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A Tale of Two Former Oakland A's Pitchers: Bartolo Colon and Vin Mazzaro

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It was a good day for Bartolo Colon.

Colon is a national treasure. Oakland A's fans already knew this after spending two seasons watching him casually fire 90 mph fastballs with pinpoint accuracy, and the rest of the league figured it out when Big Bart returned to the New York stage and began to regularly don (and often accidentally doff) a batting helmet. But on Saturday, he authored his masterpiece, his magnum opus, his piece de resistance: he went deep. In fact, the 42-year-old became the oldest player in history to hit his first career homer.

The long ball came in the 247th plate appearance of Colon's 19-year career. That's really not that many PAs, when you consider that an NL pitcher will rack up around 50-70 per year, so you have to wonder how many dingers he'd have if he hadn't spent most of his career in the AL (but NO that is still not a good argument against the DH).

Best quotes from the broadcasters:

"The impossible has happened!"

"This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball!"

"I want to say that was one of the longest home run trots I've ever seen, but I think that's how fast he runs."

"Home run Bartolo Colon! Repeating: Home run, Bartolo Colon!"

"Colon carried his bat with him until he was about 10 feet from first base."

A's fans will remember that this highlight nearly came several years ago in an Oakland uniform. Here's how close he got in 2013, complete with his signature move of carrying the bat with him as he ran to first:

Some more stats regarding Colon's bomb:

- Distance: 365 feet
- Exit velocity: 97 mph
- HR trot time: 30.6 seconds

Congratulations Bartolo, and thank you for making the world a better place just by being you.

* * *

It was a bad day for Vin Mazzaro.

Mazzaro is the owner of a dubious record. Once a highly touted prospect in the Oakland A's system, he was dealt to the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2011 season for outfielder David DeJesus. But on May 16 of that season, he entered in relief and allowed 14 earned runs in 2⅓ innings in what Joe Posnanski appropriately dubbed the worst pitching performance ever.

Only once had a reliever ever allowed more earned runs in one game, back in 1925, and never had anyone done so while recording so few outs. There have been other similarly bad games, but not since WWII and most of them feature several unearned runs or 6+ innings pitched or both. The last pitcher to allow 14 earned runs in a game was Oakland starter Mike Oquist in 1998, and before that Milwaukee starter Bill Travers in 1977. Mazzaro did in only a couple innings of relief.

I bring all of this up because on Thursday Mazzaro struck again. He had been picked up by the Giants last winter, and in the 5th inning he entered in relief of Matt Cain. There were already two runs and he faced a 6-3 deficit, with runners on first and second. His play-by-play log:

- Error (E-4)
- Double (2 RBI, both charged to Cain)
- Groundout (by the opposing pitcher)
- Single (RBI)
- Double (RBI)
- Single (RBI)
- Walk
- HBP (RBI)
- Single (2 RBI)
- Double (RBI)
(Next pitcher inherited two runners and allowed both to score)

All told, the Rockies scored 13 runs in the inning, with nine of them being charged to Mazzaro (seven earned). And though he was facing the Rockies, the game took place in AT&T Park rather than Coors, so we can't even blame it on the stadium. His final line: ⅓ ip, 9 runs, 7 ER, 6 hits, 1 BB, 35 pitches. The only batter he retired was the other pitcher.

So, where does that rank among the worst relief outings? This time I only took it back to the year 2000. In that time there have been only 25 instances of a reliever allowing at least nine runs, and nobody else shows up on that list twice except our man Vin. Of the other nine-run games, 15 of them came in outings of at least one full inning, leaving only four (including Mazzaro's) in which the pitcher only recorded one or two outs. Therefore, I think it's safe to say that Mazzaro has now authored two of the 10 worst relief outings of the 21st century, between his ownership of the single worst performance and now also another top-10 stinker.

From there, it's only one leap of logic toward this statement: Vin Mazzaro is arguably the worst relief pitcher of the 21st century so far, from the perspective of who has suffered the worst anecdotal failures. And the guy with possibly the next-best claim? Another former Oakland Athletic, Jesus Colome, who has outings of (1⅓ ip, 9 runs, 4 ER) and (⅓ ip, 8 runs, 7 ER).

Bonus: Mazzaro now has the highest ERA in Giants franchise history, with a mark of 63.00 over two outings.

* * *

While we're on the subject of former A's pitchers, here's a piece of news that should bum you out even though it hurts Oakland's division rival: A.J. Griffin is back on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness.

After going down with Tommy John surgery prior to the 2014 season, Griffin missed two full seasons as he battled back both from his elbow operation and also from shoulder complications. The A's finally cut him loose last winter, and he spent all of April making that look like a huge mistake after the Rangers gave him a chance. His line through his first five starts:

Griffin, first 5 starts: 2.32 ERA, 31 ip, 26 Ks, 11 BB, 2 HR

He even had a nine-strikeout performance against the Blue Jays, matching his career high (which he set against the 2012 Jays and the 2013 Astros). It's a bummer to see our team make the wrong call on a player, especially to the benefit of a direct competitor, but it's impossible to be anything but thrilled for Griffin's comeback. Now the question is whether this shoulder issue is a minor bump in the road, or the proverbial other shoe that the A's thought might drop when they released him. Best of luck to A.J. as he works his way back yet again.

* * *

This last pitcher has never been on the A's, but his name is Ryan Mason so he's really only one letter away from being a current member of our club. And he goes to Cal, so he's local and he's probably best friends with Marcus Semien and Mark Canha (citation needed). Anyway, here's what he did last week:

Whaaaaat. Here's a more detailed look at it:

You know who I bet would love that trick? Bartolo Colon, owner of the MLB record for most consecutive strikes thrown.