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The Worst Diamondbacks Debuts Ever

Heath Bell's first appearance for Arizona last night started badly - with a home-run on the first pitch - and went downhill, as he retired one of six batters faced. But was it the worst D-backs debut of all time? Not even close.


Don't get me wrong. Bell's appearance was pretty bad. In fact, he was the first D-backs reliever in over a decade to face 6+ batters, retire only one and allow multiple home-runs [the last was Byung-Hyun Kim on June 25, 2002]. But it pales beside the true stinkers.

Starting pitching

Casey Daigle, Apr 9, 2004. 2.2 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 SO, 5 HR
Yes, you read that right. Daigle allowed five home-runs in less than three innings, while facing only 16 batters. He came into 2004 spring training best known for being married to softball icon, Jennie Finch - but after this start, the general consensus is we should have given the fifth spot in rotation to Finch. It could have been uglier still, but Daigle was helped by a pair of double-plays and got Tony Womack picked off first. Then-manager Bob Brenly gave us the understatement of 2004: "It wasn't very pretty." adding "You'd like to just chalk it up to first-game jitters and I'm sure we'll see a different outing next time."

Well, slightly different. Daigles's second appearance led to six runs in four innings, and his career as a major-league starter was dead and buried by the end of May, after ten starts and a 7.16 ERA. He bounced around the minors for a few years, with a bunch of franchises, even appearing as a reliever for Houston as recently as 2010 - though with an 11.32 ERA in 13 games, seems like the Astros would still have been better off employing his wife. However, don't feel too sorry for him, because he is still married to Jennie Finch and you are not. They had their third baby earlier this year.

Honorable mention: Javier Vazquez
When the Diamondbacks traded Vazquez for Randy Johnson in Jan 2005, they got a pitcher they thought would anchor their staff, and anointed him the Opening Day starter. The only thing Vazquez anchored that day was fan hopes: he didn't even get through two innings against the Cubs, allowing ten hits and seven earned runs in 1.2 frames. as the Diamondbacks were pummeled by a 16-5 score. Given we paid Javy $11 million that year - about $15 million in today's currency - this was probably the worst debut in return per dollar. Vazquez did recover, posting a 100 ERA+ for the year, but was dealt to the White Sox in December, bringing us Chris Young.

Relief pitching

J.D. Durbin, Apr 4, 2007. 0.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1BB, 1 SO
Durbin was claimed off waivers from the Twins at the end of spring training, after a disappointing preseason with an 11.25 ERA,.and slotted in to the Diamondbacks bullpen. He made his first appearance for us in the finale of the opening series at Coors, coming in with Arizona trailing 4-2 for the eighth inning. It started innocuously enough, Durbin getting Steve Finley to ground out to Conor Jackson. But the inning then went: single, walk, double, single, double, K (Troy Tulowitzki, hahaha, you are dead!), single, double, single. Brandon Medders did stop the runner he inherited from scoring, but Durbin's ERA was 94.50, thirteen runs above Bell's from last night.

Unsurprisingly, J.D. was DFA'd: the Red Sox initially claimed him, but they DFA'd him the same day; the Phillies then took him, DFA'd him as well, and this time, he cleared waivers to Triple-A. Can't be many players to be DFA'd three times by three different franchises, in the same month. He did end up making 18 appearances for them in the majors that yuear, including ten starts, with a semi-respectable (comparatively!) 5.15 ERA. Curiously, Durbin did play a part in the D-backs NL West title that year. In July 22, he shutout the Padres with a five-hitter, a loss which helped ensure they finished 1.5 games back of us. He got a minor-league deal with the Red Sox again this spring.

Honorable mentions: Vicente Padilla and Ricky Pickett
Padilla qualifies, based on an extraordinary -89.0% Win Probability in his first game with the Diamondbacks. For some reason, Buck Showalter sent the 21-year-old in for a save situation, the ninth inning with Arizona 4-2 up in Cincinnati. Five batters later, Padilla had retired no-one, and the Reds walked off on an Aaron Boone single, the third run of the frame. Pickett matched Bell's debut, allowing three earned runs while retiring one batter on April 28 of our first season. Just in case you thought that was a fluke, he then repeated that line a week later. He never appeared in the majors again, so owns an 81.00 ERA. Both outs he recorded were K's.

Position players

Melvin Mora, Apr 1, 2011. 0-for-5, two GIDP, -45.0% WPA
It's harder to spot bad debuts by hitters. Failure by pitchers is spectacularly obvious, and even the best hitters still make outs a lot more often than not. However, the level of fail here was undeniable. It was the worst WPA by an Arizona batter the entire season, and in fact, is the worst Opening Day figure in recorded National League history. The key was Mora coming to the plate twice, in the late innings of a tied game, with men on base, and failing miserably. Once, he hit into an inning-ending double-play, and in the tenth, with runners on second and third, and one out, he hit it to the shortstop, who nailed Justin Upton at the plate.

He had been signed in December 2010, the aim being some kind of platoon with Geoff Blum at third base, after we traded Mark Reynolds. At the time, I was "startled and a little disturbed" by the signing, and the comments were similarly negative. Though at least it wasn't the two year deal originally reported by Ken Rosenthal. Still, our concern was entirely justified. It didn't work: Over 42 games, he had just a .520 OPS, in part thanks to a total of two walks. His release on June 29 caused 'charmer to report, "That loud noise you now hear is a combination of cheers and sighs of relief from SnakePit readers." It was the end of Mora's career.

Honorable mention: Cliff Pennington Adam LaRoche
After last night's - scratch that, this morning's - extra inning heroics, Pennington gets a pass, though his 0-for-4, three strikeout performance on Opening Day was certainly one of the least whelming such performances in team history. But for a poor first impression, you'd be hard pushed to beat LaRoche's arrival in the desert, for the set against the San Diego Padres which opened the 2010 season. You have to give him one thing: he was consistent. After going 0-for-4 with two K's and no walks in the opener, he went 0-for-4 with two K's and no walks in the other two games as well. Do the math for the line in his first series as a D-back. 0-for-12 with six strikeouts and no walks.