How do you measure the value of an MLB pitcher? There are so many ways using simple and advanced statistics that it’s impossible to choose a single one. However, there are several indicators that highlight the impact of an underachieving pitcher. While win-loss records can be deceiving, earned run average remains a reliable stat without deeper metrics. In these offensively challenged times, pitchers coughing up the most earned runs per inning drain bullpen resources and the patience of the offense.
Here were the seven starting pitchers with the worst ERAs in the 2014 MLB season.
7. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
A few years ago, Justin Verlander was the go-to example of a dominant starting pitcher. While he still showcased moments of brilliance in 2014, MLB offenses did some feasting on the former Cy Young winner and American League MVP. Verlander allowed 114 runs (104 earned runs) over the course of the season, second worst in baseball. While he still managed 15 wins playing for Detroit, Verlander’s 4.54 ERA and 223 hits alowed in 206 innings were among the worst in the sport.
6. A.J Burnett, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have handed out some bad contracts in recent years. When a $16 million, one-year deal went to A.J. Burnett, it seemed like another disaster waiting to happen. It basically happened as expected, with Burnett posting an 8-18 record and an ugly 4.59 ERA to back it up. They say “add a run” when calculating the difference between AL and NL ERAs (to allow for the designated hitter and other factors), so it’s feasible Burnett would have posted MLB’s worst ERA had he been a member of an American League team. As it was, he allowed the most runs (122 R) and the most earned runs (109 ER) in baseball in 2014.
5. Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies
Burnett’s teammate Kyle Kendrick didn’t have much more success pitching for Philly in 2014. The right-hander allowed 102 ER in 199 IP, which adds up to a 4.61 ERA and a 10-13 record. Kendrick also allowed 215 hits (15 more than his inning pitched) and an alarming 25 home runs on the season. Between his and Burnett’s stats (and Cliff Lee’s injuries), it is easy to see how the Phillies ended up in last place with a 73-89 record, 23 games behind first place Washington.
4. John Danks, Chicago White Sox
John Danks’s stats nearly mirror those of Kyle Kendrick. Both started 32 games, allowed 102 ER, and gave up 25 home runs in 2014. Danks ended up throwing fewer innings and thus his 4.74 ERA was higher than Kendrick posted in Philly. The big lefty ended up 11-11 for the White Sox, giving up 205 hits in 193.2 IP. Only Justin Verlander allowed more than Danks’s 102 ER in the American League in 2014.
3. Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs
Travis Wood’s 5.03 ERA was the worst in the National League in 2014. In 31 starts, Wood coughed 20 HR and 97 ER (110 R) over 173.2 innings for the Cubs, which is a dismal performance in any league. Facing the pitcher in National League games, it is feasible Wood would have fared even worse on an American League schedule. When considering such prolonged bouts of ineffectiveness, it’s useful to remember only a non-contending team such as the Cubs would let it happen. Nearly every pitcher on this list has that trait in common. They pitch for bad teams.
2. Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers
In terms of raw stats, few MLB pitchers had a worse year than Colby Lewis of the Rangers. Lewis allowed 25 HR, 211 hits, and 107 runs in 170.1 IP (29 GS). His 5.18 ERA was second from the bottom among all qualifying MLB pitchers. Like some other pitchers on this list, Lewis is only a few years removed from starting (and dominating) in the postseason. He showed a glimpse of that with a complete game shutout in 2014, but otherwise it was an entirely forgettable season.
1. Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox
With the departures of John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Jake Peavy, the Red Sox are left with Clay Buchholz as the most experienced member of their rotation (at press time) going into 2015. That is a scary proposition in many ways. Buchholz’s 5.34 ERA was the worst among MLB starters. He allowed 182 hits and 101 ER in 173.1 IP while hitting 10 batters and tossing 8 wild pitches. If the Red Sox plan to contend in 2015, the organization needs to join the offseason arms race. According to the most crucial pitching stat, Buchholz is the last pitcher to count on when he takes the mound — unless it’s time for batting practice.