December 21, 2012
Searching for the Worst Game of 2012
About a year ago, I wrote about the search for the worst baseball game of the 2011 season, and then about a little less than a year ago I watched that game and wrote about that. It was a terrible game, but it was also, as it turned out, a wonderful game, in no small part due to my favorite screengrab ever:
It has occurred to me more than once that I lucked out and landed on a game that was terrible and also wonderful. If I perform this exercise again, I’m terrified that I’m going to get a game that is just terrible, and not wonderful. Still I press on. Here begins the search for the worst game of the 2012 season, which will lead to self-examination and a pursuit of the most important questions about baseball and spectatorship.
As with last year, there are two primary methods we are using. The first is filtering for the lowest Average Leverage Indexes, as kept by Baseball-Reference. ALI tells us, essentially, how significant to the outcome of the game each plate appearance was. It helps us distinguish between all the many blowouts by identifying the blowouts where scarcely a single moment of tension existed. The second method is looking at the contenders to see which are disqualified for being not terrible enough. So, counting down, here are the worst games by leverage; within, we will find the worst game by merits. (Quick note: "Last interesting play" refers to the last play in which the losing team has a better-than-two-percent chance of winning. It marks, then, the moment the game quit being in the slightest doubt.)
20. April 22: Astros 12, Dodgers 0, aLI .2615
Last interesting play: Top of the fourth, nobody out.
Redeeming qualities: Jordan Schafer hit a grand slam in the second inning, and this is how close it was to not happening:
Actually hits off Ethier’s glove, but goes over the wall, all but ends the drama of this game, and causes Android Ethier to immediately power down and lie still against the wall for the rest of the game, for energy conservation. In a different universe, Ethier catches it, and this man’s belly button is never actually seen!
19. Sept. 21: Rays 12, Blue Jays 1, aLI .2615
Last interesting play: Top of the fourth, one out.
Redeeming qualities: James Shields pitched seven shutout innings, striking out nine and walking one. Last year’s search introduced the Great Pitcher Great Pitching exemption for all terrible games, which states that if you go to a game that your team’s ace is pitching and he pitches like an ace, it is not a terrible game. It is actually the best game, regardless of how lopsided the score. Also,
them Rays can turn anybody into an effective reliever, nahmean?
18. Aug. 11: Braves 9, Mets 3, aLI .261
Last interesting play: Bottom of the second, one out.
Redeeming qualities: Kris Medlen didn’t allow a run over the final five innings. Wouldn’t have seemed like much of a thing, but Medlen didn’t allow an earned run in any of his next 35 innings, either, so this was the start of something. Kris Medlen had 84 strikeouts and 10 walks as a starter, by the way. I know you know about Medlen, but that seems like something you should definitely be sure to know.
17. Aug. 6: Twins 14, Indians 3, aLI .258
Last interesting play: Top of the second, two outs.
Redeeming qualities: I wrote extensively about this game already, so I’m not doing it again. That’s it.
16. April 23: Diamondbacks 9, Phillies 5, aLI .254
Last interesting play: Nobody out, top of the ninth.
Redeeming qualities: Between the eighth and ninth innings, the Phillies, trailing by nine, managed to get eight base hits in a row. There was a man thrown out at home to end the eighth, but the Phillies put up five runs and got another runner on before the first out was made in the ninth. I’d seen a team come back from eight, but never nine. Still haven’t! But for a few minutes there was the giddy feeling it might be happening, and the Diamondbacks were probably one batter away from using closer J.J. Putz, who was warming up.
15. May 1: Tigers 9, Royals 3, aLI .254
Last interesting play: Bottom of the third, one out.
Redeeming qualities: Game was two hours, 27 minutes. From last year’s rules: “Takes more time than that to marinate the suck.”
14. July 25: A’s 16, Blue Jays 0, aLI .246
Last interesting play: Top of the second, one out.
Redeeming qualities: This catch, the quality of which remains very controversial in my household:
Note, with regards to the relief pitcher who is caught unawares as he presses up against the chain-link fence: A left-handed person pumping his left fist looks odd. Like Jimmy Stewart.
13. May 20: Brewers 16, Twins 4, aLI .242
Last interesting play: Top of the fourth, one out.
Redeeming qualities: Drew Butera pitched. From The Rules: “Position player pitching is always too interesting to be the worst game of the year. Position player pitching is like a surprise stinger-gag at the end of the movie credits.” A few notes about Drew Butera’s inning on the mound:
- Got a strikeout swinging;
- Broke a bat;
- No ball left the infield;
- 4.09 xFIP;
- Charged with a wild pitch. This was the wild pitch: