MLB on Sling: Requiem for a Pitcher

Jeremy Guthrie’s 13-year baseball career almost surely came to an inglorious end Saturday, a cruel present for a man to receive on his 38th birthday. Guthrie was making his debut with the Washington Nationals, yet he would throw only 47 pitches to the Philadelphia Phillies, enough to record just two outs, but allow 10 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks, before Nats manager Dusty Baker took mercy on his mortal soul, calling on Enny Romero to stanch the bleeding. It was too late, or course, as the Nationals went on to lose 17-3.

Not only was Guthrie’s implosion arguably the worst performance ever by a pitcher on his birthday, but it made him the only player in the game’s history to twice give up 10 runs or more while recording 3 outs or fewer, the previous indignity coming while pitching for the Royals against the Yankees on May 25, 2015. Not surprisingly, that start was the beginning of the end for Guthrie, as from that game forward, he would make 15 starts, going 81.2 innings, giving up 16 home runs, and recording more runs, 58, than strikeouts, 46, before getting relegated to the pen. KC would give him one more start as a tune up before heading into the playoffs, but he surrendered 9 runs in 2.1 innings, and never threw single pitch in October, while the Royals stormed their way to the championship. Three days after celebrating his first World Series title, Guthrie was granted free agency. He was 36, unemployed and had just finished the worst season of his career.

Over the course of 2016, he would sign with and be released by the Rangers, Padres and Marlins, compiling a 6.57 ERA and a 1.714 WHIP in 86.2 innings of minor league ball and 16 innings in Australia — that’s right, Australia. But when February 2017 rolled around, the Nats came calling, desperate for help, as they found themselves trying to buy time while they nursed Joe Ross back to health. Between Guthrie’s miserable performance, the Nats not needing a fifth starter for two weeks, and Joe Ross having begun (underwhelming) rehab starts, the inevitable came to pass on Sunday, as Washington DFA’ed Guthrie.

But weep not for Mr. Guthrie. Just by dint of making it to the Majors, Guthrie is in a select fraternity of roughly 15,000 out of millions and millions of pledges. According to JAWS, which looks at career and peak WAR, he was the 547th best starting pitching in Major League history, which is incredible. Only 689 men compiled more wins than Guthrie’s 91, only 422 had more losses than Guthrie’s 109. He was the Orioles Opening Day starter on three times, won a World Series game in 2014, and a World Series in 2015, he pitched a pair of shutouts, had 6 hits, scored 3 runs, drove in a run, and made more than $40 millions dollars. And at times throughout his career he led the league in losses (twice), earned runs, hit batsmen, home runs allowed (twice), and hits allowed — even those are staggering accomplishments.

One of the cruelties of baseball, or any sport, really, played at the highest level, is that Jeremy Guthrie will be remembered as the guy whose career flamed out on his birthday and lost 54% of his decisions. But the truth is that he was more successful in his chosen field than just about anyone most of you know personally.

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Something needs to be done about the use of stickum of and other “banned” substances. That lunacy with the ball sticking to Yadier Molina’s chest protector is the perfect metaphor for much of what is wrong in society. If MLB is gonna have a rule against gooping up the ball, enforce it. Or if you’re gonna tolerate gooping up, change the rules. Frankly, it’s absurd that these guys need more on the ball than the Lena Blackburne rubbing mud (grow up) and resin, but if that’s what it takes to throw strikes, let’s get it in the books and get on with it. But watching Yadier Molina trying to swear he has no idea how that ball got stuck there, and the Commissioner’s office saying there was no rules violation is embarrassing.

 

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Monday on ESPN

Los Angeles Dodgers (Alex Wood 0-0, 0.00) vs Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester 0-0, 1.80) @ 8pm

Tuesday on ESPN

St. Louis Cardinals (Lance Lynn 0-0, 3.38) vs Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez 0-0, 0.00) @ 7pm

Saturday on FS1

Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander 1-0, 2.84) vs Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber 0-0, 7.50) @ 4pm

Sunday on ESPN

St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright 0-1, 3.60) vs New York Yankees (Jordan Montgomery 0-0, 0.00) @ 8pm

Watch baseball on ESPN by subscribing to Sling Orange or on FOX and FOX Sports Regional Networks by subscribing to Sling Blue.

All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference

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