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Josh Towers: An Historic Start to the Season

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  • Josh Towers once again had a dreadful start, allowing 7 earned runs on 11 hits and two walks in 5.1 innings. After six starts, Towers' record is 0-6 and he boasts an ERA of 10.59 and a WHIP of 2.28. In other words, he's probably been the worst pitcher in baseball. Luckily for Josh, several unfortunate Blue Jays from yesteryear managed to match, and in some cases exceed, his futility. With some help from David Pinto's Day by Day Database, let's see which players managed such a feat.

    10 worst ERAs ever by a Blue Jays starting pitcher from the beginning of a season through May 5 of that season (min. 3 GS):

    Player         Year     ERA       GS    IP       Final ERA
    Jimmy Key      1986     11.94     5     17.1     3.57
    Roy Halladay   2000     11.53     7     34.1     10.64
    Jack Morris    1993     11.06     6     27.2     6.19
    Josh Towers    2006     10.59     6     26.1     ?
    Jeff Musselman 1989     10.29     3      7       5.30
    Juan Guzman    1995*     9.78     4     19.1     6.32
    Scott Eyre**   2002      9.22     3     27.1     4.46
    Danny Darwin   1995*     8.76     5     24.2     7.45
    Paul Quantrill 1996      8.68     6     28       5.43
    Mark Bomback   1982      8.23     6     27.1     6.03

    10 worst WHIPS by a Blue Jays starting pitcher from the beginning of a season through May 5 of that season (min. 3 GS):

    Player         Year     WHIP      GS    IP       Final WHIP
    Jack Morris    1993     2.53      6     27.2     1.66
    Jeff Musselman 1989     2.43      3      7       1.85
    Juan Guzman    1995*    2.33      4     19.1     1.66
    Roy Halladay   2000     2.30      7     34.1     2.20
    Josh Towers    2006     2.28      6     26.1     ?
    Mark Bomback   1982     2.23      6     27.1     1.88
    Jimmy Key      1986     2.14      5     17.1     1.28
    Dave Stieb     1987     2.09      5     23       1.36
    Paul Quantrill 1996     2.07      6     28       1.66
    Jim Gott       1983     1.98      5     24.2     1.49

    * Since the beginning of the season was pushed back due to the strike, the totals for Juan Guzman and Danny Darwin are through May 25, not May 5. Of course, it would've been wise to simply use games played as the limit, but it would've taken somewhat longer than I'd like to find the data. To be honest, the order likely wouldn't change a great deal, but it would definitely be the better way of approaching it. Also, keep in mind that the numbers aren't adjusted for park and era. But again, that shouldn't have a drastic effect on the order.

    **Scott Eyre started three games but also relieved in six others. So, no, he didn't average over nine innings a start despite posting a 9.22 ERA.

    A quick glance at the list shows that Towers isn't in awful company. The top three in the first list are well-established players who've experienced a great deal of success in the past. The reason, of course, that the lists aren't predominated by awful pitchers is that they wouldn't have been given the opportunity to make enough starts to meet the 3 GS requirement. Just like you have to be good to lose 20 games, as the old saying goes, you have to be good to top this list. In fact, each of the players on either list had at least one season in which he posted an ERA+ above the league average.

    Now, it's plain to see that only Jimmy Key really improved enough to have what most would consider to be a good season. Others improved (simply because they couldn't possibly do much worse), but their final statistics remained subpar. That doesn't bode all that well for Towers, naturally.

    He's still a talented pitcher who could be of value for the remainder of the season, but I'd most certainly be in favour of removing him from the rotation. Not permanently, mind you, but long enough for him to prove his worth in a capacity of lower leverage. A stint in long relief, during which he'd pitch in situations of less importance could steer him in the right direction. However, with the injury to A.J. Burnett and the general lack of adequate replacements, finding another option could be difficult. It's abundantly clear that this can't continue for much longer, though. In games which Towers doesn't pitch, the Blue Jays are 14-7. In games which he does pitch, they're 0-6.

  • Speaking of starting pitching depth, roguejim, a poster/reader at Brew Crew Ball, takes a look back at the five-player trade that took place between the Blue Jays and Brewers last December. He ends the post with a question:
    OK, again, we're only a month in, and it's a long season.  Buuuut....knowing what you know now, would you trade Bush, Action Jackson, and Gross back to the Jays for Overbay?  Think Blue Jays fans would like a do-over on that trade?

    As a reminder, this is the deal that took place:

    Blue Jays receive Lyle Overbay and Ty Taubenheim in exchange for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross, and Zack Jackson.

    Starting pitching is sparse at the moment, but I'm unsure about whether I'd want to rescind the trade. Dave Bush is a useful player, and he would help shore up the back end of the rotation (poor choice of words), but is he really more valuable than Overbay? In this case, I mean value relative to the player's team. For the Blue Jays, Overbay's bat isn't replaceable in the lineup. Eric Hinske, the team's most suitable replacement, simply can't hit left-handed pitching and it's questionable whether he can even continue hitting as well as he has thus far. Moreover, the minor league system has nary a good corner-infield prospect, so Overbay seems firmly entrenched as the team's first baseman for the forseeable future.

    Bush would step into the rotation right away, a rotation that has struggled mightily this season. However, once A.J. Burnett regains his health and/or the upper-level pitching prospects are promoted, Bush will become an interchangeable part. He's pitched rather well this season, actually outperforming his already-respectable ERA of 3.86 with a FIP of 3.32. However, based on his track record and his stuff, it's hard to project him as anything more than a #3-5 starter. I could be wrong, and often am, but that's my current perception of him.

    In the end, I think it's probable that this trade will be of the rare win-win variety. With the arrival of the phenominal Prince Fielder to the majors, Overbay became expendable to the Brewers. Conversely, he has plenty of value for the Blue Jays. The opposite is true of Gabe Gross, who seemingly had no place to play in Toronto but who has proven to be very valuable to Milwaukee.

  • The great FanGraphs website now lists individual Win Probability Added (WPA) totals for all players in the majors.

    Blue Jays' top 5 through May 4:

    Player            WPA
    Vernon Wells      99.4%
    B.J. Ryan         95.6%
    Alexis Rios       95.3%
    Frank Catalanotto 63.9%
    Lyle Overbay      63.0%

    Blue Jays' bottom 5 through May 4:

    Player            WPA
    Josh Towers     -186.3%
    Aaron Hill       -91.6%
    Russ Adams       -46.1%
    Eric Hinske      -42.6%
    Vinnie Chulk     -39.1%


    AP Photo/Steven Senne

    What immediately juts out is the atrocious figure beside Towers' name. He easily has the worst WPA total in all of baseball. Really, it's surprising how easily he's running away with the lead.

    5 worst WPA totals in the majors through May 4:

    Player            WPA
    Josh Towers       -186.3%
    Francisco Cordero -155%
    Matt Herges       -152.3%
    Royce Clayton     -141%
    Joe Mays          -140.5%

    Towers and Cordero simply don't belong on that list. Actually, they each outperformed their peripherals in years' past, so a drop in production was likely. However, I can't imagine that anyone expected a drop of this magnitude. As for the other three on the list, I have nothing nice to write about them, so I won't write anything at all (I'm sure they're nice people).