Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vin Mazzaro's Historically Bad Night

By Bill

The amazing thing is that it didn't start out badly at all for Vin Mazzaro. Making just his second appearance of the year -- the first was a start, five days ago, in which he gave up two earned runs in four innings -- Mazzaro was already the third pitcher called on by the Royals yesterday, even though they were trailing just 3-0 in the third. He had to know he'd be counted on to get a bunch of outs.

And like I said, it went well at first. He inherited a runner on first, and retired all three batters he faced in the third without permitting the runner to score (he did uncork a wild pitch in there, but no harm done). Then he came back out in the fourth and completely lost his way, giving up ten runs in the inning...and then the Royals sent him back out there for the fifth. Five batters and one out later, they finally pulled him for Jeremy Jeffress...who promptly allowed all three inherited runners to score, giving Mazzaro the following final line:

2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR, 1 WP

If that 14-run performance sounds like some sort of record...well, it kind of is.

Since 1950, only two pitchers have ever permitted 14 runs (and nobody's ever given up more), and they were both starters:

  • In 1977, the Brewers' Bill Travers gave up nine runs in the first four innings to the less-than-intimidating Indians (who had Duane Kuiper leading off and DH Bill Melton batting third), but was permitted to stay in through three more shutout innings, and then to give up five runs in two-thirds of the eighth, as Cleveland won 14-5.
  • In 1998, the Athletics' Mike Oquist gave up 14 runs in a five-inning start to that great Yankees team, on three walks and 16 hits, including four home runs (Paul O'Neill, Darryl Strawberry, and two by Chuck Knoblauch). Four relief pitchers then combined to shut out the Yanks on one hit the rest of the way, but Orlando Hernandez three-hit the A's and came away with the 14-1 win.
So nothing like what Mazzaro did last night has happened in relief, or in less than three innings of work, at least over the last 62 seasons. Thirty-five other pitchers in that time have given up 10 or more runs in a relief outing (the list here), but the previous record was 12 (Sid Schacht in 1950). Only once -- Mel Rojas in 1999 -- has a reliever given up even 11 runs in 2.1 or fewer innings (Rojas did it in 1.2).

Going all the way back (to 1919, as far as Baseball-Reference's game finder will go), the sheer run total isn't quite as unprecedented, and there are some really interesting lines (list here). Two starters have given up seventeen runs: Hod Lisenbee in 1936 and Howard Emke in 1923. Eight more (a mixture of starters and relievers, though to be fair, most of the relievers went 8-plus innings) have allowed 16, and nine more 15. Of those, my favorite would have to be Lefty O'Doul in 1923 (a terrible pitcher who would go on to become a great hitter a few years later). Taking over after three tough innings from Carl Fullerton and the defense (eight runs, only three earned), O'Doul and the Red Sox' defense would go on to have another three innings that were a lot more than just "tough": 11 hits, eight walks, and 16 runs...but only three of those were earned. The Indians went on to win that game 27-3 with 0 home runs, 24 hits, 14 walks, and four Red Sox errors.

Still, though, no pitcher since at least 1918 has given up as many runs as Mazzaro did in as little as two and a third (O'Doul comes the closest, or else Pat Carraway's 13 runs allowed in just two innings as a starter in 1931).

So Mazzaro made history -- modern history, at least -- with his outing last night. I'm sure his mama and Ned Yost are proud. He'll be telling the boys down in Omaha all about it.

No comments: