The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #1-4, Frank LaCorte

S0 20 pitchers was a bit ambitious. Life’s too short to waste it parsing the stats of Jim Panther and Randy O’Neal.

Besides, Frank LaCorte was so bad he deserves four spots. While this list wasn’t completed in order of suckitude, no Braves pitcher sucked more than LaCorte, though you could make a case for Kevin Coffman.

His 1977 numbers are almost unbelievable: 1-8, 11.68 ERA, 37 IP, 67 H, 29 BB, 2.595 WHIP.

LaCorte, the fifth pitcher from the ’77 squad to make the list, appeared in 14 games that year, half as a starter. He lost 6 of those 7 starts with an 11.57 ERA. His ERA in relief: 11.91.

Left-handed hitters batted .404 against LaCorte; righties, .389. He was 0-4 at Fulco with a 15.16 ERA.

LaCorte’s only win came in the season’s fourth game — his first — a 7-6 decision over the Dodgers.

The Braves traded him in 1979 to the Astros for Bo McLaughlin. LaCorte’s final Braves numbers: 4-24, 6.23 ERA, 1.631 WHIP.

He actually turned into a decent reliever with the ‘Stros, winning 8 and saving 11 for the 1980 NL West champions. But he’ll always be remembered as the worst hurler to ever toe the slab on Capitol Ave.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #5, Jeff Parrett

Bobby’s last major move as Braves GM was his worst, though strangely it worked out for the best. Murph had been on the trading block for a year, and at one point Bobby was near a deal with the Mets that would’ve brought Lenny Dykstra, Howard Johnson and Rick Aguilera to Atlanta. It would’ve been a fantastic haul but, had it happened, TP and Otis would’ve likely never been Braves.

Instead JS’ predecessor sent Murph and Tommy Greene to the Phils for Jeff Parrett, Victor Rosario and Jim Vatcher. Murph was pretty much done but Greene had two above-average seasons as a Phils starter.

Parrett, a decent set-up reliever with the Expos and Phils, wasn’t even competent in Atlanta, allowing 58 hits and walking 31 in 48-1/3 IP. He started the ’91 season with the eventual NL champs but spent most of the year in Richmond. He was released in December of that year and resurfaced in Oakland, where he won 9 games with a 3.02 ERA.

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The 20 worst A-Braves pitcher: #6, Mickey Mahler

Rick’s brother is the fourth member of the ’77 Braves to make our list. Though Rick had the better career, Mickey, a hard-throwing southpaw with a 12-6 curve, was the more highly regarded of the siblings.

He debuted with the Braves in ’77 following the second no-hitter of his minor league career. He started just four games that year for the parent club and began the ’78 season in the bullpen. After 16 scoreless innings as a reliever, Mickey was inserted into the rotation.

His fourth start was a gem. Mahler went the distance against the Cards, allowing one run, walking none and striking out 9. He entered the All-Star break with a 2.82 ERA after outdueling Gaylord Perry, that year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, on July 7.

Mickey won only once more that year, losing his last nine starts and finishing third in the NL in wild pitches. It was a sign of things to come.

In 1979, his final year in Atlanta, Mahler posted an ugly 5.85 ERA and 1.700 WHIP. He was released the following spring.

Mickey’s final tally as a Brave: 10-24 with a 5.27 ERA and 1.576 WHIP.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #7, Dan Kolb

First, some self-flagellation. While looking for old posts eviscerating Dan Kolb, I came across these nuggets:

Two things you’re going to get sick of hearing me say: the Bravos need Dontrelle Willis, and Ryan Langerhans is the next Paul O’Neill.

Two predictions: “Yosty” is baseball’s next great manager, and Dan Kolb (aka Principal McVicker) will re-emerge as a premier set-up reliever.

Call me (Fred) Edelstein.

I’m not sure what brought on the charity towards Kolb. Turns out we were never that cruel to him, since the Office didn’t open until August 2005. By then McVicker was buried deep in the ‘pen, behind the likes of Adam Bernero, John Foster and Jim Brower.

It was a misbegotten experiment that lasted nearly two months. Two long months. Even when he succeeded he made you sweat. Not as much as Kolb, mind you.

Two games stand out. On May 11, the Braves had come back from a 4-2 9th inning deficit at Coors Field to take a one-run lead against the 8-22 Rockies. Enter Kolb, who allowed a solo homer then loaded the bases. Chris Reitsma gave up a game-ending single two batters later.

Three weeks later the Braves, down 3-2 to the Nats, came back to score four runs in the 8th. Surely Kolb wouldn’t blow a 3-run lead.

And Ryan Langerhans was the next Paul O’Neill.

Kolb was pretty much banished after that loss, his fifth of the year, but the Braves ‘pen was such a mess he’d have two more opportunities to save games. He blew them both.

McVicker finished his Braves career 3-8 with a 5.93 ERA and 1.855 WHIP. He was shipped back to Milwaukee that offseason for Wes Obermueller.

