Brewers right-hander Johnny Hellweg actually finished his season on a high note Thursday against the Mets. Despite throwing just 37 of his 80 pitches for strikes, he allowed only one run in four innings. Plus, he actually managed three strikeouts to go along with his four walks, improving his K/BB ratio from 6/22 to 9/26.
Too bad that 9/26 mark is still the worst by any pitcher, min. 30 innings, in over 30 years.
The last to go over Hellweg’s 2.89 walks for every strikeout was Oakland’s Mike Morgan in 1979. Morgan, pitching in the majors at the tender age of 19, posted a 17/50 K/BB ratio in 77 1/3 innings that year.
Before that, the Pirates’ Steve Blass had an 27/84 K/BB ratio in 88 2/3 innings in 1973. His sudden inability to throw the ball over the plate resulted in a “disease” being named after him.
Hellweg probably won’t emulate either Morgan or Blass going forward. Morgan ended up pitching in the majors until age 42 and setting a record by playing for 12 teams (later broken by Matt Stairs). Blass, on the other hand, made just one more appearance after 1973, walking seven in five innings. He later found a home in the Pirates’ broadcast booth.
The 24-year-old Hellweg never even should have been brought to the majors this year after he walked 81 and hit 14 batters in 125 2/3 innings in Triple-A, though he was 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA even with all of the wildness. Both the Angels and Brewers have tried tightening up his mechanics with limited success. He does have the arm to be of use as a third starter or a late-game reliever if he ever figures it out, but the Brewers risked injury to to every hitter he faced when they put him on the mound this season.