MLB Power Rankings: The 25 Most Painful Pitchers To Watch in Baseball

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIJune 29, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The 25 Most Painful Pitchers To Watch in Baseball

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    I've watched a lot of baseball in my young life. I've seen things that are frustrating, nauseating and heartbreaking take place on the diamond.

    In my time, I've come to a conclusion: there are few things in the game more sickening than watching a struggling pitcher try to regain control of a situation when he's in over his head.

    In this slideshow are the 25 most painful MLB pitchers to watch—based on anything from control problems and the inability to deceive opposing hitters to being repeatedly shelled or looking out of place on the mound.

    Enjoy this list, but don't read it right after lunch.

No. 25: Ivan Nova, Yankees

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    With a 3.6 BB/9 rate and a strikeout rate under five, Nova just hasn't been able to make his pitch this year.

    His 88.8 percent contact rate is third-worst in the game—that's not easy to watch.

No. 24: Derek Lowe, Braves

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    Lowe's not a bad pitcher, though his 115 ERA  is the worst he's ever had in a full season.

    The problem is his control. Only 35 percent of his pitches this year have been in the strike zone, lowest in baseball.

No. 23: Wade Davis, Rays

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    Davis' nice-looking 4.32 ERA is masking a 5.13 FIP and 5.18 xFIP.

    His 4.2 K/9 rate isn't much of a surprise given that opposing hitters are making contact 89 percent of the time that they swing.

No. 22: Rafael Betancourt, Rockies

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    For fans who think baseball games take too long, Betancourt is Exhibit A.

    At an average of 31.3 seconds, he was the slowest player to the plate in baseball last year.

No. 21: Fausto Carmona, Indians

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    Carmona finally seemed to have chased his demons last year when he won 13 games with a 3.77 ERA, but he's looked worse than ever in 2011 at 4-10 with a 5.89 ERA.

    The most agonizing part is that he's been unlucky, as evidenced by his 3.97 xFIP.

No. 20: Matt Garza, Cubs

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    Garza's actually pitched quite well this year since being traded to the Cubs, which is why he's been hard to watch—he's gotten unlucky.

    Compare his 4.11 ERA to his 2.87 FIP and 2.89 xFIP and it's got to be really frustrating for fans on the North Side.

No. 19: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox

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    Boy, Matsuzaka has been a disappointment.

    His 5.30 ERA, 5.48 xFIP, and 5.5 BB/9 would be bad for anyone, but they'd be less saddening from a lower-profile player.

No. 18: Brian Matusz, Orioles

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    He's only 24, so it's way too early to call Matusz a bust. But his control problems (4.0 BB/9) and horrific home run tendencies (2.8 HR/9) are disillusioning for a guy who has so much natural talent.

No. 17: Tim Lincecum, Giants

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    Few things in this world are better than watching Lincecum make mincemeat out of opposing hitters (unless he's facing your team), but it's hard not to cringe thinking about the injury risk.

    His unorthodox delivery is great for shutting down opposing hitters, but it also places a lot of stress on his body.

No. 16: Barry Zito, Giants

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    He's made only three MLB starts this year, but Zito's been terrible even when healthy.

    He has trouble getting strikeouts, and his control is slipping, but he's still making more money per start than most of us do in five years.

No. 15: Mitch Talbot, Indians

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    Talbot doesn't miss many bats (87.9% contact rate), and he doesn't strike out enough opposing hitters (5.7 K/9) to make up for his control problems (3.9 BB/9).

    You might see his .340 BABIP and think his 4.91 ERA is bad luck—until you see his 5.54 FIP.

No. 14: Edinson Volquez, Reds

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    Volquez knows how to strike batters out, but that's the only thing he's done well this year.

    He has trouble finding the plate (6.1 BB/9), and he's having real trouble with the long ball (1.4 HR/9).

No. 13: Tim Wakefield, Red Sox

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    Personally, I think Wakefield is fun to watch—I wish more pitchers threw knuckleballs like he does.

    But many people disagree about the merits of the knuckleball and are put off by his perceived slow pace.

No. 12: Brad Penny, Tigers

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    Simply put, Penny's not fooling anyone this year.

    His 3.9 K/9 rate is bad even by contact-pitcher standards, and his 89.7 percent contact rate is the highest among qualified pitchers.

No. 11: Joba Chamberlain, Yankees

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    Joba's been quite successful out of the bullpen for the last year-and-a-half, but he's never looked quite right to me on the mound.

    I'm no scout and my observations may be baseless, but whenever I see him pitch, he just looks uncomfortable.

No. 10: Sean O'Sullivan, Royals

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    O'Sullivan has been objectively terrible this year—in 53.1 innings for the Royals, he has a 6.92 ERA and has given up nine long balls.

    His 0.69 K/BB ratio (no, that's not a typo) would be the worst in baseball if he had enough innings to qualify.

No. 9: Joe Nathan, Twins

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    Nathan was one of the best closers in baseball before he underwent Tommy John surgery last year, and his glorious comeback hasn't worked out the way he'd planned.

    The once-elite fireman is walking five batters per nine innings and owns a 7.71 ERA to date.

No. 8: Javier Vazquez, Marlins

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    Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Vazquez is following up on the worst year of his career with an even worse showing in 2011.

    His 6.37 ERA is equal to his K/9 rate—not many pitchers have that kind of distinction.

No. 7: Andy Sonnanstine, Rays

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    In 13 outings this year, Sonnanstine is 0-2 with a 5.88 ERA and an even uglier 7.38 FIP.

    He's not fooling anyone, as evidenced by his 89.9 percent contract rate and the fact that he's given as many home runs as strikeouts.

No. 6: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

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    Talk about control problems.

    The flame-throwing southpaw has a 6.60 ERA in 18 outings this season, thanks largely to his insane 12.6 BB/9 rate.

No. 5: Vin Mazzaro, Royals

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    Not since the dawn of the modern era had a relief pitcher allowed 14 runs in under three innings before Vin Mazzaro did it in the Indians' 19-1 rout of the Royals last month.

    As a Cleveland fan, I quite enjoyed it, but even I had to feel bad for the guy.

No. 4: Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays

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    A lot of people pegged Drabek as a Rookie of the Year candidate before the season. So much for that.

    Now that he's got a 5.70 ERA with more walks than strikeouts, it's safe to say things haven't worked out as planned.

No. 3: Francisco Liriano, Twins

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    Liriano's control problems and difficulty getting strikeouts make him incredibly frustrating to watch (his no-hitter will go down as one of the least dominant in MLB history).

    Even worse, his phenomenal performance last year turns what would otherwise be a struggle into a collapse.

No. 2: Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers

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    He's a once-great pitcher reduced to a shell of his former self, a wild closer who's walked nine batters in less than 13 innings of work and he's one of the slowest pitchers to the plate in all of baseball.

    Broxton is the definition of unwatchable. 

No. 1: Livan Hernandez, Nationals

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    One of the most extreme pitch-to-contact hurlers in the game, Hernandez has trouble finding the strike zone (just 38.3 percent of his pitches this year have been over the plate) and doesn't fool hitters even when he does. As a result, he's incredibly susceptible to fluctuations of luck.

    In addition, Hernandez is known as one of the slowest pitchers in the game, both in terms of how quickly he works and how fast he throws.

    I saw him once when he was with the Diamondbacks, and I swear that, on multiple occasions, the radar gun read "45 mph."

    Obviously it's working for him now—he's got a 3.81 ERA in 17 starts this year—but man, is he rough to watch.

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