Fortunately I never compared Obermueller to John Smoltz.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #8, Blue Moon Odom

The 70s Braves had some outstanding pitchers: Pat Dobson, Andy Messersmith, Denny McLain, Gary Gentry … Unfortunately, their best days were well behind them by the time they arrived in A-town.

And so it was with Blue Moon Odom, acquired along with Rob Belloir from the Indians in 1975 after a disagreement over $8,000.

A number of major leaguers couldn’t win for losing last week. First, consider Pitcher John (Blue Moon) Odom, recently traded from Oakland to Cleveland. Odom had demanded an additional $8,000 from the Indians, reasoning that the move East was likely to cost him a bundle in playoff and World Series shares. The Cleveland front office said no way. Given a start last week, Odom pitched a two-hitter, defeating the Royals 4-0. The word on the eight grand was still no and, what’s more, Odom learned that the club had placed him on waivers. When Atlanta claimed him, Cleveland struck a bargain—Odom and a player to be named later for Pitcher Roric Harrison. At week’s end Cleveland was seven games out of first; Atlanta, 7�. Odom’s prospects for additional loot? Nil.

Odom made two All-Star teams before his 25th birthday with the A’s but his career took a nosedive after that. The Braves gave him a chance to resurrect his career, because, well, it’s not like they had any options. Odom lasted just 16 innings in his first four starts, allowing 31 hits and 18 earned runs while walking 10.

Blue Moon had a  7.07 ERA and 1.893 WHIP in 56 IP as a Brave. He was traded to the White Sox the following season in exchange for the catcher Pete (no relation to future mascot Jim) Varney, who would record as many hits as a Brave as Odom had wins: 1.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #9, Jason Schmidt

Jason Schmidt wasn’t as good as you remember. He was mediocre at best for the Pirates after they acquired him from Atlanta in the Denny Neagle trade. It wasn’t until he landed in San Francisco did he emerge as one of the league’s best starters,  twice finishing in the top 5 for NL Cy Young.

The beginning of his career was as bad as the finish, when he flopped as a free agent with the Dodgers. With the Braves he showed little ability to keep runners off base, walking 5.4 and allowing 10.3 hits per 9 IP. He pitched 22 games for the local nine, starting 13, and left Atlanta with an unsightly 6.45 ERA and 1.745 WHIP.

Granted, he was just 23 but the 20 worst does not distinguish between rookies and veterans.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #10, Lance Cormier

The 2007 season was marked by the acquisition of Borasbot (and the depletion of the farm system). The trade was supposed to put the Braves over the top but they were doomed by a porous rotation beyond Huddy and Smoltz.

Fellow 20 worsters Kyle Davies, Jo-Jo Reyes and Mark Redman received a significant number of starts. Buddy Carlyle started 20 games. Chuck James, 30.

Lance Cormier, who walked 39 and allowed 90 hits in 2006, re-entered the rotation in June and was consistently awful. He had a 6.85 ERA in 9 starts, walking 4.3 and allowing 11 hits per 9 IP — and these were starts made during a pennant race that wasn’t.

Cormier as a Brave: 6-11-5.73, 119.1 IP, 146 H, 61BB, 24 HR, 1.735 WHIP.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #11, Bob Walk

The acquisition of Bob Walk from the Phillies ranked 6th on our list of the 10 worst trades in A-Braves history, and for those of us who loved Gary Matthews the deal was an even tougher pill to swallow. Sarge had been a force in the Braves line-up during the late 1970s but was coming off his worst season in Atlanta, though it wasn’t bad (.278 BA, .325 OBP, .419 slugging).

The 23-year-old Walk, six years younger than Matthews, got the win in Game 1 of the ’80 World Series despite allowing 8 hits and 6 earned in 7 innings. The right-hander won 11 games that season but posted a pedestrian 4.57 ERA and 1.543 WHIP, numbers in line with Kyle Davies’ rookie season.

Nonetheless he barely cracked the ’81 rotation, slotting behind Knucksie, Gaylord Perry, Tommy Boggs and John Montefusco. He won once in 8 starts, walking 22 and striking out just 13 in 35 IP. His ERA and WHIP: 5.66 and 1.686. On top of that he lost more than half the season to injury.

Meanwhile, Sarge rebounded to hit .301 with an .849 OPS for the Phils.

Walk got off to a decent start in ’82 but his numbers declined each month. He pitched his way out of the rotation with a 6.64 ERA and 1.709 WHIP in the second half. He spent all but one game of the ’83 season in Richmond, where he struggled mightily with his control, finishing with a 5.21 ERA. He was released the following March.

That same year Matthews helped lead the Cubs to a division title and was 5th in MVP voting.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #12, Rick Luecken

The 1990 Braves had Justice, Gant, Smoltz, Glavine and Avery. The pieces were in place for their historic turnaround in 1991. They also had the worst ‘pen in team history.

No one saved more than 8 games. The Braves recorded 30 saves in all, blowing 22 opportunities. Charlie Kerfeld, Dwayne Henry and Joe Hesketh all had runs as closer, but none of them can be called the worst reliever in that ‘pen.

