Ian Kennedy's start third-worst in franchise history

Dilip Vishwanat

Almost from the get-go last night, Ian Kennedy was in trouble. But it was the epic meltdown of an eight-run fourth inning which led to it entering the pantheon of all-time sucky starts by an Arizona starting pitcher.

Here are the ten worst such appearances, as measured by Game Score, a metric devised by Bill James, which combined hits, walks, strikeouts and runs, into a single number that measures the overall effectiveness of a starting pitcher for a single game. The range typically runs from zero to 100 (Randy Johnson's perfecto reached the latter): it takes a very special performance, on either end, to crack those limits. Yesterday's from Kennedy was, a very special performance. As you'll see, of the 2,490 regular-season games played to date in Arizona Diamondbacks history, by Game Score this one ranked 2,488th.

Rk Player Date Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc WPA
1 Edwin Jackson 2010-04-27 COL L 1-12 2.1 11 10 10 2 2 0 55 34 -5 -0.378
2 Edgar Gonzalez 2004-09-03 SFG L 7-18 1.0 8 10 10 2 2 2 42 23 -3 -0.639
3 Ian Kennedy
2013-06-05 STL L 8-12 4.0 13
10 10 2 4
2 99
60
-2 -0.486
4 Steve Sparks 2004-05-22 FLA L 2-11 2.2 9 10 10 2 2 1 61 40 0 -0.345
5 Armando Reynoso 2000-06-18 COL L 2-19 2.0 10 9 9 0 1 1 58 40 1 -0.386
6 Joe Saunders 2012-08-20 MIA L 3-12 3.2 12 9 9 0 2 2 69 43 3 -0.437
7 Jon Garland 2009-05-29 ATL L 6-10 2.2 9 9 8 3 1 1 78 43 4 -0.447
Juan Cruz 2006-05-17 SDP L 10-14 0.2 5 9 9 3 1 0 46 25 4 -0.467
9 Elmer Dessens 2004-04-14 COL L 4-14 4.2 11 9 9 2 1 2 97 58 5 -0.245
10 Javier Vazquez 2005-08-14 ATL L 8-13 2.0 8 9 9 1 3 3 54 29 6 -0.624
Casey Daigle 2004-04-09 STL L 6-13 2.2 10 8 8 0 0 5 49 35 6 -0.569
Randy Johnson 2003-04-11 MIL L 7-11 4.2 10 10 10 2 4 0 80 47 6 -0.440

So, there has been one worse start since the SnakePit came into being at the start of the 2005 season, and that came at Coors Field, so perhaps merits an asterisk. Reading our recap of that shellacking, I seem almost entirely unfazed by the entire experience, in part due, I suspect, to my not having actually seen any of it. That recap also reminded me that, in addition to the above five starters who allowed ten runs in an inning, Eddie Oropesa did it in September 2002, as a reliever. That game is now best remembered for Mark Grace pitching the ninth: there were times in the middle innings last night when I wondered if we were going to see Josh Wilson in action.

The only other start to result in a sub-zero Game Score dates, you won't be surprised to hear, from 2004. Edgar Gonzalez faced 14 Giants batters, and retired three of them, all but one of the others also coming across home-plate. That horrendous year was responsible for four entries on this list. In fact, three of them date from the first 42 games of that campaign alone. But what do you expect when you put Daigle, Dessens and Sparks in the same rotation? Though, as noted previously, the same season also gave us the Big Unit's Game Score of 100, which is still tied with Curt Schilling's one-hit, 17 K performance against Milwaukee in 2002, as the best for Arizona.

It's interesting to note that, in terms of pitches, Kennedy's game lasted longer than any others in the Circle of Suck. Gonzalez gave up his ten runs in only 42 pitches, less than half the total required by IPK. On the other hand, even before the Chernobyl-style meltdown which was the fourth inning, Kennedy had already given up seven hits to the Cardinals. If they hadn't wasted a first-and-third, no outs situation in the preceding frame, he could have become the first Arizona pitcher ever to allow 11 earned runs in a game. That's kinda rare: only one NL pitcher managed it all last year, the Pirates A.J. Burnett, oddly, against these self-same Cardinals.

Still, there's hope for Kennedy and the Diamondbacks. After the most-recent atrocious start, by Jackson, the team bounced right back to win the next two contests, scoring a total of 25 runs in the process. And down at the bottom of the table, you'll see a name hardly associated with wretched pitching performances - the same one already mentioned as having been among the very best, Randy Johnson. And that wasn't even the worst of his career, as he had one which was the very equal of Jackson, at -5. It just goes to show that anyone - even a multi Cy Young winner - can have a really, really, really bad day.

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