Jamie Easterly is the third pitcher from the ’77 Braves — which finished with a league-worst 4.85 ERA — to make our list, joining Don Collins and Preston Hanna. Like Collins and Hanna, Easterly was a high draft pick, selected in the 2nd round in 1971. Until Bill Lucas came along the Braves drafted terribly, helping make the 70s a lost decade for the local nine.
Easterly began his career as a starter, with 28 of his 36 career starts coming as a Brave. He was 7-16 with a 5.43 ERA and 1.629 WHIP in those games, striking out just 98 in 182 IP. He eventually settled in the bullpen, though he was no specialist; left-handed batters hit .292 against the southpaw.
Hard to believe he lasted 13 seasons in the majors. Easterly was better, though still middling, after leaving Atlanta, pitching for Milwaukee and Cleveland. His final Braves numbers: 8-20, 5.72 ERA, 232.2 IP, 272 H, 137 BB, 127 K’s, 1.758 WHIP.
For the ’77 Bravos, Easterly was 2-4 with a 6.14 ERA but was far from the worst pitcher on the team. We’ll identify that hurler later in the list.
There was a time, believe it or not, when it appeared Jo-Jo Reyes would deliver on his potential. From May 28 to June 29, 2008, Jo-Jo started 7 games, pitching into the 7th inning in all but one. Against Milwaukee on the 28th he struck out 9 in 7 innings, giving up just 2 hits and one run. On the 29th in Toronto he tossed another gem, surrendering but one run and striking out 5.
He’d start 15 more games as a Brave, lasting past the 5th three times. It was a stretch of sustained suckitude unlike any Braves fans had seen since the days of Hanna and (Mickey) Mahler.
Jo-Jo saved his worst for last, allowing 10 hits and 9 earned in 3-1/3 vs. the Padres, walking three. Three months later he was traded along with Yesco to the Blue Jays, ending his Braves career 5-15 with a 6.40 ERA and 1.670 WHIP.
It says something about my Braves geekdom that I remember Don Collins, one of many terrible relievers who toiled for the ’77 Braves. Expect at least two more pitchers from that team, which finished with a league-worst 4.85 ERA, to make our list in addition to Collins and Preston Hanna, #18.
What separates him from those who won’t — Steve Hargan, Bob Johnson, Duane Theiss — is workload. Collins pitched in 40 games, starting 6. He didn’t make it past the third inning in half of those starts. In 70 IP, the soft-tossing southpaw walked 41, allowed 82 hits and struck out just 27. That’s a 1.741 WHIP.
Collins was drafted by three other teams before finally signing with Atlanta in 1972. So the Braves weren’t the only team that vastly overestimated Collins’ potential.
On June 18, 1978, Preston Hanna beat the Pirates, improving to 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA. It appeared the 23-year-old right-hander was well on his way to fulfilling the promise that had made him a first round pick six years earlier.
Alas, it was not to be. He didn’t make it out of the second inning in each of his next three starts, allowing 15 hits and 15 runs, walking 8. Hanna ended up losing 12 of his next 13 decisions, finishing the year with a 5.13 ERA and a ghastly 1.603 WHIP.
Injuries sidelined Hanna for much of the ’79 season. He was recast as a reliever the following two years but struggled mightily with his control, walking 246 in 389 IP as a Brave. Add one hit per inning pitched and you get a 1.635 WHIP.
Hanna got his release in 1982, signing with Oakland, where he lasted half-a-season. His career was over at 28.
Luis Gomez was a poor man’s Rafael Belliard, at least at the plate. Like Raffy, Gomez was smooth, if unspectacular, defensively. But Belliard was a regular Barry Larkin on offense compared to Gomez, the only player on our list who was traded for another of the 20 worst Braves, Pat Rockett (part of the deal that brought Chris Chambliss to Atlanta).
The Braves knew what they were getting in Gomez, a utilityman who came to Atlanta with a career .216 BA. They probably didn’t think he’d do much worse, but he did, batting .192 in 156 games with the Bravos. Of Gomez’s 60 hits only 6 went for extra bases. He had no homers, triples or stolen bases. Didn’t walk much either, which accounts for his .249 OBP.
Pitchers Doyle Alexander and Preston Hanna nearly matched Gomez’s meager .451 OPS in 1980 while Knucksie had just one less double.
Baseball Reference compares his career to that of the infamous Mario Mendoza, although the final Mendoza line (.215 BA) was five points higher than Gomez’s.