It seems like throughout the last several years, pitchers in Major League Baseball are starting to get better and stronger like C.C. Sabathia, Clayton Kershaw, and Dallas Keuchel. However, in the past 17 seasons, we have seen some very lousy pitching from starting pitchers, including this past season.
In this article, I have examined the worst starting pitchers in Major League Baseball every year since the beginning of the millennium. When it comes to baseball, fans usually don’t pay attention to the worst pitchers of every team, but there are some pitchers that are worth noting in this list.
As a fair heads-up, there are some pitchers on this list that not many baseball fans will remember because many of these pitchers were with terrible teams. There are several teams featured on this list, including Houston, Detroit, Seattle, Colorado, and more. There are also some players on here that spent one season with two different teams. Every pitcher on this list also has the MLB-worst ERA for each respective year, which is mostly why these pitchers have made the list. There’s even a pitcher on here that was part of a team that made the playoffs that respective year.
Some of these pitchers are actually still in the major leagues and one that is currently in the minor leagues, but many of the early pitchers on the list have hanged up the gloves. Anyway, lets get this list started with a pitcher from the National League Houston Astros in the year 2000.
18 2000: Jose Lima (Houston Astros)
Remember that this was a starting pitcher for the Astros of the National League central division. The 13-year veteran from the Dominican Republic had a terrible 2000 season after having a fantastic 1999 season with the Astros. Lima had a career worst 6.65 ERA in 33 starts in 2000, which was the worst of his career. He also had zero complete games after having six in the previous two seasons combined. The 2000 season was also the first since the 1997 season when he had a negative WAR (-0.6).
Another thing to add to his 2000 résumé was giving up a career-high 48 home runs, career-high 145 earned runs, and second-worst 251 hits, which was only five shy of his career worst in 1999. His overall record in 2000 was 7-16, which was his first losing record as a primary starting pitcher.
17 2001: Dave Mlicki (Detroit Tigers/Houston Astros)
Mlicki is the first of four pitchers on the list to have been with two teams in the same season. He was one of those pitchers that didn’t last long with teams heading towards the end of his career.
He started the 2001 season with the Tigers before being traded to Houston, which is where he spent the remainder of his 10-year career. In 2001, he earned an even 11-11 record in 29 total starts, going 4-8 at Detroit and 7-3 at Houston. After doing well after being traded, it looked like he could’ve been playing for another few years, but he decided to retire in 2002 with the Astros after going 4-10 in 16 starts.
In 2001, he had a 7.33 ERA with Detroit and a 5.09 ERA with Houston, totaling his overall ERA to 6.17, which was the worst of his career.
16 2002: Mike Hampton (Colorado Rockies)
Hampton was a decent player for 16 years going a career total 148 wins and 115 losses, but the 2002 season was by far the worst of his career. In his letdown year, he went 7-15 with the Rockies, which was his first season with a losing record as a primary starting pitcher. He also finished the season with a career-worst 6.15 ERA in his second and last season with the Rockies. He gave up a career-high 122 earned runs in each of his two season with the Rockies.
Hampton did have two complete games and one shutout with Colorado in his first season with them, but had zero complete games in 2002, which was the first season he’d done that since 1995 with the Astros. He did, however, get a lot better after signing with the Atlanta Braves for three years from 2003-2005 going to the playoffs for two of those seasons (2003 & ’04).
15 2003: Mike Maroth (Detroit Tigers)
Maroth was only in the major leagues for six years, but his second season in 2003 had to be the worst. He had 33 starts with the 2003 Tigers and had a career-worst 21 losses with a 5.73 ERA, which was also the worst of his career. He also had career worsts, letting go 123 earned runs and 34 home runs in 2003. Maroth spent most of his career with the Tigers before being traded to St. Louis in 2007 where he ultimately ended his career after going 0-5 in seven starts.
Perhaps Maroth would’ve been better with either the Tampa Bay Rays or Florida Marlins considering he was born in Orlando. His best season in 2005 with the Tigers wasn’t even that good considering he went 14-14 in 34 starts, which proves he didn’t have a winning season in his entire career.
14 2004: Shawn Estes (Colorado Rockies)
The 2004 season was the only season that Estes played for the Rockies. The reason for being the worst pitcher in 2004 wasn’t because of his 15-8 record, but mostly because of his 5.84 ERA, which was the worst out of any starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. His 5.84 ERA in 2004 was also the worst of his 13-year career. Estes also had zero shutouts, which was the first time he’s had zero shutouts since his last season with the San Francisco Giants in 2001. Estes was never as good as he was when he was with the Giants, but he did give up career-worsts with 30 home runs, 131 earned runs, and 223 hits.
It’s actually surprising that Estes didn’t stay with the Giants for his whole career considering he was born in San Bernardino, about a seven-hour drive north of San Francisco.
13 2005: Jose Lima (Kansas City Royals)
Yes, this is the same pitcher from the 2000 Astros and is on the list for the second time.
In his second to last season in Major League Baseball, Lima had a 6.99 ERA in 32 starts with the Royals. This was definitely a sign that Lima had to retire, but he eventually did in 2006 with the New York Mets. The biggest difference between 2005 and 2000 was that Lima had a complete game with the Royals, who finished last in the American League central division with a league worst 56-106 overall record and finished 43 games behind first place Chicago White Sox.
Overall in 2005, Lima had a 5-16 record in his second and last season with the Royals. It’s almost hard to believe to have a terrible season twice after being in the playoffs in the previous season (1999 w/Houston & 2004 w/Los Angeles Dodgers).
12 2006: Joel Pineiro (Seattle Mariners)
Pineiro’s 2006 season was the last for him at Seattle before going to Boston in 2007. In his seventh and last season at Seattle, he went 8-13 in 25 starts with a complete game, but he had an MLB-worst 6.36 ERA. The Mariners also finished last in the American League West Division with a 78-84 record 15 games behind first place Oakland Athletics.
In 2006, Pineiro also gave up 209 hits, 23 home runs, and only had 87 strikeouts. The 87 strikeouts were the worst in his career with a minimum 21 starts. The 6.36 ERA was also the worst in a season during his 12-year career. Overall, Pineiro finished his career with 104 wins and 93 losses with a 4.41 ERA and 1,058 strikeouts.
11 2007: Scott Olsen (Florida Marlins)
Olsen had a short six-year career, but it wasn’t that good in the 2007 season, as he went 10-15 in 33 starts, with a MLB-worst 5.81 ERA with the Florida Marlins. He gave up 29 home runs in 2007, which was only one shy of his career-worst 30 home runs the following season. He also gave a career-worst 226 hits, 114 earned runs, and 85 walks in 2007. He did, however, throw 133 strikeouts, which was the second most of his career only behind 166 in 2006. His WAR was the worst of his career as well at -1.8 along with a career-worst 1.76 WHIP.
Overall, he finished his career in 2010 with 37-49 record with 528 strikeouts and a 4,85 ERA. Perhaps he would’ve been better at Detroit considering he’s from Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is just 140 miles from the Motor City.
10 2008: Nate Robertson (Detroit Tigers)
The 2008 season was the second to last season that Robertson spent with the Tigers. Robertson did start showing signs of an impending retirement in 2008 after suffering a 6.35 ERA, which was the worst in the major leagues that year. He also gave up 119 earned runs, 218 hits, and had a war of -1.1, all of which were the worst of his career. He eventually lost his starting role in 2009 when he only had six starts in his final season with the Tigers before playing only one inning in two games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010.
The nine-year veteran finished his career with a 5.01 ERA, 57-77 career record, and 775 strikeouts. He played for the Tigers, Phillies, and started and ended his career with the Florida Marlins, only making the playoffs once with the 2006 Tigers.
9 2009: Livan Hernandez (Washington Nationals/New York Mets)
Hernandez was in the major leagues for 17 long years and he has been with 10 different teams, including the Marlins, Giants, Nationals, Montreal Expos, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Rockies, Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, and Braves.
In 2009, Hernandez played only eight games with the Nationals before being traded to the New York Mets where he started 23 games. Altogether, he finished the 2009 season with a 5.44 ERA, which was the worst out of all major league starting pitchers that year. He finished the year 9-12 with seven wins at New York. His numbers weren’t career-worsts despite giving up 111 earned runs, but his numbers weren’t good enough to get the 70-92 Mets to the playoffs finishing the season 23 games behind the National League champion Phillies.
8 2010: Jeremy Bonderman (Detroit Tigers)
You might be asking yourself “how does a Detroit starting pitcher end up with the worst pitcher in 2010 when the Tigers finished 81-81?” Well, Bonderman wasn’t really that good in 2010 when he had an MLB-worst 5.53 ERA.
He finished the year with a 8-10 record along with giving up a career-high 25 home runs and 105 earned runs. He also had a career-worst -1.4 WAR in the 2010 season.Bonderman spent most of his nine-year career with the Tigers before being traded to Seattle in 2013 where he ended his career. Perhaps if Bonderman was traded in 2010, the Tigers probably would’ve had a much better chance of making it to the postseason.
Overall, he finished his career with 69-81 record with a 4.91 ERA and 961 strikeouts and he actually finished his career as a relief pitcher rather than a starter.
7 2011: Brad Penny (Detroit Tigers)
It’s very rare to find a bad starting pitcher from a team that won a division championship, but in 2011 that’s exactly what happened when Brad Penny had an MLB-worst 5.30 ERA in 31 starts.
I mean get this, he was a starting pitcher for the American League Central Division champions and he didn’t play at all in the 2011 postseason. 2011 was also the last season that Penny spent as a primary starter for any team as he was a relief pitcher for the 2012 Giants and only played eight games in his last season in 2014 with the Miami Marlins.
Anyway in 2011, he gave up a career-high 222 hits, 107 earned runs, and only had 74 strikeouts for an 11-11 record with Detroit.
6 2012: Ricky Romero (Toronto Blue Jays)
Romero played at Toronto for his only five years in the major leagues from 2009-2013 with his worst year happening in 2012. In 32 starts with the Blue Jays, he threw a career-low 124 strikeouts with career-worsts with 116 earned runs, 198 hits, and 105 walks. Romero also gave up second-worst 21 home runs, only five short of 26 home runs he gave up in 2011.
Because of Romero’s stats, the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays finished the year with an overall 73-89 record finishing 22 games behind the first place Yankees and 20 games behind wild card Baltimore Orioles. Romero spent the last four years in the minor leagues for the Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants.
Perhaps Romero would be better off if he played with the Dodgers or Angels considering he was born in Los Angeles.
5 2013: Edinson Volquez (Los Angeles Dodgers/San Diego Padres)
Few would have thought that Volquez would end up on this list, but have you seen his overall stats from 2013? While he was with the Dodgers, he only played six games with five starts. In those six games, he gave up 25 hits, 13 earned runs, and went 0-2. After a poor performance at LA, things didn’t get much better in San Diego when he went 9-10 in 27 starts giving up 95 earned runs and 14 home runs. Altogether, Volquez went 9-12 with a league-worst 5.71 ERA with 166 hits in 2013.
Volquez did start to get a little bit better in 2015 with Kansas City 13-9 on his way to winning the World Series championship. We believe he can do that again; he just has to do what he did with the 2015 Royals next year at Miami.
4 2014: Clay Buchholz (Boston Red Sox)
Who would have thought that a defending World Series champion would be on the list? As it turns out, Buchholz did have a breakdown year in 2014 as a defending champion of the Fall Classic.
After going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 2013, Buchholz finished the 2014 season with an 8-11 record and a career-worst 5.34 ERA, which was the worst in the entire league. The 10-year veteran played most of his career so far with the Red Sox before going to Philadelphia in 2017 where he got injured.
Buchholz can get back to his former glory in 2018 as long as he stays healthy and get many wins for the Phillies. So far after the 2017 season, his career totals include an 81-62 record with a 4.01 ERA and 904 strikeouts. As long as he stays healthy, Buchholz can easily get his 1000th strikeout next year.
3 2015: Alfredo Simon (Detroit Tigers)
Simon is the last Detroit Tiger on this list. Simon only spent one season with the Tigers in his career so far going 13-12 in 2015 with a MLB-worst 5.05 ERA.
In his lone season with the Tigers, he gave up career highs with 201 hits, 105 earned runs, 68 walks, and 24 home runs, which is probably one of the reasons why the 2015 Tigers finished 74-87 overall and finished last in the American League central division and 20.5 games behind the first place Kansas City Royals. Things didn’t get any better in 2016 as he spent his last major league season with the Cincinnati Reds having only 11 starts.
The Big Pasta eventually left major league baseball to join the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball in 2017.
2 2016: James Shields (Chicago White Sox/San Diego Padres)
James Shields is the last pitcher on this list to have spent a season with two different teams.
Shields was a great pitcher when he was with the Royals in 2013 and ’14, but things got bad really hastily in 2016 with the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres. While at the Windy City, Shields went 4-12 on 22 starts with only 78 strikeouts and a 6.77 ERA and letting go 31 home runs.
Things didn’t get any better when he got traded to the Padres where he went 2-7 with a 4.28 ERA and letting go nine home runs in 11 starts. Overall in 2016, Shields went 6-19 with a MLB-worst 5.85 ERA and let go a career high 40 home runs and 118 earned runs.
1 2017: Matt Moore (San Francisco Giants)
The Giants just suffered arguably the worst season in franchise history and Matt Moore was one of the main reasons why that happened.
In his seventh year of major league experience, Moore gave up all sorts of career-worsts, including most losses (15), hits (200), earned runs (107), home run (27) and ERA (5.52).. Moore did make it to the playoffs three times with the Tampa Bay Rays (2011, ’13, ’16), but he needs to start producing better numbers in order to get there again.
Can you imagine if Moore was with the Giants when they won the Fall Classic three times? The Giants probably would have never made it there with Moore. Seven years might be a long time in the major leagues, but Moore has to have a breakout year eventually.