Perhaps it would be slightly naive to expect lights-out results from a guy called up to replace sure-thing first ballot HOF’er Bruce Chen in the Royals rotation. On the other hand, it might also be considered more than a little cruel to make Hackensack, NJ native Vin Mazzaro, 24, a sacrificial lamb of sorts, left out there TO DIE so that the Kansas City bullpen might not be thoroughly taxed. Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski considers Mazzarro’s remarkably awful performance (2.1 IP, 14 earned runs, 11 hits, 3 BB’s, 2 K’) last night against Cleveland, one the esteemed sportswriter deems, “the worst pitching performance in the history of baseball.”
We can speculate all we want why Royals manager Ned Yost sent Mazzaro (above, left) out there for the fifth inning. He certainly wanted to save some of his other arms in what had become a lost game. He probably wanted to give Mazzaro a chance to get some outs and at least cushion the horror of the night. Maybe he was just ticked off.
No reliever since World War II had allowed 14 runs in a game — that unlucky soul was the somewhat unfortunately named Les McCrabb, whom teammates called “Buster.” Heck, no STARTING PITCHER has allowed 14 runs in a game since 1998, when Mike Oquist did the deed, and it has now only happened three times in the last 60 years.
What’s more amazing is that nobody in baseball history had ever allowed 14 earned runs in fewer than three innings pitched until Mazzaro did it. True, you could argue that Lefty O’Doul’s outing in 1923, when he allowed 16 runs in three innings was worse … except that THIRTEEN of those runs were unearned (That’s right: 13 were unearned). It seems pretty clear. Vin Mazzaro — through a combination of bad luck, bad pitching and bad timing — had the worst pitching performance in baseball history.
There’s no telling what happens to Mazzaro now. It seems unlikely that he will stay in the big leagues. But you never know about the future. Mazzaro should take a little solace knowing that in one game, a 20-year-old pitcher gave up 15 hits and 15 runs — including home runs to a couple of guys named DiMaggio and Gehrig. He walked nine. He threw a wild pitch. It wasn’t good.
That guy was named Bob Feller, and he led the American League in victories the next three years.