I found something peculiar while researching the career performance of those likely first-ballot Hall of Famers – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. One player who will certainly not be a Hall of Famer, who was very familiar to me as Mets fan with my formative years in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s, kept appearing. It was none other than Pat Mahomes.
For those that don’t know Pat Mahomes (not to be confused with his son, Pat Mahomes, the freshman quarterback for Texas Tech), here is a little background. Drafted in the 6th round of the MLB draft in 1988 out of Linden High School by the Minnesota Twins, Mahomes went on to play 11 seasons in Major League Baseball, split between the Twins, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers, Cubs and Pirates. Included in this time period was two years (1997-1998) where he pitched for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Nippon Professional League. Although he played for 11 seasons in Major League Baseball and pitched over 700 innings as a starter/reliever, he is at the bottom of all of the leader boards.
While looking at the top pitchers based on fWAR on FanGraphs.com, I originally started with the segment of 1988 to 2014. The top pitchers were obvious (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, etc.). When looking at the bottom of the list, the worst pitcher was quite clear at -2.4 fWAR. With the next pitcher at -0.2 fWAR (Kevin Jarvis), it was surprising at how bad this pitcher was, yet he was still allowed to pitch 700+ innings. This pitcher was of course none other than Pat Mahomes. As a curious baseball researcher, I wanted to see if this was just an anomaly to the past 26 years. So, I decided to further stretch back to 1978. Once again, the worst pitcher was clearly Pat Mahomes at -2.4 fWAR, with only Kevin Jarvis being the only other pitcher with negative fWAR. So, I thought I would go back to 1965 to get 50 years of data on pitchers who have thrown 700+ innings, to see if Mahomes was still clearly the worst. And in fact he was.
So I finally decided that I would go back to 1948, the post-segregation era, to see if I could finally find a pitcher who was as mediocre as Pat Mahomes in terms of fWAR. And the answer was yes. I found a pitcher, Phil Ortega, who played 9 seasons split between the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Senators, and California Angels.
How exactly did Pat Mahomes manage to become the worst pitcher of the past 50 years? Playing in the steroid era, he did have an extremely high FIP, the worst of any pitcher as seen in Figure 3. However, this is understandable, as the other worst pitchers via fWAR all played in same era as Mahomes, where the average ERA was higher.
But there are a few major surprises when evaluating Mahomes career. First is that his career BABIP was .284. This is slightly lower than league average over the same time period (.291), meaning that he got lucky. One potential reason is that he gave up a lot of home runs. At 1.47 HR/9, he was 10th worst since 1948.
He is also one of the worst players by WHIP, ranking 6th.
Unfortunately, there is limited data on most of Mahomes’ career for other statistics such as HR/FB%, etc. But based on the data that we do have, it is surprising how Mahomes was able to stick around for so long in Major League Baseball despite his mediocrity. With all of the statistics available today, it would be interesting to see if Mahomes would have been able to last as long as he did. To me his unexceptionally is staggering. At least he was able to cash in for $2,658,000. And he isn’t even the most famous Pat Mahomes anymore — at least according to Google. That would be his son, Pat Mahomes Jr. who started at quarterback for the Texas Tech Red Raiders as a freshman. Perhaps Mahomes Jr. can have a long-lasting career like his father, but with better results.Next post: My Hall of Fame Class for 2015
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