You Are Here > Baseball-Reference.com > Blog >

SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all B-R content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing B-R blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Baseball-Reference.com ยป Sports Reference

For more from Andy and the gang, check out their new site High Heat Stats.

Negative Game Scores

Posted by Andy on June 8, 2010

Yesterday the question came up of whether negative Game Scores are possible for pitchers. The answer is a resounding "yes." See below for more.

Check out the Game Score calculation here. It's simple math: hits, earned runs, unearned runs, and walks all count against the score. Allow enough of them and boom your score goes negative.

Here are the lowest game scores of all time within the years we have in the box scores:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR GSc BF
1 Hod Lisenbee 1936-09-11 PHA CHW L 2-17 8.0 26 17 14 4 1 2 -35 51
2 Howard Ehmke 1923-09-28 BOS NYY L 4-24 6.0 21 17 16 4 6 2 -34 42
3 Johnny Miljus 1929-07-25 CLE PHA L 3-21 3.0 13 14 14 3 0 3 -26 25
4 Flint Rhem 1933-08-04 PHI NYG L 1-18 8.0 21 16 15 3 1 0 -24 47
5 Carl Doyle 1936-07-28 PHA CHW L 6-19 4.2 16 15 10 6 1 0 -23 39
6 Hugh McQuillan 1927-09-11 (2) BSN CIN L 5-16 6.2 17 16 15 3 2 1 -23 39
7 Mike Oquist 1998-08-03 OAK NYY L 1-14 5.0 16 14 14 3 3 4 -21 32
8 Johnny Babich 1935-06-23 (1) BRO STL L 2-16 4.2 16 13 13 2 1 1 -21 31
9 Heinie Meine 1930-06-23 PIT BRO L 6-19 6.0 19 14 13 3 3 2 -20 37
10 Ted Lyons 1924-07-21 CHW WSH L 2-16 8.0 18 16 14 5 3 0 -16 48
11 Scott Sanders 1998-04-14 DET TEX L 2-11 4.0 16 11 11 3 2 0 -15 29
12 Bob Feller 1938-08-26 (1) CLE NYY L 9-15 7.0 15 15 15 9 7 2 -15 44
13 Slick Castleman 1936-06-09 NYG CIN L 4-15 8.0 18 15 15 3 2 1 -15 45
14 David Wells 1992-08-20 TOR MIL L 3-16 4.1 11 13 13 4 1 1 -14 29
15 Galen Cisco 1962-07-27 (2) BOS WSA L 1-14 5.1 16 13 11 4 2 2 -14 36
16 Jack Russell 1929-06-19 BOS NYY L 2-13 6.0 19 12 12 0 0 1 -14 36
17 Bill Travers 1977-08-14 (2) MIL CLE L 5-14 7.2 18 14 14 4 4 2 -13 45
18 Bill Sherdel 1929-07-03 STL PIT L 2-13 8.0 21 13 13 3 2 0 -13 45
19 Yovani Gallardo 2007-08-08 MIL COL L 4-19 2.2 12 11 11 3 1 2 -12 23
20 Jerry Augustine 1982-05-11 MIL KCR L 3-17 5.0 15 12 12 2 1 2 -12 31
21 Pat Caraway 1931-07-26 (2) CHW NYY L 5-22 2.0 7 13 10 8 0 0 -12 21
22 Eppa Rixey 1927-05-26 CIN CHC L 2-11 4.1 15 11 11 2 1 0 -12 30
23 Carl Mays 1923-07-17 NYY CLE L 0-13 8.0 20 13 13 4 2 1 -12 35
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/7/2010.

As you can see, the majority of these games are from long ago, when pitchers were used quite differently from today. Back then, when it was your turn to pitch, you pitched. The bar for "ineffectiveness" was quite a bit higher than it is today, when most pitchers would get pulled long before they could rack up such terrible scores. Most of the recent entries happen in cases where a pitcher needs to "take one for the team", such as in the first game of a double-header when the manager doesn't want to go to his bullpen early.

