Retrosheet


Fun With Retrosheet Data, Episode 4

By Tom Ruane

A while back, I started collecting my Retrosheet posts in a place on the web-site. This series eventually grew to encompass several articles. Here are the others:

Fun With Retrosheet Data
Fun With Retrosheet Data, the Sequel
Fun With Retrosheet Data, Episode 3
Fun With Retrosheet Data, Episode 5

I hope at least some of this is of general interest and, as always:

Thanks for your patience.

List of Articles (starting with most recent)

Changes In Pitch Outcomes: 1988-2016 (July 2, 2017)
Fun with a Team's OPS (June 20, 2016)
A Look at Run Differentials (June 18, 2016)
Starting Pitching Lines (May 24, 2015)
The Greatest Incomplete Starts (May 20, 2015)
Most Surprising Pitching Performances (July 5, 2014)
Both Starting Pitchers Making MLB Exits (May 26, 2014)
Both Starting Pitchers Making MLB Debuts (May 19, 2014)
The Age of Starting Lineups (May 5, 2014)
Hot Starts to Careers, the Pitching Edition (April 29, 2014)
Hot Starts to Careers, the Batting Edition (April 28, 2014)
Hard to Hit Pitchers (April 5, 2014)
Unique Batting Lines (August 26, 2012)
Come-From-Behind Wins and Losses (July 8, 2012)
A Tour of Team Pitching Logs (July 7, 2012)
A Tour of Team Batting Logs (July 5, 2012)
Consecutive Winless Starts (June 23, 2012)
Low-Hit Clusters (June 19, 2012)
When Winning Streaks Collide (June 14, 2012)
Defensive Juggling (May 8, 2012)
Incomplete Games By Position (April 8, 2012)
A Look at Triple-Crown Leaders (December 19, 2011)
Do Only Slow Runners Ground into a Lot of DPs? (December 15, 2011)
The Homering-est Teammates (and Multiple Debuts) (December 12, 2011)
Multiple Hitting Streaks (November 29, 2011)
The Most Exciting Games (October 28, 2011)
League Leaders With the Fewest Games Played (October 14, 2011)
Nelson Cruz Made Me Do It (October 15, 2011)
Players With The Highest Percentage of Post-Season Homers (October 7, 2011)
Doubling Their Home Runs (September 27, 2011)
Top Hitting Streaks By Batting Order and Defensive Position (September 27, 2011)
Come-From-Behind Batting Champions, An Update (September 26, 2011)
Best Career Marks By Park (September 24, 2011)
Come-From-Behind Batting Champions (September 23, 2011)
Best Career Hitters By Lineup Position (September 18, 2011)
Best Hitters By Lineup Position (September 16, 2011)
More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About 1-0 Games (September 15, 2011)
Best/Worst Month for a Team's Pitchers (September 14, 2011)
Batters Supporting Starting Pitchers (September 10, 2011)
Most Strikeouts Between Hits Allowed... And Then Some (September 5, 2011)
Double-Digits In Strikeouts and Hits Allowed (September 3, 2011)
Bases-Loaded Plate Appearances (August 31, 2011)
Palindromic At-Bat Line (August 27, 2011)
Most At-Bats With the Bases Loaded (August 25, 2011)
Starting Infields, Then And Now (August 24, 2011)
Easy schedule runs (July 15, 2011)
Parity Comes to MLB (May 29, 2011)
Two .400 Hitters on a Team (May 3, 2011)
Pitcher versus Team (July 22, 2010)
Expected Pitcher Match-Ups (July 21, 2010)
Consecutive Starts With IPs greater than or equal to Hits (July 19, 2010)
Consecutive Starts With Ks greater than or equal to IPs (July 17,2010)
Pitcher Match-Ups (July 16, 2010)
Most Blown Saves Combo (June 3, 2009)

The Age of Starting Lineups

This is an article about the age of starting lineups. Although I suspect this topic has been covered before by other baseball researchers (and if you send me links to their work I will add them here), I suspect that few if any of them have beat the subject as thoroughly to death as I am about to do.

We'll start by simply looking at the average age of the nine starters (or ten, in the DH-era AL) and then move on from there.

When I started this, I was hoping that the youngest starting lineup in the last 100 years would be something surprising. After all, there was a good chance that some random game out of the 169461 I looked at would eclipse any games that were already well-known for containing a lot of young players. Like, for example, the all-rookie lineup the Houston Colt .45s fielded near the end of the 1963 season.

