Long extra inning games in meaningless seasons can be incredible. I've previously written about one of my favorite in-person baseball memories -- Bobby Dernier's 12th inning inside-the-park three-run home run in the completely meaningless 1989 season. That game, a game that brought their record to 16-19 in a season in which they finished last, a whopping 26 games behind the Cubs and 7 games behind the 5th place Pirates, is among my favorite in-person sporting events. It's topped probably only by the two best World Series games I've seen - Games 5a and 5b in the 2008 World Series and Game 5 in the 1993 Series. That 12 inning game in a horrible season was that good.
Saturday night's game was not that game. Saturday night's game was miserable. Yes, it's fun to recount the number of pitches thrown, the players used, that Tuffy Gosewich made two outs in the same inning against two different position-players pitching, and the length of the game, but as a baseball game watched by a Phillies fan, it was terrible. There were countless missed opportunities. There were horrible strategic decisions.
And when the game was actually decided, it was decided in a way that made it completely useless to keep watching. It's not like the extra inning game where the opposing team scores a run or two in the top of the inning and you hope for your team to score more in the bottom to keep the epic game going or even to win it. No, when the D-Backs scored 5 in the top of the 18th, the game was over. There was no hope. But unlike if the game were an away game and the opposing team scored to beat the Phillies in extra innings, we still had to wait for the Phillies to flail at the plate to end the game.
In other words, it was a horrible game.
But, in the midst of the horrible game, I think we may have watched something else historic -- it is very likely Casper Wells had the worst game every by a major league baseball player.
As a hitter, Wells was 0 for 7 with 4 strikeouts. In order, his plate appearances went: strikeout, flyout (with one man on), strikeout (with one man on), strikeout, strikeout (with one man on), walk, groundout (two men on), and flyout (two men on). He left 7 men on base, including 5 in extra innings.
That would be an awful night alone, but then, as we all know, Wells was brought in to pitch in the 18th inning. Wells got the first two batters out, looking like he might redeem himself a bit. But, that wasn't to be. The next six batters went walk, double, walk, single, walk, single. Four runs had scored, and after John McDonald replaced Wells, another of Wells' runners scored. All told, Wells pitched 2/3 of an inning and gave up 5 earned runs, 3 hits, and 3 walks. After the game, he has a 27.00 ERA and a 9.00 WHIP.
Combined, Wells' line from Saturday night has got to be the worst in major league history: 0 for 7 with 4 strikeouts and 7 men left on base, and 5 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning with 6 hits/walks.
I have not figured out a way to search easily to test my hypothesis about this being the worst night in major league history (calling Jayson Stark's crack research team!), but I did think of one way to give it a whirl. Part of Fangraphs' awesomeness is its win probability added (WPA) stat. It shows how much a player increases the team's probability of winning a game. Here's a web page that tells you all you'd want to know about the stat. (And if you don't fully understand the graphs we put at the end of our game recaps, that page will help you.)
Wells' WPA was terrible Saturday night. As a batter, he had a -.267 WPA. As a pitcher, it was worse. He was at -.487. Put them together, and his overall WPA for the night was -.754. In the world of WPA, that's worth over 1.5 losses all by himself!
Some quick googling found that the record for the worst one-game WPA for a hitter is -.820, by Juan Rivera on June 1, 2003. As bad as Rivera's day was, I would argue that Wells' was worse, as he stunk it up in more than one way, and his awfulness directly led to the team losing. Whereas Rivera's team overcame his horrible day and won.
What about pitchers? In theory, a pitcher who comes in and loses a team's big lead in the bottom of the ninth should have a WPA close to 1. And I found a pitcher who fit that bill - Bob Wickman on June 30, 2006. He entered the game in the 9th inning to hold an 8-4 lead. Instead, he gave up a run-scoring single followed by an Adam Dunn game-ending grand slam. Wickman was responsible for taking the Indians' 97.8% chance of winning and turning it into a loss (a 0% chance of winning). As a result, he had a -.978 WPA for the game.
In theory, any of the games on this list of walk-off grand slams when the team was down by 3 runs at the time should have a pitcher with a WPA like Wickman's. But, I'd still argue Wells' night was worse if only because it dragged on and on and he was able to rack that up on both ends of the WPA spectrum - as a hitter and a pitcher.
Unlike the link I found about Rivera's worst-ever hitting WPA, I have been unable to find a worst-ever pitching ERA to confirm my theory about Wickman-esque games. Nor have I been able to find a link about worst-ever combined nights, like Wells'.
So for now, we can say that there's a very good chance Wells had the worst-ever combined night, and there's a good argument he had the worst night ever if you think the length of the game and his misery as a pitcher and hitter should count for something.
I wish Casper Wells all the best as a person and a baseball player, but for this one night, he was arguably the worst ever.