That would be Rick Luecken, who gave up a single to Brad Komminsk in his Braves debut — one of five Giants hits the right-hander allowed in 1-2/3 innings. He allowed three hits in 1 IP in his next outing, a pitiable ratio he nearly maintained — 73 H in 53 IP as a Brave. Opposing batters hit .355 against Luecken.

When he wasn’t giving up hits, Luecken was giving up walks: 5.1/9 IP. That’ll get you a 1.943 WHIP, and your eventual release.

Quite an accomplishment on that team.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #13, Kyle Davies

On a cold drizzly night in Boston in May 2005, Kyle Davies made his major league debut, and it was a gem. Facing a line-up featuring Johnny Damon, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek — all in their primes — Davies pitched five shutout innings, striking out 6.

Four nights later he tossed 5-1/3 shutout innings vs. the Mets. He shut out the Pirates through 7-2/3 two starts later, beating #19 on this list, Mark Redman.

After four starts the kid from Stockbridge boasted a stingy 0.77 ERA, providing hope that he would be the first homegrown pitcher since Kevin Millwood to thrive in Atlanta. Instead his career is all but over at age 29.

No one can say he didn’t get a fair shake. Despite a poor finish in 2005, Davies entered the ’06 season as one of the Braves’ five starters. His first two outings were forgettable but in his third start Davies pitched a complete game three-hitter against the Mets. He followed that up with seven strong innings vs. Milwaukee.

Then the roof caved in. Davies posted an ungodly 8.38 ERA in 14 games, all starts. He didn’t make it past the third inning in 4 of those starts, giving up 90 hits in 63.1 IP for a 1.942 WHIP.

But the Braves weren’t ready to give up on him. Davies started 2007 in the Braves rotation, showing some improvement from the previous year. But when a 5.76 ERA represents improvement, your days are numbered. In July JS shipped him to Kansas City for Octavio Dotel, where he toiled for four mostly forgettable years.

As a Brave, Davies was 14-21 with a 6.15 ERA and 1.713 WHIP. Five of those wins came against the Mets and Pirates.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #14, Jamie Easterly

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.

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The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #15, Jo-Jo Reyes

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.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #16 Don Collins

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.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #17 Kevin Coffman

In what had to be the least satisfying trade in MLB history, the Braves sent pitchers Kevin Coffman and Kevin Blankenship to the Cubs for Jody Davis. The two hurlers combined to win 1 for Chicago while Davis hit .161 in 267 AB’s as a Brave, earning him a spot on our countdown of the 20 worst players.

That  the Braves were able to find a taker for Coffman is surprising enough. He was the worst pitcher on the worst team in Braves history, walking 54, with just 24 K’s, in 67 innings for the ’88 club.

His walks per 9 IP ratio with the Braves was double his K/9 — 7.4 to 3.7. Add a hit per inning and you’ve got a putrid 1.830 WHIP. He was even worse on the North Side, finishing his career with a 1.934 WHIP in 110.2 IP.

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The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #18 Preston Hanna

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.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #19 Mark Redman

Craig Wilson (remember him?) started at 1B. Chris Woodward hit lead-off and played second base. Tyler Yates and Oscar Villarreal had cameos. And on the mound to start the 2007 home opener? Veteran southpaw Mark Redman, whose stay in Atlanta was blessedly brief.

His first start as a Brave, on a freezing night at the Ted, reminded us why he was on his 7th team in 9 years. Redman allowed 9 hits and 5 runs in 5-2/3 IP en route to an 11-1 loss. And it was far from his worst start.

A week later Redman gave up 6 hits and 7 earned in 2-2/3 IP vs. the Fish. He didn’t make it past the third 10 days later against the Marlins. In his next start the Phils chased him after 1-2/3 in which Redman walked three, allowing 5 hits and 4 earned. An ingrown toenail landed him on the DL, and he returned for one last appearance, in relief against the Red Sox. Two walks and a grand slam later, Redman was released.

Redman as a Brave: 0-4, 11.63 ERA, 21-2/3 IP, 38 H, 11 BB, 2.262 WHIP.


The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #20 Denny McLain

The Braves traded a future Hall of Famer to acquire Denny McLain halfway through the 1972 season. Granted, Orlando Cepeda was nearing the end of his career, though he’d have one more productive year before retiring.

McLain, however, was done by the time he got to Atlanta. He was worth a gamble, pardon the pun, considering he was only 28 and just four years removed from winning 31 games for Detroit. The Chicago native had 114 wins by his 25th birthday but only 17 afterward — three with the Braves.

The ’72 Braves had the third best BA in the NL and finished second in homers. But their pitching was abysmal beyond Knucksie, who had a 3.06 ERA and 1.087 WHIP. Enter McLain, who showed no trace of his old form, sucking as a starter (6.47 ERA) and reliever (5.73 ERA). He allowed 10 hits per 9 IP and struck out only 3.5/9.

The Braves kept him on the roster the following spring but McLain couldn’t crack a pitching staff that would finish last in the NL in ERA, just as it did in ’72. He was released in March, never to don a major league uniform again.

Trivia question: McLain was one of three Braves from the 1970s (that I know of) to serve prison time. Can you name the other two?