So I went and determined the average age of each team's lineups in all those games (and we are talking about 338922 possibilities) and here are the two youngest starting lineups (and ages will be expressed throughout this article as YY.DDD: the number of years followed by the number of days):

 Age      Date    Team
20.001 1963- 9-27 HOU N

 Age   Pos Player
19.079  SS Sonny Jackson
20.008  2B Joe Morgan
21.198  CF Jim Wynn
19.179  1B Rusty Staub
21.161  RF Aaron Pointer
19.342  LF Brock Davis
19.225  3B Glenn Vaughan
20.355  C  Jerry Grote
17.294  P  Jay Dahl

 Age      Date    Team
20.318 1963- 9-29 HOU N

 Age   Pos Player
19.227  SS Glenn Vaughan
20.010  2B Joe Morgan
21.200  LF Jim Wynn
19.181  1B Rusty Staub
25.102  3B Bob Aspromonte
20.158  CF Ivan Murrell
18.232  RF John Paciorek
23.069  C  John Bateman
19.224  P  Chris Zachary

Or, in other words, exactly the two games you might have expected to be at the top of such a list. By the way, the last game, a 13-4 Houston victory, is the youngest winning lineup (the Colt .45s lost the top game 10-3) and is also famous because John Paciorek, in his only major league appearance, reached base in all five of his at-bats, scoring four times.

Despite the predictability of the outcome, there are still things of interest here. Seven different teenagers started in these games, five in the first and four in the second (only two of them, Staub and Vaughan, started in both). Three others hadn't yet turned twenty-one. In the first game, four players (Jackson and Dahl plus relievers Danny Coombs and Joe Hoerner) were making their major league debut. Five others (Morgan, Pointer, Vaughan, Grote and pinch-hitter Mike White) had debuted within the previous week.

These are the only games I found with more than three teenage starters. And it doesn't look like this is a record that will be approached any time soon. Here are the last two times a team had more than one:

   Date       Team   Players
1971- 9-21    SD  N  Jay Franklin (18.188)  Mike Ivie (19.043)
1967- 9-29    CIN N  Gary Nolan (19.124)  Johnny Bench (19.295)

The last three times three teenagers started for a team (not counting the 1963 Colt .45s)?

   Date       Team   Players
1962- 9-30(2) LA  A  Ed Kirkpatrick (17.356)  19.063 Dick Simpson (19.063)  Bobby Darwin (19.228)
1956- 9-29    BAL A  Ron Moeller (17.350)  Brooks Robinson (19.133)  Wayne Causey (19.276)
1953- 9-22    DET A  Bob Miller (18.068)  Reno Bertoia (18.256)  Al Kaline (18.276)

I included the last one because it was the only time in the last century that a team started more than two players under the age of nineteen.

There is something else extraordinary about the first game that will be evident when we look at the ten youngest starting lineups (and related entries for the same team, like the second one above, have been removed):

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
20.001 17.294 21.198 1963- 9-27    HOU N
22.069 19.287 24.233 1919- 9-10    PHI A
22.275 18.131 28.077 1947- 9-28(2) PHI N
22.284 20.230 24.304 1917- 9-27    PHI A
22.304 19.064 28.024 1939- 9-29(1) BOS N
22.311 20.142 26.271 1967-10- 1    NY  N
22.339 20.116 27.349 1966-10- 2    CAL A
22.347 18.358 26.291 1963- 9-28    KC  A
22.350 19.138 28.111 1914- 9-29    CLE A
22.358 20.211 26.023 1969- 9-15    SD  N

In addition to the average age of the starters, I have also listed the youngest and the oldest.

So the oldest starter in that Houston game (Jim Wynn) was more than two months younger than the AVERAGE age of the next game on the list. And the difference between the top two entries shown above (two years and 68 days), is as much as the difference between that Athletics game and the 440th entry. In short, there is no game close to those two the Colt .45s played at the end of 1963.

And it is no coincidence that all of these games took place in the waning days of the season, with poor teams (only the 1966 Angels were close to being a .500 team) taking a look at players who might help them in the future. But despite this, seven of the teams on this list won their game.

The 1919 Athletics, for example, were down 5-0 before rallying for six runs off of Hooks Dauss in the bottom of the ninth to win. The victory was their second straight, tying their longest winning streak of the season. Six of their starters that day had made their major league debut in those two games, so heading into the next game with the Tigers, they had yet to play in a loss for Philadelphia. That would change soon enough, as they finished the season by losing fourteen or their last sixteen games, part of a campaign that saw them win a franchise-low 36 games.

The 1947 Phillies won behind a five-hitter from eighteen-year-old Curt Simmons, who was making his major league debut. In the season-finale for the 1966 Angels, rookie right-hander Jorge Rubio picked up his second (and last) major league win in spectacular fashion, a fifteen-strikeout shutout over Indians.

