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Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The worst All-Star pitching staffs

By David Schoenfield

As Ron Washington rolled out one reliever after another last night, I made a reference in my running diary (check it out!) to other nondescript All-Star pitching staffs. I mentioned the 1996 AL staff -- Charles Nagy, Chuck Finley, Roger Pavlik, Troy Percival and Roberto Hernandez were used. The four pitchers not used in the game were Andy Pettitte, John Wetteland, Jeff Montgomery and Jose Mesa. That's a pretty weak staff, with only Pettitte a possible future Hall of Famer. Only four starters made the team, including Pavlik, who had a 4.82 ERA at the break but was 11-2. It wasn't a great year for AL starters -- Juan Guzman was the only starter with an ERA under 3.00 and Pat Hentgen would win the Cy Young Award --but some good pitchers like Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Alex Fernandez and Kevin Appier failed to make the squad.

Anyway, that staff probably ranks up there. I mentioned the 1979 AL staff. Now, in bringing up worst staffs, I guess you would consider things like career value but also how good they were that season. Here's that '79 staff:

Nolan Ryan, Angels: He was 12-6, 2.54 at the break, but his ERA ballooned to 5.59 in the second half so overall it wasn't a great season for him.
Ron Guidry, Yankees: He'd go 18-8 and lead the AL with a 2.79 ERA.
Tommy John, Yankees: Borderline Hall of Famer who went 21-9, 2.96 that year.
Bob Stanley, Red Sox: He finished 16-12, 3.99 with 250 hits in 216 innings with just 56 strikeouts. He was 11-6, 3.29 at the break. Fifty-six strikeouts in 216 innings? Yes.
Dave Lemanczyk, Blue Jays: Toronto's rep, he'd finish 37-63 in his career.
Mark Clear, Angels: A rookie reliever who was 10-2, 2.45 at the break. Threw hard, couldn't throw strikes often enough over his career.
Sid Monge, Indians: Cleveland's rep, a lefty reliever who was pretty good that year -- 12-10, 2.45 in 130 innings.
Jim Kern, Rangers: A dominant reliever in '79, posting a 1.57 ERA over 140 innings. Threw 2 2/3 innings in the game. Even had a Brian Wilson-like beard. Lost the game and paid the price with those 140 innings as he was never again effective.
Don Stanhouse, Orioles: Nicknamed "Stan the Man Unsual," he was 6-1 with a 2.64 ERA and 12 saves at the break, but with 34 walks and 20 strikeouts. For his career, he had more walks than strikeouts. Probably one of the worst All-Stars ever.

I'd guess the presence of Ryan, Guidry and John prevents this from being the worst staff ever. Eventual Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan won 23 games but had a 3.83 ERA at the break. Still, hard to believe Stanhouse was selected over him. Boston's Dennis Eckersley was 9-5, 3.28 at the break but had allowed 21 home runs. Jim Palmer was injured. So you ended up with Steamer Stanley and Mark Clear.

I'm sure further research would reveal worse staffs. Take 1983, for example. Neither squad is likely to have a future Hall of Famer, unless Lee Smith makes it:

AL: Dave Stieb (starter), Ron Guidry, Rick Honeycutt, Bob Stanley (again!), Rick Sutcliffe, Matt Young, Aurelio Lopez, Dan Quisenberry, Tippy Martinez
NL: Mario Soto (starter), Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Rogers, Atlee Hammaker, Dave Dravecky, Pascual Perez, Lee Smith, Jesse Orosco, Gary Lavelle, Bill Dawley

Stieb, Guidry, Soto, Valenzuela and Rogers were all great at their peaks but didn't last long enough to have Hall of Fame careers. Worst ever? Not sure.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.