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November 9, 2012 at 9:32 am ET
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Your 2012 Terry Felton Award Winner

Major League Baseball’s overlooked honor is going unnoticed again. With no fanfare, the 2012 Terry Felton Award has been bestowed. And the crickets are chirping.

So here I am with a bullhorn.

The guy they named as this year’s winner stank in both leagues, which might be why MLB didn’t give out separate AL and NL awards. I don’t think they got around to awarding a Terry Felton in the National League in 2011, anyway, and nobody cared.

It’s amazing that the man deemed this season’s worst pitcher was traded—not that he was dealt away, but that someone gave up a live human being to get him.

That July 20 transaction might’ve been the difference for the honoree, the Rockies’ Jonathan Sanchez, late of the Royals. It’s easy for a pitcher to stink in Colorado. To precede that with a putrid performance in Kansas City proves it wasn’t just the altitude.

The relevant numbers: 1 win, 9 losses and an 8.07 ERA in 15 starts, the first 12 with K.C.

He went 1-6, 7.76 with the Royals, then was traded for Jeremy Guthrie and regressed, surrendering 17 hits and nine walks in a little over 11 innings while going 0-3 with a 9.53.

Those are some bad numbers, and Sanchez’s overall awfulness goes beyond those totals. Mostly, we’re talking about old-fashioned pitching records, which is where Felton distinguished himself by compiling more losses (16) than anyone who never won an MLB game.

Even using more newfangled metrics, though, Sanchez was horrible. Not as horrible as last year’s winner, Brian Matusz, who was historically inept. But plenty horrible.

You think WAR is a valuable tool? Sanchez’s Wins Above Replacement number (stat geeks: I’m using rWAR) was minus 1.8. That means he cost his teams about two wins when compared to a typical scrub.

Some guys were even worse WARriors. Chris Volstad had a -1.9 but somehow won three games. Tim Linecum (-2.1) had a 5.18 ERA but otherwise posted stats that weren’t too terrible. Nick Blackburn pulled a -2.3 WAR–worst among pitchers who threw at least 40 innings in 2012—but managed to win four times.

Our old pal Ross Ohlendorf was tops in another measure of recent vintage. He had the worst ERA+ (47; the stat considers home ballpark effect) among guys who pitched as much as he did. His record: 4-4, 7.77. Lousy, but not Feltonesque.

The Felton selection shouldn’t be based on just one comprehensive, incomprehensible stat. Remember: WAR and ERA+ didn’t exist in Felton’s time (his lifetime WAR, by the way: -2.1), so for his award the traditional stats get a lot of weight.

Therefore you might think, What about Dice-K? He had a higher ERA than Sanchez and helped drag the Red Sox to their first losing season since 1997. And Heath Bell’s misadventures were well chronicled by our Marlins guy, Scott Fendley.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was a contender, for sure. His 1-7 record was only slightly better than Sanchez’s, and the two tied in ERA+ (53). Dice-K gave up more than two homers every nine innings. Bell blew eight of 27 save chances and quickly lost the confidence of his manager and teammates.

Neither was as bad as Sanchez, though, in another category. I’m going to pull out the WHIP. Yes, it’s not as old a stat as wins or ERA, but fantasy (nee Rotisserie) players have been using it since 1979, the year in which Felton made his first big-league appearance.

Sanchez blew away the competition with a 2.088 WHIP. That’s easily the worst by anybody who threw at least 20 innings and significantly worse than Dice-K’s 1.708, Bell’s 1.555 and even Ohlendorf’s 1.767.

So Sanchez, who in 2009 threw the Giants’ first no-hitter in 33 years, was miserable at three of the ways in which pitchers can help their teams: keeping runners off base, holding down the score, and winning ballgames.

But the arbitration-eligible Sanchez should take heart. Last year’s Felton winner, Matusz, bounced back after a poor start this season: He was sent to the minors but rejoined the Orioles as a left-handed bullpen specialist and contributed to the team’s successful stretch run.

Another reason for hope: Sanchez, too, is a lefty.

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