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2018 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews: #48, Kris Medlen

Kris Medlen, we hardly knew ye...

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MLB: Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2018 rating: 2.09
  • 2017 rating: N/A
  • 2018 salary: league minimum
  • 2018 performance: 0-1, 15,75 ERA, 4 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 4 SO
  • 2019 status: retired

We have had worse pitchers than Kris Medlen. That ERA ranks him only seventh on the franchise list for ERA. But it’s the highest figure ever posted by a Diamondback to start a game, surpassing the 14.40 put up by Dana Eveland over five games (one start) in 2007, and is also the highest by any pitcher to throw four or more innings for Arizona. There’s a reason that he became a thing for the rest of the season: whenever a pitcher had a bad outing, we took comfort from the fact that he was still #NotKrisMedlen. Heck, that applied to the man who subsequently replaced Medlen in the rotation. Troy Scribner, even though he fared little better and was similarly gone after one appearance.

There was a point at which Medlen was good. Unfortunately, that point was 2012-13, when he went 25-13 with an ERA+ of 156 for the Braves. But he had his second Tommy John procedure the following spring, and was never consistently good/healthy thereafter. So how did a pitcher with six starts and a 7.77 ERA over the last two seasons, end up starting games the first-place D-backs? Starting depth was a worry going in to the season for Arizona, and it wasn’t even a month into the season before it was tested beyond its limits. First, we lost Taijuan Walker, which led to Matt Koch joining the rotation. But then Robbie Ray went down with a Grade 2 oblique strain, four outs into his start on April 29.

“I think we’re going to have to be creative over the short run. We’re looking internally, externally and we’re going to use our depth at Triple-A. We’re going to continue to look outside.”
Mike Hazen

Medlen had been signed by Arizona in January, during a spell where it seemed the D-backs had gone shopping for pitchers at Costco. He started the season in the Aces’ rotation at Reno, and was unimpressive: in four starts, he was 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA. But necessity is the mother of desperation, or something. Medlen’s return at all was a nice story. He had been close to sliding out of baseball the previous spring, saying, “I hadn’t done a thing. I was like, ‘I’m effing done. I’m done. I don’t like it anymore.’ It was a tough time in my life.” But then his wife showed him a YouTube video of pitching coach Brent​ Pourciau, who helped get Kris back to where he became the best available option in the eyes of the D-backs.

Unfortunately, that’s where the fairy-tale ran out of pixie dust - or perhaps, the fairies were saving it all for sprinkling on the arm of Clay Buchholz. In his first and only start this year, against the Astros on May 4, Medlen allowed a run before he recorded an out, and Houston put up a crooked number in three of the four innings pitched by Kris. His final line was seven earned runs over four innings of work, on nine hits and four walks, with four strikeouts. It wasn’t quite the worst one-and-done appearance in the majors this year: that goes to the PhilliesRoman Quinn, who took only 1.2 innings to allow his seven earned runs, in a game on August 16. But, uh... Quinn is an outfielder...

Medlen was returned to the Aces immediately after his outing. He made three more starts for them, going 0-2 with a 3.94 ERA, to end the year with a line across all level of 0-6 in eight games, and a 6.16 ERA. The pitcher then opted to retire in late May, finding the mental side of things too tough to carry on. He explained, “After a few years in the big leagues and experiencing what I have experienced up there, you start grinding in Triple A and it just feels a lot different. Physically, how baseball used to feel for me before the multiple Tommy John [surgeries], it was exhausting. Every start was exhausting. I was in good shape, but every start was mentally exhausting.”