Brief diversion: with two career wins, Rubio has the fewest of any pitcher with a fifteen (or more) strikeout game since 1914. Here are the five fewest:

Cnt   W   L  Pitcher
  1   2   3  Jorge Rubio
  1   8  20  Mike Wegener
  1  10   6  Karl Spooner
  1  19  29  Tom Cheney
  1  27  46  Dick Drott

And here are the fewest wins for pitchers with one, two, three or more such games:

Cnt   W   L  Pitcher
  1   2   3  Jorge Rubio
  2  42  29  Mark Prior
  3 104  92  Don Wilson
  6 141 134  Sam McDowell
  8 165  87  Sandy Koufax
 10 219 100  Pedro Martinez
 29 303 166  Randy Johnson

End of diversion.

Since none of the lineups above are earlier than September 10th, Jonathan Frankel thought it might be interesting to see the youngest lineups that occurred earlier in the year. Here are the youngest by month:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
25.015 21.236 29.134 1998- 3-31    FLA N
23.095 20.310 26.237 1975- 4-11    MON N
23.047 20.335 26.262 1975- 5- 5    MON N
23.187 21.027 26.055 1967- 6-15    KC  A
23.130 20.046 28.245 1949- 7- 4(1) PHI N
23.303 18.003 28.142 1916- 8-31    PHI A

And here is the youngest opening day lineup:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
 24.123 20.364 32.157 1975- 4- 7    MON N

Okay, but what about the other end of the spectrum - the oldest starting lineups? Once again, there is a clear leader. Here are the top ten oldest lineups, again with related entries for the same team removed:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
37.004 30.346 41.257 2006- 4- 8    SF  N
35.327 29.315 39.244 2005- 6- 8    NY  A
35.319 32.257 42.273 2007- 4-24    SF  N
35.271 30.048 42.027 1983- 5-10    PHI N
35.266 27.042 42.130 2005- 5-15    SF  N
35.190 31.111 41.052 2000- 5- 6    BAL A
35.153 30.016 40.149 1945- 9- 5(2) CHI A
35.144 30.004 39.310 2013- 8-28    NY  A
35.094 29.223 40.114 2012- 9-24    NY  A
35.052 33.002 38.138 1998- 7-23    BAL A

This time, you see a more representative sampling of months as well as a mixture of both good and bad teams. The team I was expecting to see near or at the top was the 1983 Phillies, known as the Wheeze Kids for their reliance on older players, but I probably should expected the last few editions of the Barry Bonds Era Giants as well (although Bonds didn't start the 2005 game on our list, having missed all but 14 games of that season). Deter Jeter also missed almost all of 2013, but his appearance that August help put those Yankees on the list.

And for over twenty years (from 1983 to 2005), Joe Morgan was part of both the youngest and oldest starting lineup since 1914.

Here are the starters on the top entry:

 Age   Pos Player
38.349  SS Omar Vizquel
41.026  CF Steve Finley
39.278  RF Moises Alou
41.257  LF Barry Bonds
36.163  1B Mark Sweeney
30.346  3B Pedro Feliz
34.334   C Todd Greene
38.012  2B Jose Vizcaino
31.104   P Jamey Wright

And, yes, the 2006 Giants had the oldest starting outfield in the last century, and it's not close. Here is the list since the beginning of 1914, along with the outfielders:

 Age      Date       Team   LF/CF/RF
41.109 2006- 9-21    SF  N  Barry Bonds (42.058)  Steve Finley (41.192)  Moises Alou (40.079)
38.155 1928- 5-21(1) PHI A  Bing Miller (33.264)  Tris Speaker (40.048)  Ty Cobb (41.154)
38.154 2007- 5- 9    SF  N  Barry Bonds (42.289)  Dave Roberts (34.343)  Mark Sweeney (37.195)
38.070 2001- 8- 3    SF  N  Barry Bonds (37.010)  Shawon Dunston (38.135)  Eric Davis (39.066)
38.047 2000- 9- 3    SEA A  Rickey Henderson (41.251)  Stan Javier (36.236)  Jay Buhner (36.020)
38.043 1927- 6-19(2) PHI N  Dick Spalding (33.248)  Al Nixon (41.069)  Cy Williams (39.179)
37.313 1945- 4-22    DET A  Chuck Hostetler (41.212)  Doc Cramer (39.273)  Jimmy Outlaw (32.091)
37.255 2005- 6-25    NY  A  Ruben Sierra (39.261)  Bernie Williams (36.285)  Gary Sheffield (36.219)
37.234 2005-10- 2    STL N  Reggie Sanders (37.305)  So Taguchi (36.092)  Larry Walker (38.305)
37.208 2000- 9-12    STL N  Mark McGwire (36.345)  Shawon Dunston (37.174)  Eric Davis (38.105)

The 1928 Athletics outfield was the one I was expecting to see in this list, but the game also featured forty-four year old starting pitcher Jack Quinn, who went the distance to beat the Senators 4-3 in thirteen innings. Barry Bonds was part of three of the four oldest outfields, but he was the only constant, as the other six outfielders only appeared once each. Despite being forty-one years-old, war time fill-in Chuck Hostetler was only in his second major league season when he appeared with the 1945 Tigers, and would make only one more start after the game on our list. The 2005 Cardinals game featured the last appearance by Larry Walker. The last entry is a little deceptive, since Mark McGwire never took the field and so officially was not credited with a game in left-field.

