By Patrick Brewer, Lead National League Writer
Max Scherzer. Zack Greinke. Jacob deGrom. Jake Arietta. More than enough has been written about who the best pitchers in the National League are. But a question that isn’t too often discussed is who is the worst pitcher in the National League? This is an unlikely distinction to be made but a distinction that deserves to be made. What makes a pitcher the worst pitcher in his respective league? Let’s delve into the stats of a few possible candidates to better understand what earns a player such as distinction.
Now before we begin this endeavor a few points of clarification must be made. For the sake of this discussion, I will only include starting pitchers in this evaluation. Beyond that, the only other clarification is that in order to be the worst pitcher in the National League, a pitcher must be a full-time player. For this distinction we will use an arbitrary cutoff of 12 games started so far on the season. With these clarifications in mind, we can now begin our discussion on candidates for this distinction and what makes a pitcher the worst in the National League.
Candidate #1: Jerome Williams
14 games started, 70 innings pitched
6.43 ERA, 5.48 FIP, 4.57 xFIP — -0.4 WAR
Jerome Williams hasn’t been good at all but that’s really the common theme of this article so that is to be expected. He has average only 5 innings pitched per start this season and has provided a negative value to his team to this point. While Jerome Williams has the worst ERA of any of the candidates with the requisite playing time, his xFIP is almost two runs lower than his ERA and his FIP scores. This helps lessen his negative value to his team, and knocks him out of the running for the worst pitcher in the NL.
Candidate #2: Kyle Lohse
19 games started, 108 innings pitched
6.17 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 4.06 xFIP — 0.2 WAR
Of all our five candidates, Kyle Lohse has pitched the most games as well as the most innings. Beyond that, he is also the only candidate on this list that has produced a positive WAR up until this point in the season. He has the second highest ERA in the National League based on our criteria but has an xFIP score almost two runs below his ERA. This may help explain his positive value to the team despite his high ERA. In terms of xFIP/WAR, Lohse is not the worst pitcher in the National League.
Candidate #3: Matt Garza
16 games started, 94 innings pitched
5.84 ERA, 5.01 FIP, 4.19 xFIP — 0.0 WAR
If you want to quantify how bad the Brewers have been this season, look no further than them having two pitchers as candidates for the worst pitcher in the entire National League. With that being said, Garza may be slightly worse than Lohse on the year, but not by much. Garza may have a lower ERA than Lohse but both his FIP/xFIP numbers are higher than Lohse. On the year Garza has provided absolutely zero positive or negative value to his team and for that reason is not the worst pitcher in the National League.
Candidate #4: Kyle Kendrick
18 games started, 103 innings pitched
5.94 ERA, 5.96 FIP, 4.92 xFIP — -0.7 WAR
Kyle Kendrick has not been good this season at all. His FIP is higher than his ERA and his xFIP is still just below five. While the other pitchers mentioned saw some positives in their xFIP scores, the same positives can not be seen with Kendrick. Beyond that Kendrick also has provided the most negative value in terms of WAR with a score of -0.7. With the fact that he has had to pitch in Colorado in mind, as well as how bad the next guy has been, Kendrick is not the worst pitcher in the National League.
Candidate #5: Sean O’Sullivan
13 games started, 71 innings pitched
6.08 ERA, 6.10 FIP, 5.18 xFIP — -0.9 WAR
In terms of the worst pitcher in the National League, it seems clear based on the statistics that we need to look no further than Sean O’Sullivan of the Philadelphia Phillies. Of all our candidates he has the highest xFIP, the highest FIP, and has produced the most negative WAR value to his team. Really the only thing he has going for him is an ERA slightly lower than both Jerome Williams and Kyle Lohse. Kyle Kendrick comes in a close second place by is given the benefit of the doubt based on the fact that he pitches in Colorado. It is an unwelcome distinction but a seemingly obvious one at this point in the year. Sean O’Sullivan has been the worst pitcher in the National League.