Speaking of that, here are the lowest game scores from just the last 20 seasons:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc BF
1 Mike Oquist 1998-08-03 OAK NYY L 1-14 5.0 16 14 14 3 3 4 111 74 -21 32
2 Scott Sanders 1998-04-14 DET TEX L 2-11 4.0 16 11 11 3 2 0 88 50 -15 29
3 David Wells 1992-08-20 TOR MIL L 3-16 4.1 11 13 13 4 1 1 97 55 -14 29
4 Yovani Gallardo 2007-08-08 MIL COL L 4-19 2.2 12 11 11 3 1 2 80 48 -12 23
5 Jason Jennings 2007-07-29 HOU SDP L 11-18 0.2 8 11 11 3 0 2 39 21 -11 13
6 Jon Garland 2007-07-06 (1) CHW MIN L 14-20 3.1 11 12 11 3 0 2 90 54 -11 25
7 Jason Marquis 2006-06-21 STL CHW L 5-13 5.0 14 13 13 1 3 4 91 59 -11 30
8 Zack Greinke 2005-06-10 KCR ARI L 11-12 4.1 15 11 11 2 2 3 94 55 -11 29
9 Bryan Rekar 1996-04-28 COL MON L 9-21 2.1 10 11 11 4 0 2 73 38 -11 22
10 Brian Bannister 2008-08-17 KCR NYY L 6-15 1.0 10 10 10 3 0 3 65 37 -10 16
11 Pat Rapp 1997-04-22 FLA COL L 4-13 2.2 13 10 10 2 0 1 75 43 -10 21
12 Bronson Arroyo 2008-06-24 CIN TOR L 1-14 1.0 11 10 10 1 1 3 52 33 -9 15
13 Luke Hudson 2006-08-13 KCR CLE L 0-13 0.1 8 11 10 3 1 1 47 26 -9 13
14 Jeff Fassero 2004-08-08 COL CIN L 7-14 3.0 11 11 11 4 2 1 73 43 -9 23
15 Shawn Chacon 2003-06-07 (1) COL KCR L 11-13 3.2 9 12 12 6 2 2 96 55 -9 25
16 Jimmy Anderson 2001-08-03 PIT COL L 7-12 2.1 11 11 11 3 3 1 66 40 -9 21
17 Scott Schoeneweis 2001-05-23 ANA BAL L 5-12 4.0 12 11 11 3 0 0 98 52 -9 27
18 Jamie Moyer 2000-08-09 SEA CHW L 3-19 3.2 13 11 11 2 2 3 101 55 -9 26
19 Jose Mercedes 1998-05-04 MIL SDP L 5-13 3.1 12 11 11 2 1 2 79 52 -9 25
20 Gio Gonzalez 2009-07-20 OAK MIN W 14-13 2.2 10 11 11 3 1 4 89 51 -8 21
21 Brandon Backe 2008-08-06 HOU CHC L 4-11 3.1 9 11 11 6 0 2 99 56 -8 25
22 Jimmy Anderson 2003-06-26 CIN STL L 7-11 5.0 15 11 11 3 2 2 107 62 -8 31
23 Tom Gordon 1995-10-01 KCR CLE L 7-17 1.0 9 10 10 4 1 0 63 27 -8 16
24 John Lackey 2008-09-26 LAA TEX L 1-12 2.2 12 10 10 2 1 2 73 47 -7 21
25 Jason Marquis 2006-07-18 STL ATL L 5-14 5.0 14 12 12 2 4 3 91 54 -7 31
26 Arnie Munoz 2004-06-19 CHW MON L 14-17 3.0 10 11 11 3 1 2 91 49 -7 22
27 Denny Neagle 2002-07-02 COL SFG L 5-18 2.0 10 10 10 3 0 3 58 31 -7 19
28 Roy Halladay 1999-04-29 TOR ANA L 1-17 2.1 9 11 11 3 1 2 68 35 -7 20
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/7/2010.

