  after all, Tallet did  record 12 outs, which in games like these is kind of remarkable.

The worst start in franchise history was... well, I can't quite decide. We have two contenders. Both were the work of outstanding starting pitchers, men who had multiple 20 win seasons.

After losing David Cone and Jimmy Key in the off-season (while just getting rid of Dave Stieb and David Wells), Pat Gillick thought he could fill  all these holes in his rotation by signing one guy - Dave Stewart.  But Stewart got hurt in spring training and didn't make his season debut until May 13. He was probably on a pitch count that day - Gaston pulled him with two out and two on in the fourth inning with a 1-0 lead. Stewart made his second start as a Jay six days later in Fenway Park. It was ugly. He walked 3 men in the first inning, gave up a couple of hits, and the Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead. In the second inning, Stewart got a couple of quick outs sandwiched round a base hit - but he simply could not get that third out. He walked Quintana. He walked Vaughn to load the bases. Calderon doubled to clear the bases (7-0). Hatcher singled to drive in Calderon (8-0). Riles doubled to score Hatcher (9-0) and Valentin singled to score Riles (10-0).  Eichhorn, who probably didn't even get his jacket off until the Vaughn walk, came in. Stewart pitched 1.2 IP, allowing 7 H, 5 BB, and 10 ER.

Game Score: -4. A strong contender indeed.

But we got one that might be even worse! You decide!

In April 1999, Roy Halladay was a 21 year old rookie. He had made his debut the previous September, and come within one out of throwing a no-hitter in his second major league start. He opened his rookie season in Jim Fregosi's bullpen - the five starters were Hentgen, Wells, Hamilton, Escobar, and Carpenter. Hamilton made two starts, went to the DL, and Halladay took his spot in the rotation. His first start was a dandy, as he threw  7 shutout innings against the Orioles. He escaped with a no-decision his next time out, and made his third start of the season on April 29 against the Angels.

It did not go well. It began walk-double-single, putting Doc behind 2-0 before he'd retired a batter. Tim Salmon grounded out, Erstad singled and Glaus drew a walk to load the bases. An Anderson sac fly made it 3-0; then Doc hit Walebeck to re-load the bases. This brought utility infielder Andy Sheets (cousin of Ben!) to the plate.  Sheets cleared the bases with a grand slam, one of his 19 career homers, and Doc was trailing 7-0. Palmeiro singled in his second PA of the inning, but Doc got Velarde to finally end it. He came back out for the second inning and quickly allowed a leadoff single to Vaughn. At this point, he had retired just 3 of the 12 Angels hitters. But he set down the next three in succession, and Fregosi was fooled just enough to send Halladay back out for third inning. Big mistake. It all went sideways from the start, as Anderson led off with a double and Walbeck drew a walk. Halladay got Sheets to pop out this time, but Palmeiro's RBI single made it 8-0 and Velarde followed that with a three run HR. And the Jays were down by 11-0 and Fregosi came with the hook. In his fifth career start, Halladay went 2.1 IP, allowing 9 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP and 11 ER. Two HRs by backup middle infielders accounted for 7 of those runs.

Game Score: -7. I think it gets my vote.

Worst Game Scores of the Year  by Jays starters:

