God-Emperors of Suck: The Worst Pitchers in Diamondbacks History

There was some discussion in the GDT thread during the Florida double-header on whether Jon Rauch was the worst pitcher ever to pull on a Diamondbacks uniform. Oh, ye of very short memory. Have you forgotten the nightmare which was Russ Ortiz? At the moment, Rauch ranks a mere 7th coming into today [as measured by OPS+, among pitchers with more than 40 innings for Arizona]. Here is the all-time top - or bottom - ten men, along with their ERA+, the number of innings pitched, and the time when they were causing heartburn to Arizona fans:

Name ERA+ Innings Years
Eddie Oropesa 61 64 2002-2003
Jeff Suppan 63 66 1998
Russ Ortiz 64 137.2 2005-2006
Felix Rodriguez 68 44 1998
Mike Fetters 69 43.1 2002-2004
Casey Fossum 69 142 2004
Casey Daigle 72 61.1 2004-2006
Jon Rauch 72 42 2008-2009
Dustin Nippert 72 70 2005-2007
Lance Cormier 73 124.2 2005-2007

Commentary - and also the list of our ten best pitchers - after the jump...

The list is a mix of all kinds of pitchers: career journeymen, prospects who fizzled out, veterans who passed through Arizona towards the end of their careers, etc. Perhaps surprisingly, the great majority of the list, including Rauch, are still active in the majors. The Huge Manatee is now playing for Houston (and hit a homer Tuesday, his first since 2003!), while Cormier is in the Tampa 'pen, Nippert in Texas, and Suppan is in the Brewers' rotation. Even Fossum has appeared with the Mets this season - Daigle is still trying to get back to the majors, currently with Houston's Triple-A affiliate. Here is a little commentary on the ten not-quite staff aces.

  1. Eddie Oropesa. The LOOGY defected from the Cuba national team in Niagara Falls, the same week as Rey Ordonez. Bounced around with the Dodgers and Giants before making his MLB debut at age 29. Control was always his issue with us, walking 42 in 64 innings. Last heard of in 2007, pitching for Sparta/Feyenoord in the Dutch league. With a 7.59 ERA over 79 games, it isn't even close.

  2. Jeff Suppan. Perhaps the most surprising name here - after all, he has made over 330 starts since leaving us. The D-backs got Jeff from the Red Sox as the 3rd pick in the 1997 expansion draft: he was barely starting out, aged 23 in that inaugural season. Part of our inaugural rotation [can you name the other four? Answer is below], he had a 6.68 ERA, won only once in 13 starts and was sold to the Royals at the start of September. He has got better since.

  3. Russ Ortiz. Little more needs to be said. While not the worst ever to take the mound for the D-backs, his combination of abysmal performance and number of innings pitched is largely unparalleled in franchise history. As indeed, is his cost: say what you like about the others here [and "they blew chunks" would be kind], at least they mostly played for close to league minimum. Russ Ortiz... Not so much.

  4. Felix Rodriguez. Can't say I know much: I still lived in London when he pitched for us, though he was in the majors until '06 and is now with the indie Camden Riversharks. Did quite well too, with a career 113 ERA+ [and making over $14m after he left us!], despite his part in our dire first year, with a 6.14 ERA for Arizona. In 2001, he appeared in 80 games for the Giants, posted a 1.68 ERA and got MVP recognition, coming 20th.

  5. Mike Fetters. Yeah, we loved all his endearing little jerks and quirks, beautifully impersonated by Grace in his pitching appearance. But while he had a good career [ERA+ 115], by the time we got him, Fetters was 37, and sucked farts out of dead dogs, performance-wise. While he wasn't brilliant in his first stint here in 2002 [5.11 ERA] we still brought him back as a free-agent in 2004. The resulting ERA: 8.68 in 23 games.

  6. Casey Fossum. Originally a D-backs draftee (7th round in 1996, but didn't sign), we eventually got him as part of the 'haul' from the Schilling trade. He went 4-15 in his sole year with us, among the thirty worst Win %s since the 19th century, among pitchers with 25+ starts. That was 2004, but unlike Brandon Webb (7-16 that season), Fossum genuinely was wretched: his ERA was 6.65 and opponents hit over .300 off him.

  7. Casey Daigle. Better known as husband of softball goddess Jenny Finch - and it wasn't long before suggestions flew that she could pitch better. Went from Double-A to the majors in 2004, then gave up 5 homers in his major-league debut, the most since at least 1954. Memorably described on DBBP as possessing a fastball "straighter than a moose's dick in mating season."

  8. Jon Rauch. The good news is, Rauch can get off the list, thanks to his currently small IP - and it won't take more than mediocrity. If he allows 13 earned runs or less in his next 20 innings [a 5.85 ERA, so we're not demanding perfection here], he should drop below current #11, Brian Bruney. However, the long ball is not his friend: Rauch's HR rate of 1.93/9 IP, is fourth all-time in AZ history [no prizes for guessing who's #1].

  9. Dustin Nippert. Nippert was an enigma. I vividly remember him coming into a game against the Marlins with the bases loaded and no outs, and not conceding a run, finally throwing 3.1 frames of one-hit ball. Then, over his next two appearances, he allowed nine earned runs in 4.1 innings. That inconsistency is what damned the man we used to call 'Bigfoot' - though at "only" 6'7", we have bigger in the bullpen now.

  10. Lance Cormier. Initially a starter, his 2004 major-league debut was even worse than Daigle's - 1.1 IP, 7 ER. After amassing a 10.97 ERA in the rotation, he moved to the 'pen and had somewhat more success there, though was never more than a mop-up guy. Ended up as part of the trade to Atlanta for Johnny Estrada, but is doing very nicely with Tampa, and has a 2.10 ERA in thirty innings of work.

However, just for balance, and because I don't want this to be entirely depressing, here are the ten best pitchers we've ever had under the same criteria [minimum of forty innings pitched for Arizona]. I don't imagine most of these need any real introduction, but think you'll find a fair number of surprises here too not least in the order.

Name ERA+ Innings Years
Randy Johnson
164 1630.1 1999-2008
Chad Qualls
158 92.2 2008-2009
Curt Schilling
148 781.2 2000-2003
Dan Plesac
147 61.2 1999-2000
Dan Haren
146 279 2008-2009
Max Scherzer
143 99.2 2008-2009
Brandon Webb
142 1319.2 2003-2009
Jose Valverde
141 260 2003-2007
Byung-Hyun Kim
136 325.2 1999-2007
Willie Banks
136 43.2 1998

It's worth pointing out that, up until last night's eleventh inning near-implosion, Chad Qualls was actually top of the list, with an ERA+ of 168. Yesterday's game also caused Dan Haren's position to slip two places. So it's clear that, for those still with the team, these ranking are very volatile - as with Rauch, the fewer innings pitched, the more impact each future performance will have. But this chart may help explain why the team appears to have made extending Haren a greater priority than re-signing Webb, arm issues notwithstanding. 

[Trivia answer. The inaugural Diamondbacks rotation consisted of Andy Benes, Willie Blair, Brian Anderson, Jeff Suppan and Joel Adamson, subbing for the injured Omar Daal]