Note lots of good names on this list, including many pitchers early in their careers who would go on to lots of success...(Greinke, Wells, Gallardo, Halladay, Gordon as a starter...)

Edwin Jackson has the lowest Game Score in 2010: a -5 in this game.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at 6:33 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

12 Responses to “Negative Game Scores”

  1. It should be pointed out that Bill Travers -13 was the second game of a double-header. In the first, Jim Slaton had a GS of 9. That's the only double-header listed here in which the sum of the team's two starters GS produced a negative total. Hugh McQuillan and Charlie Robinson came close with their 23-23=0 performances. I recall Travers' game as one of the first old games that I looked up when Bill James first introduced game scores.

  2. Wow!!! Nice stuff. Even negative stats are fun to look at.

  3. Detroit Michael Says:

    It seems to me that the David Wells game was during a time when he was feuding with manager Cito Gaston. Wells complained that he should be in the starting rotation full-time and that Gaston shouldn't remove him from the game too quickly. Gaston left him in the game to take a double dose of punishment to sort of prove Gaston's point. I might have the details a bit wrong, but there was definitely a backstory to that outing.

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Allan Travers had a -52 (I think) in the one game he pitched for Detroit in 1912, when the regulars struck in support of Ty Cobb.

  5. Spartan Bill Says:

    Allan Travers -52
    Bill Travers -13

    No wonder Peter and Paul never let Mary pitch.

  6. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    In his 16 losses in 2006, Jason Marquis had an average game score of 29.7.

  7. Charles DeLano Says:

    These negative stats remind me of a song (Less Than Zero) I watched on the PBS series "Square One TV". It was about an Olympic athlete named Stanley O'Toole, who did so poor in games like diving, dancing, hammer throw, etc., the judges gave him scores of -24, -10, -2, -55, -etc. It goes to prove that studying negative number is at times a positive experience. Same goes for these game scores from pitchers such as Howard Ehmke, Mike Oquist, Scott Sanders, etc. Perhaps those pitchers felt like O'Toole on the days they were batting practice to the hitters. You won't see these negative scores from Ubaldo Jimenez, C.C. Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, or other Cy Young and All-Star caliber pitchers. You also (hopefully) won't see a negative performance from Stephen Strasburg tonight against PIT. Nevertheless, any pitcher can have an off day, but, fortunately, only a few have horrible outings their game scores are similar to Stanley O'Toole's Olympic results in "Less Than Zero."

  8. Johnny Twisto Says:

    PI finds 18 pitchers with two starts with negative game scores, including Dazzy Vance and Waite Hoyt. There are likely more in the non-Retrosheet era, probably even someone with three.

    It seems that a 0 game score really is a cut-off for extreme suckitude. When searching for most games under a GS of 5, all of a sudden there are many more qualifying games. Ted Lyons had 6 of them, but only one was negative.

    In a way, the negative game scores might not be as bad as the others. Lyons went 8 IP, 16 runs in his -16 start. In his five starts with a score from 1 to 5, he pitched fewer than 5 IP in each.

    Lyons is the only HOF pitcher who walked more batters than he struck out. Never knew that.

  9. DoubleDiamond Says:

    Comments on the list for the last 20 seasons:

    Two Blue Jays who later pitched perfect games.

    And two current members of the Phillies starting rotation.

    It's interesting that the Phillies themselves don't show up as either the pitcher's own team (I guess Manuel, Bowa, Francona, Fregosi, and Leyva have/had quick hooks) or the opponent (despite some years of heavy offense).

  10. Three HoFers in the 1st table, Ted Lyons, Bob Feller, and Eppa Rixey.

  11. david whitehill Says:

    Gio Gonzales pulled off the win!

    Actually, I guess his team won...

  12. I remember the Mike Oquist game. Art Howe publicly apologized to him for keeping him out there when he clearly had no stuff that day... the bullpen had been wrecked closing out a couple close games and they had nobody available for more than an inning. Therefore, Oquist had to go until his regular numbers were reached.

    LaRussa would have just brought in a backup infielder...