Year  GS  Guilty Party     Date     IP   H  BB  HBP  HR   R   ER

1977   17 Dave Lemanczyk 23 Jul 5.2 9 3 0 3 8 8
1978   13 Balor Moore 6 Aug 4 7 4 0 1 8 8
1979   12 Phil Huffman 24 Jun 4.1 10 0 0 2 8 8
1980   10 Jack Kucek 5 Aug 2.1 8 3 0 0 7 7
1981   22 Jim Clancy 27 Aug 3.2 6 4 0 1 6 6
1982   13 Jim Clancy 11 Apr 0.2 6 1 0 0 7 6
1983   14 Jim Gott 31 Jul 3 9 1 0 0 7 7
1984    2 Luis Leal 15 Aug 5.2 13 4 0 0 10 10
1985   15 Luis Leal 8 Jun 3 7 1 0 2 8 8
1986   13 Doyle Alexander 1 Jul 2.2 8 2 0 0 7 7
1987    9 John Cerutti 25 May 1.1 5 3 0 3 8 8
1988   13 Jim Clancy 12 Apr 2 6 3 0 0 7 7
1989   16 Dave Stieb 16 Apr 0.1 4 3 0 0 6 6
1990    7 Jimmy Key 17 May 2.2 7 2 0 1 9 9
1991   12 Tom Candiotti 23 Sep 0.2 5 1 0 0 7 7
1992  -14 David Wells 20 Aug 4.1 11 4 2 1 13 13
1993  - 4 Dave Stewart 19 May 1.2 7 5 0 0 10 10
1994    3 Dave Stewart 30 Apr 3.2 10 4 0 1 9 9
1995    3 Danny Darwin 17 May 2.1 10 0 0 2 9 9
1996    3 Frank Viola 28 Apr 4 10 2 0 2 10 9
1997    3 Robert Person 20 Aug 3.2 9 6 0 0 10 9
1998   12 Pat Hentgen 10 Sep 3 10 1 0 1 7 7
1999  - 7 Roy Halladay 29 Apr 2.1 9 3 1 2 11 11
2000    2 Chris Carpenter 20 Jun 2 7 4 0 3 9 9
2001    8 Chris Carpenter 12 May 4.2 12 5 0 1 7 7
2002    6 Esteban Loaiza 20 Sep 2.1 7 3 0 0 9 9
2003    8 Pete Walker 27 Apr 3.1 10 4 1 3 8 8
2004    8 Pat Hentgen 21 Jul 2.2 7 4 1 0 8 8
2005    1 Dustin McGowan 21 Aug 4.1  9  2  3  2  12  10
2006    6 Casey Janssen 17 Jun  3  11  4  0  1  7  7
2007    6 Roy Halladay 5 Jun  3.1 12  1  0  2  8  7
2008    7 Dustin McGowan 10 May  3.2  9  1  1  1  9  9
2009   -1 Brian Tallet 29 Apr  4  11  3  0  3  10  10
2010    5 Dana Eveland 22 May  1.1  8  2  0  0  8  8
2011    5 Luis Perez 6 Sep  2.2 10  2  0  1  8  8
2012    5 Kyle Drabek 27 May  3   8  3  0  2  9  9
2013    7 Mark Buehrle 10 Sep  4   12  1  0  3  8  8
2014   15 Mark Buehrle 25 Apr  5.1 12  3  0  1  7  6
2015    7 Drew Hutchison 12 Jun  2.1  9  3  0  3  8  8


It is kind of cool that almost all of the significant pitchers in franchise history are represented. Eight of the ten men who lead the team in career starts find their names here: the only ones missing are Juan Guzman(worst GS was 5, in 1993) and Todd Stottlemyre (worst GS was 9, in 1992). You'll remember that Pat Hentgen retired immediately after his dreadful 2004 start; you may not remember that the Jays traded Doyle Alexander to Atlanta (for Duane Ward, yes!) right after his 1986 stinker (Dour Doyle's previous start was almost as bad, by the way.)

Dave Lemanczyk, who is represented here for his 1977 bomb, actually had a worse start in 1979 when he permitted 18 opposition batters to reach base (GS of 13). That's the most ever by a Toronto pitcher.  Four starters have managed to walk 9 batters before their managers came and got them out of there: Jefferson, Clancy, Hentgen, and Carpenter. Some of us are surely surprised that Josh Towers hasn't yet put in an appearance (worst GS was 14 in 2004), but Josh does have the distinction of most hits allowed in a single game. That was when he gave up 14 hits to the Twins in 2005. He didn't pitch all that badly. except for all the hits, of course. Pat Hentgen makes the yearly list twice, but he had some other noteworthy disasters along the way, including three single digit GS that weren't bad enough to be the worst start of the season.  Hentgen also had two games where he allowed 5 - yes, 5 - home runs. A feat surpassed by no one, and matched by only one other Jays starter, Brett Cecil in 2009  In one of those games, opposing batters accumulated 30 total bases against Hentgen, most ever. against a Toronto pitcher. Hey,  I was at that game! Against the Red Sox in 1997...

