Joe Paterson’s horrible start tops all other horrible starts

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After entering with a 9-0 lead to start the ninth inning Monday, Diamondbacks left-hander Joe Paterson gave up five straight hits, including back-to-back homers, to the Phillies. He was charged with five runs without retiring a batter, and he now has a 37.12 ERA on the season.

As a Rule 5 pick a year ago, Patterson allowed a total of 11 runs in 34 innings, good for a 2.91 ERA. He’s already matched that total of runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings this season. In his last two appearances, he’s allowed 10 consecutive batters to reach, nine via a hit. Overall, he’s allowed 15 hits in 23 official at-bats, good for a .652 average against.

If Paterson doesn’t pitch again this season — and it’s a good bet that he will be optioned to Triple-A prior to Tuesday’s game — that .652 would be a historic mark. No one in major league history has ever finished a season with that many hits allowed in so few innings pitched. The worst average against of anyone to pitch at least 2 2/3 innings belongs to David Moraga, who had a .625 average against in 2 2/3 innings in 2000. The highest average against for anyone to allow 15 hits in a season is the .579 mark against the Cardinals’ Brady Raggio in 1998 (22 H in 7 IP).

It’d also be the highest going by appearances. Paterson has appeared in six games with a .652 average against. The next highest for anyone to appear in six games was .583 against the Mets’ Tim Hamulack in 2005. It wouldn’t quite set the five-appearance record: the Tigers’ Dave Gumpert had a .700 average against in five appearances in 1982 and the Yankees’ Tony Fossas had a .667 average against in five appearances in 1999.

It probably won’t come to that, though; Paterson has the stuff to be a useful specialist and should be able to turn it around with a few weeks in Triple-A. This just hasn’t been his month.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