The Worst Relief Outings Since 2002

Ryan Franklin’s outing last night was historically bad. Given that the worst possible WPA for a pitcher in a single inning is -1.00, Franklin — with his -.99 WPA last night in Colorado — came dangerously close to setting a record that could never be broken. However, there have been three pitchers since 2002 to eclipse the -1.00 WPA mark in relief appearances spanning two innings.

Click on the game graphs below for the entire FanGraphs game logs, box scores, etc.

June 5th, 2002: Hideki Irabu, Texas Rangers

Hideki “The Fat Toad” Irabu entered this game against the Angels up 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning, looking to close it out. Back-to-back solo homers by Brad Fullmer and Tim Salmon tied the game, but Irabu managed to get out of the ninth inning with the game tied. At this point, Irabu already had a -.410 WPA.

The Rangers took the lead in the top of the tenth, thanks to a Herbert Perry RBI triple. The Rangers had a terrible bullpen in 2002, with a 4.99 ERA and a 4.76 FIP. Only Francisco Cordero, C.J. Nitkowski, and Joaquin Benoit posted FIPs below 4.00 in the Texas bullpen that season. That only slightly explains why the team would send Irabu out for the 10th.

A Darin Erstad RBI fielder’s choice scored Adam Kennedy, tying the game at 5-5. With Erstad at first, Troy Glaus homered off of Irabu to end the game. Irabu racked up another -.801 WPA in the 10th, and finished with an unenviable total of -1.211 WPA on the game.

June 1st, 2007: Todd Jones, Detroit Tigers

Todd Jones entered in the 8th inning of a 9-5 contest against the Cleveland Indians after Wil Ledezma gave up two straight two out hits, putting runners at the corners and two outs. Back-to-back hits by Trot Nixon and Josh Barfield scored two runs, making it 9-7 before Jones could get out of the inning. The Tigers still had an 91.7% chance of winning despite the scoring; Jones’s WPA was a mere -.036.

Thanks to RBIs by Mike Rabelo and future all-star Omar Infante, the Tigers had an 11-7 lead and a 97.8% chance of victory entering the bottom of the 9th. Despite getting the first batter to ground out, Jones got into trouble quickly, as the next two batters reached and then scored on a Victor Martinez home run. A Jhonny Peralta double and then back-to-back singles by Barfield and David Delucci plated the final two runs of the game to give the Indians a 12-11 victory. Jones’s WPA in the 9th was -.978 for a total of -1.014.

April 7th, 2009: Brandon Lyon, Detroit Tigers

Yet another Detroit Tiger, this one came on Brandon Lyon’s first appearance with the team. Edwin Jackson ran out of gas in the 8th inning of a start against the Blue Jays, and between Jackson and Bobby Seay, the Tigers had allowed two baserunners in a 3-1 game. Lyon entered and immediately allowed a home run to Aaron Hill, putting the Jays up 4-3. That would be all the damage against Lyon in the 8th; his WPA was -.712 at the time.

The Tigers tied it in the top of the 9th against B.J. Ryan, and Lyon was given the chance to get the game into extras. After getting a groundout to start the inning, the next three batters reached via the walk, single, and intentional walk. Rod Barajas then hit the game-winning sacrifice fly, closing out easily the worst relief pitching debut this decade. Lyon’s WPA in the 9th was -.358, and his total for the game came in at -1.070.

The loss for the Cardinals last night was heartbreaking, both for their fans and for Ryan Franklin as well. At least Franklin can take solace in the fact that these guys had worse nights than he did in Colorado last night.

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

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13 years ago

I was taking a sip of water when I read “future all-star Omar Infante,” and almost gave my monitor a shower. Luckily, the sadness that is associated with that being the truth quickly over came me and prevented my spit-take.