The database is open, if you have any questions! Or would you like me to talk about some really good starts?
Worst Starts Ever | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
scottt - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 04:15 PM EDT (#304293) #
Thanks, Magpie.
Jonny German - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 04:44 PM EDT (#304296) #
Cool. Let's hope Boyd reads this to keep his blowup in perspective.

It's probably a whole 'nother project, but it could be interesting to see the worst turn through a rotation, i.e. the worst 5 consecutive starts.
Magpie - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 04:53 PM EDT (#304298) #
Should be easy enough to do that, but I've got to go out at the moment. Later tonight!
ComebyDeanChance - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#304299) #
To paraphrase the late great Pauline Kael, who wrote once about "The Naked Gun" something like 'the only way this movie could be stupider would be if it were longer', it sounds like the only way Boyd could have pitched worse is if he'd pitched longer.
uglyone - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 05:35 PM EDT (#304301) #
"It's probably a whole 'nother project, but it could be interesting to see the worst turn through a rotation, i.e. the worst 5 consecutive starts."

good chance it happened in the first 6 weeks of this season.
Four Seamer - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 05:48 PM EDT (#304306) #
These are terrible starts, to be sure, but the worst one I was ever in the yard for occurred on September 4, 2000 when Boomer Wells gave up seven earned and nine hits in an inning and a third en route to a 10-0 loss to Barry Zito and the A's. It was a gorgeous Labour Day, and my wife wanted to spend it on the Island. I convinced her instead to go watch the Jays, who inexplicably decided to spend the last day of summer playing (quite terribly) indoors, in an environment with all the charm of an airport hangar. It's a miracle we're still married after that debacle.
Magpie - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 07:07 PM EDT (#304313) #
the worst turn through a rotation, i.e. the worst 5 consecutive starts.

Wasn't all that long ago. John Gibbons returned in April 2013, and the second trip through the rotation - games 6-10 of the young season - was pretty nasty. The average Game Score was 24.4, once Dickey (17), Morrow (21), Buehrle (27), Johnson (15), and Happ (42) were done. Remarkably, the team actually won two of those games.

The second worst 5 game stretch came in May-June 2003 (possibly because an off-day allowed Mark Hendrickson to start 2 of the 5 games - the other culprits were Halladay, Escobar, and Lidle) and once again the team managed to win 2 of the 5 games.
Magpie - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 07:14 PM EDT (#304315) #
The worst 4 game stretch ran from April 28-May 1999, thanks largely to Halladay's epic disaster: it featured Wells (15), Halladay (-7), Escobar (22), and Carpenter (38.) The team won Carpenter's game.

The worst 3 game stretch was built on Wells' famous 1992 game. His -14 was preceded by Linton (10) and followed by Stottlemyre (31) - the team lost all three games.

That same Linton-Wells combo from August 1992 provided the worst back-to-back starts in team history. Well, an average Game Score of minus 2 is pretty special.

I can do this sort of thing for individuals, and I think I will. I can also look for the good news and find the best stretches as well. Stay tuned!
Magpie - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 07:56 PM EDT (#304317) #
The worst five consecutive starts by an individual came from Roy Halladay, during the year when He Lost His Way. After pitching well to win his first start of the season, over his next 6 starts Doc posted Game Scores of 26, 23, 20, 7, 29, and 9. At which point they got him the hell out of the rotation. The final 5 games are the worst 5 game stretch by any Jays starter; the final 4 games are the worst 4 game stretch.

The worst three game stretch - and we all noticed this when it happened - came from Jack Morris at the beginning of 1993. His first three starts saw him post Game Scores of 13, 18, and 3. So the ace was 0-3, 17.18, and the championship defense was off to a rousing start.

David Wells followed his record-setting stinker of August 1992 with your average lousy start (6 runs in 4.1, GS of 31) - but the combination of the two represents the worst consecutive starts by any pitcher in franchise history.
grjas - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 07:59 PM EDT (#304318) #
Interesting stuff. But in fairness Boyd, as a rookie, would never have been left in a game long enough to challenge the game score record.