The youngest outfield shouldn't be a surprise, but some other entries on the list might have some interest:

 Age      Date       Team   LF/CF/RF
20.075 1963- 9-29    HOU N  Jim Wynn (21.200)  Ivan Murrell (20.158)  John Paciorek (18.232)
20.316 1961-10- 1    CHI N  Billy Williams (23.109)  Nelson Mathews (20.072)  Danny Murphy (19.039)
21.004 1962- 9-17    CHI N  Danny Murphy (20.024)  Nelson Mathews (21.057)  Billy Ott (21.298)
21.038 1964- 9-29    LA  N  Derrell Griffith (20.290)  Willie Davis (24.167)  Willie Crawford (18.022)
21.062 1918- 8-26(1) STL N  Austin McHenry (22.339)  Cliff Heathcote (20.214)  Charlie Grimm (19.363)
21.126 1964-10- 4    HOU N  Brock Davis (20.350)  Jim Wynn (22.206)  Rusty Staub (20.187)
21.135 1960- 9-19    LA  N  Tommy Davis (21.181)  Willie Davis (20.157)  Ron Fairly (22.068)
21.140 1915- 9-20    WAS A  Charlie Jamieson (22.227)  Merito Acosta (19.123)  Turner Barber (22.072)
21.145 1919- 9- 9    PHI A  Al Wingo (21.125)  Frank Welch (22.029)  Charlie High (20.281)
21.153 1927-10- 2    PIT N  Adam Comorosky (21.297)  Lloyd Waner (21.200)  Fred Brickell (20.328)

Despite their young age, both Nelson Mathews and Danny Murphy were in their second major league seasons by 1961. And less than a year later, those two formed yet another young outfield, with Billy Ott (who hit his only major league homer in the game) replacing Billy Williams. Williams would miss the first of two straight games that day and only one more game before the end of the decade. Charlie Grimm would not play in the outfield after his day on the list above, becoming more well-known as a first-baseman and a manager.

The 1915 Senators game marked the major league debuts of both Jamieson and Joe Judge, who would both play into the 1930s, and although it has little to do with young outfielders, the the team won their game above thanks to a three-hit shutout by George Dumont. It was the second major league start for Dumont, who pitched a two-hit shutout in his debut. That would be as good as it got for Dumont, who would go 8-23 over the rest of his five-year career.

I guess I would be remiss if I didn't something similar for the infielders. This time, we'll start with the youngest. By now, the top entry should be very familiar.

 Age      Date       Team   1B/2B/3B/SS
19.214 1963- 9-27    HOU N  Rusty Staub (19.179)  Joe Morgan (20.008)  Glenn Vaughan (19.225)  Sonny Jackson (19.079)
19.260 1944- 9-16(1) BRO N  Howie Schultz (22.074)  Eddie Basinski (21.316)  Eddie Miksis (18.005)  Tommy Brown (16.283)
21.104 1916- 9-10    STL N  Frank Snyder (22.105)  Stuffy Stewart (22.221)  Rogers Hornsby (20.136)  Sam Bohne (19.322)
21.174 1965- 9-25(2) NY  N  Ed Kranepool (20.321)  Ron Hunt (24.216)  Kevin Collins (19.051)  Bud Harrelson (21.111)
21.192 1964-10- 4    MIL N  Joe Torre (24.078)  Woody Woodward (22.012)  Bill Southworth (18.329)  Sandy Alomar (20.350)
21.205 1955- 9-19    KC  A  Jack Littrell (26.239)  Jerry Schypinski (24.003)  Clete Boyer (18.224)  Alex George (16.357)
21.213 1930- 9-21(2) PHI A  Jimmie Foxx (22.333)  Eric McNair (21.162)  Pinky Higgins (21.116)  Dib Williams (20.244)
21.239 1920- 9-24    PHI A  Lena Styles (20.301)  Jimmy Dykes (23.318)  Joe Dugan (23.134)  Emmet McCann (18.203)
21.242 1914-10- 2    PHI A  Ferdie Moore (18.225)  Press Cruthers (24.025)  Larry Kopf (23.334)  Sam Crane (20.020)
21.288 1914-10- 6(2) NY  N  Walter Holke (21.285)  Fred Brainard (22.234)  Milt Stock (21.087)  Desmond Beatty (21.183)

The 1916 Cards made the list courtesy of Sam Bohne's first major league start and Stuffy Stewart's third. After a brief trail with the Cards, Bohne and Stewart would surface again with the Reds and the Pirates in the early 1920s. Despite homering in the game above for the 1964 Braves, eighteen-year-old Bill Southworth (not be confused with his cousin, Hall of Fame manager Billy Southworth) would not appear in the majors again. With the pennant secured, 1914 Athletics manager Connie Mack had Ferdie Moore and Sam Crane make their debuts in the game above. Press Caruthers, appearing in his sixth (and next to last) game, helped fill out the infield.

