I've been trying to figure out the best angle for a piece on Kyle Kendrick -- who we will be covering shortly in our Ranking the Rockies series -- and how to write something original and interesting about his miserable 2015. Because he was, like, not very good. Perhaps this piece adds some perspective to that conversation. Or, perhaps it will drive you to drink. Or both? Either way...
I believe Kyle Kendrick just wrapped up the worst single-season starting pitching performance in the history of the Colorado Rockies. Every fifth day the entire year, the Rockies let Kyle Kendrick pitch, with no respite for him or weary fans until a shoulder injury shelved him late in the year. And then he returned again!!
He's like Mike Myers (er, the movie villian, not that left-handed reliever): a man who continues to get beaten down dozens of times and yet just won't give up, instead intent on killing absolutely everything you love like some kind of fun-hating, terrifying, soulless death machine. (Ok, that was a cheap shot. Sorry, Mike.)
I just spent a few hours running through the Rockies' season-by-season totals back to 1993, interested to see if my hypothesis about Kendrick having the worst single-season in the history of the franchise carries any weight. My conclusion: the combination of Kendrick's miserable numbers with the fact that the Rockies let him pitch all year (seriously, 27 starts?!) gives Kendrick the notable (?) distinction of worst season in club history.
To be fair, there are at least 9 other bad seasons you can make a case for, too. Depressingly, miserably, in an only-keep-reading-if-you-have-the-stomach-for-it kind of way, let's go through the "nominees" for the worst season as a starting pitcher in the history of the Rockies...
1. Marvin Freeman, 1996
The Numbers: After a promising 1994 with the Rockies -- Freeman was 4th in Cy Young Award voting in the strike-shortened season after going 8-2 in 18 starts with a 2.80 ERA, 3.84 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP -- the right-hander came back down to earth in 1995. Then, 1996 was a special kind of awful, as you can see. One bright note: the Rockies were 14-12 in games he pitched... so that's nice.
Why Marvin could "win": Freeman was bad, yet he lasted nearly the entire season with Colorado until the club couldn't lie to themselves any more, and they mercifully placed him on waivers at the end of August. On August 31, 1996, the White Sox claimed him. He started one game for them -- giving up three runs on four hits and a walk in two innings -- and never again pitched in the Major Leagues.
Why Marvin won't "win": I can't figure out if Freeman won't win thanks to a strong 1994 which somehow offsets this miserable 1996, or if it's because he had such a strong 1994 that means his '96 season ought to stand out on the list of miserable Rockies pitching performances. I will say I'm hesitant to give the single-season-awfulness award to a guy who pitched in the Rockies' expansion era; it just seems a little too easy, right?
2. Jamey Wright, 1997
The Numbers: Without looking it up, I'm 96% sure Jamey Wright is still pitching for someone in the big leagues, and he'll continue to do so until the year 2028 (nobody tell me any differently, la la la la I can't hear you!). In 1997, though, Wright was just starting his career, and oh boy... did he ever turn in a dud:
Why Jamey could "win": I know up top I stumped for Kendrick's 2015 as the winner, but goodness gracious, y'all. That K:BB ratio in 150 freakin' innings is the stuff of nightmares, let alone some of his other disastrous numbers. To understate it pretty severely, this performance is a strong contender.
Why Jamey won't "win": I... I just don't have a good answer for this question, I'm sorry. Look at his 1997 game log. Was he playing slow pitch softball or something?
3. Brian Bohanon, 1999
The Numbers: I took Bohanon's 2001 season off this list in order to cut it down to ten options (and the fact that his '01 wasn't a full season) but 1999 was just as brutal for the lefty:
Why Brian could "win": It's astounding that he was allowed to throw even more than Kendrick. Perhaps he's a strong candidate to win this prestigious award because he made six more atrocious starts than even Kendrick could muster. If nothing else, his staying power is impressive.
Why Brian won't "win": We're looking at extremely negative seasons here, and Bohanon probably did too many positive things: he tossed three complete games (can you even believe it?!), he finished 12-12 despite his numbers (I know, I know, pitcher wins), and the Rockies went 17-16 in his starts, so relative to the league he was actually... competitive-ish?!
Also, Bohanon won't win this award because he is the namesake of Brian Bohanon Field at George Washington High School in Denver. Yours truly was a legend at Brian Bohanon Field between 2001 and 2004. Too many good memories to blow up Brian like that. Ask me about the homer I hit at that field against Denver East in '02, y'all.
4. Darryl Kile, 1999
The Numbers: It wasn't supposed to be like this for Darryl Kile, who by all accounts did his damnedest to find success at Coors Field. Nevertheless, here we were in 1999:
Why Darryl could "win": Just like Bohanon, the sheer numbers put up in Kile's season (he allowed 150 runs that year, for goodness' sake) are staggering. Perhaps his '99 effort ought to be given serious consideration for single-season-worst if only because of the expectations surrounding him based on his career up to this point, too.