Do we know if any other SP on the Jays ever gave up 7 earned runs without recording an out? Or even on RP? Sounds like the worst start ever to me.

I feel sorry for the guy...but yikes. Gotta be mentally tough to come back from an outing like that. (Keep him away from Romero!)
Magpie - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 08:01 PM EDT (#304319) #
September 4, 2000 when Boomer Wells gave up seven earned

What's really interesting about that one is that Wells was pitching just great at the time. Over a 7 game stretch from Aug 20 through Sep 26, Wells' Game Scores were 66, 69, 62, 8, 52, 66, 81, 64. Guess which one you saw!

Think maybe he'd been out late the night before?
Magpie - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 08:14 PM EDT (#304323) #
Do we know if any other SP on the Jays ever gave up 7 earned runs without recording an out?

Never. Boyd was the 13th starter in franchise history to get no one out, and on some of those occasions the starter came out before retiring a hitter because of an injury. The worst such starts before Boyd's game came from Jim Gott and Dave Stieb.

Against the Orioles on August 31 1983 Gott faced 6 batters, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks. Everybody scored, 6 ER, and the Orioles won 10-2.

On June 25 1990, the Jays staked Dave Stieb to a 3-0 lead at Fenway (where else?). In the bottom of the inning, Stieb faced 7 batters and walked 4 of them. The other 3 got base hits. Willie Blair took over with the bases loaded and 4 runs already in; he allowed two of the inherited runners to score. Stieb came into the game 10-2, 2.26; when it was over he was 10-2, 2.85. (The Jays tied the game in the 3rd to get him off the hook.)
Spifficus - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 08:30 PM EDT (#304330) #
To continue the Stieb tangent, after the game on June 30th, he was then 10-3 with a 3.39 ERA. His line that day was 1.1 IP, 4 hits, 6 runs (all earned) with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts for a game score of 21. I wonder if the 1.1 IP was the lowest combined innings total for two consecutive starts.
Magpie - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 08:44 PM EDT (#304333) #
I wonder if the 1.1 IP was the lowest combined innings total for two consecutive starts.

Nope. Luis Leal worked 0.2 IP over his 2 starts on Sep 20 and 25, 1981. In the first one, he faced 7 batters, allowing 2 singles, 2 doubles, and 2 walks (the Angels gave him an out on the bases, so he went 0.2 IP). In the second start, he allowed a walk, 2 doubles, and a single and got hooked.

In between those two starts, Leal came out of the bullpen in the 13th inning of a 2-2 game and gave up the winning run. Helluva week, Luis.
grjas - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 09:26 PM EDT (#304339) #
If you're pulling this from memory, you're scaring me!
TangledUpInBlue - Friday, July 03 2015 @ 11:23 PM EDT (#304353) #
In the second start, he allowed a walk, 2 doubles, and a single and got hooked.

Now that's a quick hook. What'd they do, get the bullpen going after the lead-off walk? He made his next start 5 days later (and pitched well) so it's not like he was pulled for an injury.
eldarion - Saturday, July 04 2015 @ 04:02 PM EDT (#304366) #
What's most interesting to me - from my rudimentary recollection - is that Boyd generally was shellacked at least once every time in the first few starts after he was promoted to a new league...but then he settled down and became dominant. Does anyone else remember that? It's almost like Boyd needs to be slapped around by a league as a wake-up call. Weird.
Gerry - Monday, July 06 2015 @ 03:33 PM EDT (#304490) #
Boyd was hit around when he went to AA but did better his second time around.

It's revisionist now, but I didn't think Boyd was as good as many people thought in his first start and I don't think he was as bad as people thought in his second start. I looked at the pitches that the Red Sox hit and only one was in the middle of the plate, the rest were on the edges. Some ground balls found the gaps and he couldn't recover.

I think he will be back, pitchers with his stuff, namely a lack of a dominant pitch, need to refine their pitches before they can have success in the major leagues.
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