The oldest infielders:

 Age      Date       Team   1B/2B/3B/SS
38.097 1996- 8- 3    STL N  Willie McGee (37.275)  Mike Gallego (35.276)  Gary Gaetti (37.349)  Ozzie Smith (41.220)
38.032 2001- 9-24    ATL N  Julio Franco (43.031)  Keith Lockhart (36.318)  Ken Caminiti (38.156)  Rey Sanchez (33.353)
37.144 2006- 9-29    NY  N  Carlos Delgado (34.096)  Jose Valentin (36.351)  Julio Franco (48.036)  Chris Woodward (30.094)
37.117 1985- 6- 7    CHI N  Richie Hebner (37.193)  Chris Speier (34.344)  Ron Cey (37.114)  Larry Bowa (39.182)
37.058 2007- 5- 3    SF  N  Mark Sweeney (37.189)  Ray Durham (35.155)  Rich Aurilia (35.244)  Omar Vizquel (40.010)
37.030 1986- 7- 8    CIN N  Pete Rose (45.086)  Ron Oester (30.064)  Buddy Bell (34.315)  Dave Concepcion (38.022)
36.288 1983- 9-24    PHI N  Pete Rose (42.163)  Joe Morgan (40.005)  Mike Schmidt (33.362)  Ivan De Jesus (30.257)
36.152 2009- 8-31    LA  N  Mark Loretta (38.017)  Ronnie Belliard (34.147)  Casey Blake (36.008)  Juan Castro (37.073)
36.132 2008- 9-27    SF  N  J.T. Snow (40.215)  Eugenio Velez (26.133)  Rich Aurilia (37.025)  Omar Vizquel (41.156)
36.116 1985-10- 2    CIN N  Pete Rose (44.172)  Ron Oester (29.150)  Buddy Bell (34.036)  Dave Concepcion (37.108)

Julio Franco appears in the second and third oldest infield, playing first base (with the 2001 Braves) and, over five years later, third base with the 2006 Mets. Pete Rose appears three times on the list above, with identical infields for the 1985 and 1986 Reds, and two years earlier with the 1983 Phillies. J.T. Snow's appearance in that 2008 Giants game was his last in the major leagues.

Here are the games with the largest difference between the average age of a team's infielders and outfielders (and thanks to F.X. Flinn for suggesting this, as well as the post-season lists below):

  INF    OUT   DIFF     Date       Team
21.109 36.019 14.275 1944- 8-13(2) BRO N
24.167 37.025 12.223 2013- 6-25    SEA A
24.043 36.143 12.100 1937- 9- 9    CIN N
24.218 36.274 12.056 1941- 6-21    BOS N
22.217 34.106 11.254 1928- 5- 5    NY  N
25.098 36.327 11.229 1999- 4-16    OAK A
23.194 35.043 11.214 1927- 5- 7    BOS A
22.128 33.234 11.106 1955- 9-20    KC  A
26.156 37.208 11.052 2000- 9-12    STL N
33.180 22.130 11.050 1986- 7-30    TEX A
34.318 23.273 11.045 1985-10- 6    NY  N
24.077 35.096 11.019 1942- 7- 5(2) BOS N
34.004 22.353 11.016 1930- 8-14(1) BOS N

I listed the top thirteen so we could include a few more teams where the infielders were older than the outfielders. The largest difference (by more than two years) was the 1944 Dodgers. That team:

 Age   Pos Player
21.143  2B Barney Koch
34.222  CF F. Bordagaray
32.082  LF Augie Galan
25.002  3B Luis Olmo
22.041  1B Howie Schultz
41.120  RF Paul Waner
28.132   C Mickey Owen
16.250  SS Tommy Brown
18.255   P Cal McLish

If you look at the ten youngest and oldest starting lineups, it's clear that they aren't uniformly spread across the last century. All but two of the youngest lineups appeared during the last six years of the Deadball Era or the 1960s. Eight of the ten old teams are clustered from 1998 to 2013. A little more than thirty years ago, the 1945 White Sox game topped the list; now it clings to seventh place. So what were the youngest and oldest lineups by decade? Let's start with the youngest:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
22.069 19.287 24.233 1919- 9-10    PHI A
23.088 18.211 33.028 1920-10- 1    PHI A
22.304 19.064 28.024 1939- 9-29(1) BOS N
22.275 18.131 28.077 1947- 9-28(2) PHI N
23.026 18.306 29.334 1952- 9-27    PIT N
20.001 17.294 21.198 1963- 9-27    HOU N
23.014 21.100 26.157 1972- 9-13    SD  N
24.131 21.327 28.225 1982- 4-14    MIN A
24.008 21.196 27.136 1998- 8-27    FLA N
24.139 21.117 28.053 2005- 6-15    ATL N
24.141 21.226 27.244 2012- 6- 3    HOU N