Why Darryl won't "win": Kile, Bohanon, and Bobby Jones put up the trifecta of truly awful pitching seasons in 1999, but remember the era we're discussing here. To say it was a good time to be a hitter is quite the understatement, so despite the totals involved, they don't skew quite as significantly because of the whole "steroid era" thing.
5. Kevin Jarvis, 2000
The Numbers: Jarvis was hit hard in 2000, but he didn't pitch a full season, and he also didn't hurt himself nearly as much as some other candidates via walks and other free passes:
Why Kevin could "win": Jarvis got hit, man. Had he thrown more innings in Denver in 2000, things might have been even worse -- but he did allow one of the three highest HR/9 rates on this list.
Why Kevin won't "win": His numbers probably aren't quite as bad as some of the others on this list. He also scores points (er, has points deducted in this contest) for throwing strikes, having a nearly 2:1 K:BB ratio and just 2.6 BB/9 even in a brutal season.
6. Mike Hampton, 2002
The Numbers: Poor Mike Hampton. After doing the best he could at Coors Field in '01 (and even making the All Star Game, don't forget that!), his 2002 was brutal, and hastened his move out of town in a trade that winter:
Why Mike could "win": Like Kile, Hampton's reputation coming into his Rockies' career probably will hurt (help?) him in this vote. Because he was given such a big contract, had such high expectations, and was then so disappointing may magnify his miserable '02 and make him a legitimate contender for this list.
Why Mike won't "win": I don't have any good arguments; Hampton's '02 season might be as good as any for the worst in the club's history.
7. Joe Kennedy, 2005
The Numbers: I'd be lying if I didn't say I had a soft spot for Joe Kennedy after his surprisingly good '04 season in Denver, as well as his untimely passing after he left the Rockies. But in limited action in 2005, Kennedy had a very difficult season:
Why Joe could "win": Kennedy had a really bad season, getting hit at the highest per nine rate of any pitcher on this list, as well as giving up the highest ERA and highest WHIP. It's actually interesting that he only gave up 12 homers considering how hard he was hit.
Why Joe won't "win": Kennedy didn't throw the full year in Denver that season, after being shipped off to Oakland before the trade deadline for Eric Byrnes and Omar Quintanilla. For that, despite his brutal numbers in '05, I'm not sure he did (er, didn't do?) enough to win our little competition.
8. Greg Reynolds, 2008
The Numbers: Do you guys even remember Greg Reynolds?! (Just kidding, I know you do.) Reynolds best exemplifies some of the Rockies' draft misses of the Dan O'Dowd era. When Reynolds got a real shot to prove himself in 2008, he proved absolutely nothing, and was banished from Denver a few years later:
Why Greg could "win": Poor Greg Reynolds.
Why Greg won't "win": Well, he didn't throw enough to really earn our single-season title. By far the worst numbers, though. Wouldn't you have liked to see him make 32 starts? (No.)
9. Jeremy Guthrie, 2012
The Numbers: The Rockies took a chance on Guthrie in 2012, trading Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom for him, and to say the chance didn't pay off is an understatement. Guthrie was brutal in 2012 -- the Rockies even lost his trade away from Denver! -- and when it was all said and done, he finished with this dumpster fire:
Why Jeremy could "win": Guthrie did it all, and if he wins this vote, it's because the context of his bad not-even-a-full-year after a trade. Are the wounds still fresh out there?
Why Jeremy won't "win": Maybe the partial season hurts his running in this vote, since he only made 15 starts and we are here trying to figure out the worst single-season in the club's history. But I have a feeling the Guthrie memories are fairly strong, and Jeremy may get a few votes for that.
10. Kyle Kendrick, 2015
The Numbers: Oh, come on. You already know:
Why Kyle could "win": Uhh, because he was really bad?
Why Kyle won't "win": I can't answer this, he's my horse in this ten horse race. I think the vote will come down to '15 Kendrick, '97 Wright, and... '12 Guthrie? Maybe '02 Hampton? I can't wait to see!
Obviously, I left out a few potential nominees (Greg Harris' seasons in both 1993 and 1994, for example, as well as Shawn Chacon's 2002, Esmil Rogers' 2011, and a few more). I was looking for pitchers who had been bad in a full (or near-full) season, like Kendrick, or pitchers who fit as an all-time disappointment (hence Guthrie's half-season on the list).
I also wanted to give an option from each mini-era in Rockies' history, hence partial-season inclusions of Kennedy ('05) and Reynolds ('08) to bridge the gap between the late '90s and recent years. I wanted something slightly more representative of the entire franchise than, say, loading the list up with expansion-era pitchers from Mile High Stadium.
Now... vote! And if you've got a nominee who isn't on this list -- believe me, there are a few -- make your case! Oh, also, what do we give the "winner"?