In Friday’s Hit List, I noted that the Mariners’ Jeff Weaver had strung together six straight disaster starts. As defined by Jim Baker, disaster starts are the Mr. Hyde to the quality start’s Dr. Jeckyl, outings in which a starter allows as many or more runs as innings pitched. It’s a quickie stat but a useful one; whereas the quality start suggests a pitcher did a reasonable job of keeping his team in the ballgame (and here it would be a good place to add that anyone who doesn’t think that the definition should be expanded to include the eight innings/four runs case in this day and age probably should put down the crackpipe), a disaster start suggests the pitcher knocked his team out of the game early while placing an undue burden on its bullpen.
Figuring out where Weaver stood in relation to the history books was no easy task, but our own William Burke doggedly persisted in sifting through the rubble of so many bombings to answer my question. Since 1960, 12 starters have strung together six straight disaster starts, but only one has stretched the boundaries of bad pitching to a seventh start. Behold the Masters of Disaster:
Blair’s streak is especially impressive for that home run total. Around these parts, he acquired the nickname Air, as in, “More souvenirs when you fly Air Blair!” But one way or another, all of the above pitchers got another shot in the majors, and some of them recovered to be solid pitchers; Halladay, who finished the 2000 season with a staggering 10.64 ERA, turned into an ace and won the 2003 AL Cy Young, Morgan lasted three more years and earned a World Series ring on his way to capping a 22-year career, and Lohse remains a member in good standing in the Reds’ rotation.
Weaver is in the minority here. The pitchers with an asterisk all “accomplished” their feats without making a relief appearance, either in an emergency—at the risk of pouring more gasoline on the fire—or via an exile in the bullpen. They may, however, have detoured to the minors or the DL or had their turns skipped. Weaver, for his part, was placed on the DL with shoulder tendonitis (and acute ERAitis) on Friday. Skepticism over the injury’s validity may abound, but Weaver sounds as though he’s singing the all-too-familiar “Ballad of the Broken Pitcher“: “It feels like I’m putting 100 percent effort into every pitch to get minimal results. I’ll try to pump up to get something past a hitter, then look up and it’s 88 mph. That’s not the velocity I should be sitting at. I should be effortless at 88-89, not max effort at 88.”
For better or likely worse, manager Mike Hargrove—on the orders of GM Bill Bavasi, who signed Weaver to his $8.325 million pact on the strength of last October’s showing with the Cardinals—plans to restore Weaver to the rotation when he returns. In the interim, we suggest making sure those fire extinguishers are in working order.