And the oldest:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
32.197 24.254 40.234 1914- 9-18    BAL F
34.025 25.035 44.313 1928- 5-10    PHI A
33.349 30.078 41.290 1938- 8-26(1) CHI A
35.153 30.016 40.149 1945- 9- 5(2) CHI A
34.163 29.041 44.349 1952- 7-26    PHI A
33.127 26.141 42.264 1962- 9-28    CHI A
34.067 25.244 38.293 1973- 8-29    DET A
35.271 30.048 42.027 1983- 5-10    PHI N
35.052 33.002 38.138 1998- 7-23    BAL A
37.004 30.346 41.257 2006- 4- 8    SF  N
35.144 30.004 39.310 2013- 8-28    NY  A

Here is the percentage breakdown by age for each decade. Note: I removed any cells with less than 0.1%.

Years   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35
Total             0.5  3.0  9.1 18.1 24.2 21.4 14.1  6.5  2.2  0.7  0.2               
1910s   0.1  0.2  1.5  7.0 15.8 22.5 24.9 18.6  7.6  1.7  0.2                         
1920s             0.4  2.3  6.2 15.1 24.6 23.5 18.1  7.5  2.0  0.3                    
1930s             0.2  1.6  7.2 16.2 26.8 26.2 15.8  5.3  0.7  0.1                    
1940s             0.3  1.3  6.0 14.9 22.9 24.5 18.3  8.3  2.5  0.9  0.1               
1950s             0.5  2.6  7.1 16.9 25.8 24.0 15.5  6.0  1.4  0.1                    
1960s        0.2  1.5  6.4 16.4 25.6 26.8 15.7  5.7  1.5  0.2                         
1970s        0.1  1.2  6.3 17.2 26.3 23.4 14.5  7.8  2.6  0.6  0.1                    
1980s             0.1  1.8  8.3 17.8 23.9 21.6 14.7  7.4  3.0  1.1  0.2               
1990s             0.3  2.1  5.7 14.3 25.0 25.0 16.6  7.8  2.5  0.6  0.2               
2000s             0.1  1.5  5.5 13.6 20.4 20.6 18.2 11.8  5.5  2.1  0.7  0.2          
2010s             0.1  1.3  6.2 17.3 24.4 24.9 14.9  6.8  2.8  0.9  0.3               

But what about the post-season? Here are the ten youngest post-season lineups (a '*' indicates that it was a World Series game and only the youngest lineup from each series is shown):

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
24.349 20.317 29.132 1913-10- 9    PHI A *
25.080 21.327 33.081 1914-10-10    BOS N *
25.122 21.307 27.357 1969-10- 6    NY  N
25.130 21.315 28.000 1969-10-14    NY  N *
25.226 22.120 29.184 1970-10-14    CIN N *
25.282 20.356 32.161 1966-10- 6    BAL A *
25.318 22.300 31.079 1911-10-16    NY  N *
26.008 22.361 29.239 2008-10- 3    TB  A
26.027 22.186 30.291 1967-10- 4    BOS A *
26.045 21.320 30.135 1914-10-12    PHI A *

And the oldest post-season lineups:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
35.060 23.325 41.193 1986-10-11    CAL A
35.029 29.243 40.134 2012-10-13    NY  A
35.026 31.362 38.031 2001-10-10    ARI N
34.319 29.315 42.178 1983-10- 8    PHI N
34.281 29.321 41.153 1983-10-14    PHI N *
34.279 29.168 42.108 2003-10- 3    SF  N
34.224 27.181 42.078 2004-10-21    HOU N
34.175 30.100 40.076 1945-10- 6    DET A *
34.174 28.144 39.219 2002-10-26    SF  N *
34.089 31.067 37.122 2001-10-27    ARI N *

Back in the 1800s, promoters would often schedule games between different types of people: bachelors versus married men, skinny men pitted against, uh, less-skinny men, and so on. In this grand tradition, what was the closest we've come in the last century to a game between young punks and old geezers? (And Jonathan Frankel suggested this one as well.) Here are the greatest differences in the average age of the two teams during the regular season:

 DIFF    Date        Age    Team      Age    Team
 9.232 1998- 8-16    24.032 FLA N  @  33.264 SF  N
 9.192 1998- 8-22    34.000 SF  N  @  24.173 FLA N
 9.140 2006- 5-29    34.157 SF  N  @  25.017 FLA N
 9.119 2007- 4-21    26.045 ARI N  @  35.164 SF  N
 9.024 1983- 5-15    25.313 MIN A  @  34.337 CAL A
 8.343 1998- 7- 1    25.145 FLA N  @  34.123 BAL A
 8.308 2007- 7-27    25.272 FLA N  @  34.215 SF  N
 8.242 1982- 8- 5    25.086 MIN A  @  33.328 CAL A
 8.230 1999- 6-19    34.038 BAL A  @  25.173 CHI A
 8.224 2012- 7-24    34.300 NY  A  @  26.076 SEA A

The top two-thirds of this list is dominated by the Giants (old) and the Marlins (young).

And the same list for the post-season:

 DIFF    Date        Age    Team      Age    Team
 6.338 2012-10-13    28.056 DET A  @  35.029 NY  A
 6.296 2004-10- 6    34.209 HOU N  @  27.278 ATL N
 6.270 2000-10- 7    26.316 OAK A  @  33.221 NY  A
 6.215 1983-10- 5    33.362 PHI N  @  27.147 LA  N
 6.079 2001-10-10    28.312 STL N  @  35.026 ARI N
 6.046 2001-10-10    27.021 OAK A  @  33.067 NY  A
 6.025 2003- 9-30    27.257 FLA N  @  33.282 SF  N
 5.270 1987-10- 7    33.293 DET A  @  28.023 MIN A
 5.263 2012-10- 7    34.092 NY  A  @  28.194 BAL A
 5.252 1983-10-14    29.029 BAL A  @  34.281 PHI N *

You have to go all the way down to the tenth spot to find a World Series game and no game is earlier than 1983.

Since 1914, there have been six regular season games (none in the post-season) in which the average age of the starters have been exactly the same (well, down to the day - our database doesn't have birth times yet). Here they are:

 DIFF    Date        Age    Team      Age    Team
 0.000 1962- 5-29    26.337 NY  A  @  26.337 KC  A
 0.000 1976- 5-16(1) 29.132 NY  N  @  29.132 CIN N
 0.000 1978- 4-15    28.268 MIL A  @  28.268 BAL A
 0.000 1982- 6-27    28.248 PIT N  @  28.248 MON N
 0.000 1982- 9-20    30.070 BOS A  @  30.070 MIL A
 0.000 2012- 8-15    27.301 SD  N  @  27.301 ATL N

Next up, I wanted to determine which team fielded a lineup with the youngest oldest player. Obviously, the team at the top of the list will be the Colt .45s game from 1963, but the rest of the top five might be interesting.

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
20.001 17.294 21.198 1963- 9-27    HOU N
22.170 20.283 23.198 1919- 9-11    PHI A
22.284 20.230 24.304 1917- 9-27    PHI A
24.257 22.343 25.231 1942- 7-14    BOS N
23.305 20.243 25.235 1969-10- 1    SD  N

Okay, so I was wrong. We've seen the top three games (or in the case of the 1919 Athletics, one close to it) before. The last entries are new to us, but primarily show how far behind they are from the top few. There is exactly a two year gap between the top two entries, and then more than a year between the second and third.

But what about the teams with the oldest youngest player in the starting lineup?

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
35.052 33.002 38.138 1998- 7-23    BAL A
35.319 32.257 42.273 2007- 4-24    SF  N
34.066 32.041 38.169 1997- 8-31    BAL A
35.002 31.338 38.007 2001- 9-17    ARI N
34.201 31.332 39.107 1982- 9- 7    CAL A

We've seen the top entry before, but I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the Baltimore starters in the game where none were less than thirty-three years-old.

 Age   Pos Player
34.186  CF Brady Anderson
34.085  2B Jeff Reboulet
33.303  1B R. Palmeiro
36.055  DH Eric Davis
33.353  LF B.J. Surhoff
37.333  3B Cal Ripken
38.138  RF Joe Carter
33.166   C Lenny Webster
33.002  SS Mike Bordick
35.363   P Doug Drabek

Finally, I thought it might be a good idea to look at the lineups during the last century where the players were the closest and farthest apart in age. I determined this by taking the average distance of each starter's age from the average.

Here are the players closest to the same age:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
24.261 23.321 25.273 1921- 6-28    PHI A

 Age   Pos Player
25.273  RF Whitey Witt
24.230  2B Jimmy Dykes
23.321  CF Frank Welch
24.299  LF Paul Johnson
24.198  1B Johnny Walker
25.123   C Cy Perkins
24.046  3B Joe Dugan
24.327  SS Chick Galloway
24.169   P Dave Keefe

And the game where the ages were the farthest apart:

------- Ages -------
 Avg    Low    High     Date       Team
31.160 22.313 44.124 2007- 9-22    LA  N

 Age   Pos Player
30.038  CF Juan Pierre
22.313  SS Tony Abreu
23.137  1B James Loney
39.198  2B Jeff Kent
40.019  LF Luis Gonzalez
22.364  RF Matt Kemp
24.009  3B Andy LaRoche
35.246   C M. Lieberthal
44.124   P David Wells

Okay. I'll stop now.

