Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published daily that focuses on stats that go beyond the numbers.
When teams break Spring Training and get ready to start the season on Opening Day, there’s an expectation that the players they send out on that Opening Day line-up are the best the team has to offer that season. The same goes for the Opening Day pitcher.
Over the course of the Brewers history, Ben Sheets has had the most Opening Day starts with six. This year’s Opening Day starter, Yovani Gallardo, started his third Opening Day game, tying him with Jim Slaton and Teddy Higuera for most Opening Game starts by a pitcher.
Some seasons, however, have seen the Brewers send out an Opening Day pitcher who had less-than-a-stellar season with the club. In some cases, that Opening Day pitcher was not with the club later that season because of a trade, or that Opening Day starter was eventually relegated to the bullpen because of poor performance.
While it may be a little harsh to call the following pitchers the “worst” Opening Day starting pitchers in Brewers history, the bottom line is that these Opening Day starters did not fit the bill as the “best” the Brewers had to offer that season.
Following are the Brewers Opening Day pitchers who compiled the lowest winning percentage that same year.
Pitcher, Year, W-L, Win Pct. (Opening Day performance)
Steve Woodard, 2000: 1-7 .125 (Game ended in a 3-3 tie due to rain, Woodard no-decision; 5IP, five hits, 3ER, four strikeouts, one walk)
Rafael Roque, 1999: 1-6 .143 (Brewers won 10-8, Roque no-decision; 2IP, one hit, 1ER, one strikeout, five walks)
Bill Wegman, 1993: 4-14 .222 (Brewers lost 3-1, Wegman got the loss; 8IP, 10 hits, 3ER, six strikeouts, one walk)
Bill Travers, 1977: 4-12 .250 (Brewers lost 3-0; Travers got the loss; 7.2IP, 11 hits, 3ER, one strikeout, one walk)
Mark Knudson, 1991: 1-3 .250 (Brewers won 5-4, Knudson got the win; 5.1IP, 5 hits, 3ER, three strikeouts, no walks)
Chris Bosio, 1990: 4-9 .308 (Brewers lost 2-1, Bosio no-decision; 5IP, five hits, 1ER, one strikeout, one walk)
Ricky Bones, 1996: 7-14 .333 (Brewers won 15-9, Bones no-decision; 4.2IP, 12 hits, 4ER, one strikeout, no walks)
Cal Eldred, 1998: 4-8 .333 (Brewers lost 2-1, Eldred no-decision; 6IP, five hits, 1ER, four strikeouts, two walks)
Jeff Suppan, 2009: 7-12 .368 (Brewers lost 10-6, Suppan got the loss; 4IP, 6 hits, 6ER, one strikeout, one walk)
Jim Slaton, 1975: 11-18 .379 (Brewers lost 5-2, Slaton got the loss; 2.2IP, seven hits, 5ER, four strikeouts, two walks)
Don Sutton, 1983: 8-13 .381 (Brewers lost 3-2, Sutton got the loss; 8IP, six hits, 2ER, four strikeouts, three walks)
Note: Woodard’s only win with the Brewers in 2000 was a 14-8 victory over the Cubs where he gave up six earned runs and 13 hits in five innings of work. He was later traded that season to the Cleveland Indians. Roque made his Major League debut in 1998 on August 1 and compiled a 4-2 record that season. One of the interesting facts about Roque that year was he gave up both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s 64th home runs that year. Roque was named Brewers Opening Day starter for 1999 and did not win a game in his first eight starts that season.
Here’s a look at the five Brewers Opening Day pitchers who had the worst ERAs that season.
Pitcher, Year, ERA
Steve Woodard, 2000: 5.96
Ricky Bones, 1996: 5.83
Rafael Roque, 1999: 5.34
Don August, 1989: 5.31
Jeff Suppan, 2009: 5.29
Bill Travers, 1977: 5.25
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Just under half of the major league teams (14 of the 30 teams) have not had a 20-game winning pitcher on their staff in this century. Two teams, Colorado and Tampa Bay, have never had a 20-game winner. Of those teams that have had a 20-game winner in their franchise’s history, two teams, San Diego and Washington (previously Montreal) have not had a 20-game winner since 1978.
Following are the teams that have the longest drought since their last 20-game winner.
Team Last 20-game winner year, pitcher
San Diego 1978-Gaylord Perry
Washington* 1978-Ross Grimsley
Baltimore 1984-Mike Boddicker
Milwaukee 1986-Teddy Higuera
Cincinnati 1988-Danny Jackson
Kansas City 1989-Bret Saberhagen
LA Dodgers 1990-Ramon Martinez
Pittsburgh 1991-John Smiley
Detroit 1991-Bill Gullickson
Colorado 1993-Never had a 20-game winner
San Francisco 1993-Bill Swift/John Burkett
Tampa Bay 1998-Never had a 20-game winner
Texas 1998-Rick Helling
* Previously Montreal
Note: With less than 60 games to go in the current season, it looks like most of the teams above will go another year without a 20-game winner. The Tigers, however, with Justin Verlander‘s 14 wins and going for number 15 today, have a good chance to give Detroit its first 20-game winner since Gullickson in 1991. Outside chances for this year include the Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw-12 wins), Brewers (Yovani Gallardo-12 wins) and Pirates (Kevin Correia-12 wins).