Can you recall the last time we had a 20 game loser in Major League baseball? I can. It was Mike Maroth, who went 9-21 for the Detroit Tigers in 2003. Fitting, isn’t it, that Maroth did so for a Tigers team that went 43-119.
I still say wow whenever I see that record.
A few things must go right (er, wrong?) for a pitcher to lose 20 games.
First, he must be pretty bad. Maroth has since been deemed OK, but in 2003 he had a 5.73 ERA. Second, he must play for a pretty pathetic team. One of the keys to losing 20 games is not getting a lot of run support, which is more apt to happen when you’re playing for a bad team.
Third, he must have some pretty bad luck. There is definitely a luck element in baseball, although more often than not things happen as they should over the course of 162 games. But if you get a few bad bounces here and there, or a few ducksnorts fall in when perhaps they shouldn’t, you’re well on your way to losing 20 games.
Fourth, he has to get all his starts. There’s no way a pitcher can lose 20 games without getting all 30-something starts. It’s very simple.
With all that said, the season just rounded the halfway point and we have some very viable candidates to lose 20 games this year.
This one was pretty obvious, yes? Mr. Zito is 3-12 with a 5.99 ERA and plays for the Giants, who happen to be pretty bad. The good news for 20-game losing enthusiasts is Zito is going to get all his starts, the Giants are paying him too much money too sit him down.
Given Zito’s problems with walks and his 82 m.p.h. fastball, he is a prime candidate.
Odds against: 8-1.
This one kind of caught me be surprise, mostly because I always thought Blanton was a fairly effective pitcher. Right now, however, he’s sitting at 4-11 with a 4.97 ERA. Yuck.
Good news: He will get his starts and most likely will go over the 200 inning mark. That bodes well, as does the fact that batters make a ton of contact against him. In just over 114 innings this year he’s given up 130 hits and struck out only 55.
Bad news: The A’s aren’t really that bad. They’re over .500, just a little bit back of the Angels, and actually have a vastly better run differential than the Halos. They should be in the thick of the race throughout.
Odds against: 37-1.
This one is interesting because Batista did some serious losing as a reliever. He started the season in the rotation, moved out, and now, apparently, is back in. He went 2 2/3 innings against the Mets on June 25 to land his record at 3-10 with a 6.53 ERA.
First off, we have to assume Batista is going to stay healthy and in the rotation. He has had some back problems and could be headed to the disabled list. Also, we have to assume his ineffectiveness won’t land him back in the bullpen at some point. This one is tricky, as you can tell.
What’s working in our favor here is he pitches in the American League East, at brutal meat grinder of a division. A few more starts against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees and he could be well on his way to losing 20 games.
Odds against: 40-1.
I’m going to go ahead and say it: This one isn’t happening. Harang is too good. But he is 3-10 and has given up more hits than innings pitched, though his ERA is a respectable 4.47.
He has to be on the list because he has 10 losses, but Harang hasn’t pitched too terrible, as I’ve said. The Reds will definitely score some runs in support, especially at home. But if there is something to look out for it’s that Harang will get his innings — he’s the Reds’ best pitcher.
Odds against: 100-1.
Honorable mention (with 9 losses currently): Paul Byrd (Indians), Carlos Silva (Mariners) , Brad Penny (Dodgers) and John Lannan (Nationals).