Both Starting Pitchers Making MLB Debuts

On May 15, 2014, both of the starting pitchers in the Mets-Yankees game, Chase Whitley and Jacob deGrom, were making their major league pitching debuts. That got me to wondering just how common that was. What follows is a list of all the games (and pitchers) where this happened from 1871 to the present, along with (where available) the pitching lines for the two starters. Since this is going to be a somewhat lengthy article, I figured I'd present a concise list first and then expand upon it.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1871- 5- 4      0  CLE n  Al Pratt            9    4  2  1  1  0   L
                2  KEK n  Bobby Mathews       9    4  0  0  1  6   W
1871- 5- 5     20  BOS n  Al Spalding         9   14 18  6 10  2   W
               18  OLY n  Asa Brainard        9   13 20  7 18  5   L
1872- 5- 2      2  ATL n  Jim Britt           9   12  8  3  0  0   L
                8  MAN n  Frank Buttery       9    6  2  1  0  0   W *
1875- 5- 4     15  STL n  George Bradley      9   13  9            W
                9  RS  n  Joe Blong           9   13 15            L
1881- 5- 2      6  BUF N  Jack Lynch          9    4  5     1  5   W
                5  DET N  George Derby        9    7  6     1  1   L
1884- 5- 1      0  BRO a  Sam Kimber          9   16 12     0  5   L
               12  WAS a  John Hamill         9    5  0  0  4  1   W
1884- 7- 9      8  STL U  Henry Boyle                              W
                2  BAL U  Jerry Dorsey        4    7  8  4  0  3   L
1884- 8-13      1  CLE N  John Henry          9       0  0  3  6   W
                0  DET N  Pretzels Getzein    9       1     0  6   L
1887- 4-20      6  CLE a  Billy Crowell       9      14     5  0   L
               14  CIN a  Mike Shea           9       6     5  0   W
1890- 4-18     21  SYR a  Toby Lyons          8.1 19 22    11  2   L
               22  BRO a  Gus Williams        3    5  8     5  0  ND

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1897- 4-24      3  CHI N  Roger Denzer        8    8  4     1  1   L
                4  CIN N  Bill Dammann        9    8  3     1  3   W
1898- 4-22     12  BRO N  Joe Yeager          9   14  7     0  3   W
                7  WAS N  Bill Dinneen        3    6  7     1  0   L
1901- 4-19      2  PHI N  Happy Townsend      8    8 10    10  6   L
               10  BRO N  Gene McCann         9    4  2     2  6   W
1901- 4-25      3  CLE A  Earl Moore          8    9  7     5  3   L
                7  CHI A  John Skopec         9    5  3     4  2   W
1906- 9-12      6  CIN N  Bill Essick         7.1  9  4     4  4   W
                5  PIT N  Bert Maxwell        8    8  6  5  2  1   L
1908-10- 6      3  NY  A  Andy O'Connor       8   15 11  9  7  5   L
               11  BOS A  Doc McMahon         9   14  3  3  0  3   W
1909- 9-17      1  STL A  Bill McCorry        8   12 10     4  4   L
               10  WAS A  Dixie Walker        9    4  1     1  7   W
1914- 4-19      6  CHI F  Max Fiske           4.1  5  4  4  1  1  ND
                7  KC  F  Ben Harris          8   10  5  4  1  1  ND
1939- 4-25      7  STL A  Jack Kramer         9    6  2  2  2  3   W
                2  DET A  Dizzy Trout         3.1  6  4  4  0  3   L
1941- 9-28      3  STL N  Johnny Beazley      9   10  1  1  3  4   W
                1  CHI N  Russ Meers          8    5  2  1  0  5   L

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1943- 9-27(1)   4  STL A  Al LaMacchia        4    9  6  5  2  2   L
                9  PHI A  Charlie Bowles      9    7  4  0  2  4   W *
1944- 9-25(1)   7  CHI N  Charlie Gassaway    8   12  6  6  7  4  ND
                6  PHI N  Charlie Ripple      2.1  6  4  4  4  2  ND
1962- 4-14      6  CIN N  Sammy Ellis         2.1  5  7  3  1  2   L
               13  SF  N  Gaylord Perry       2.2  5  4  4  1  1  ND
1962- 9-30(2)   1  LA  A  Bobby Darwin        3.1  8  6  4  4  6   L
                6  CLE A  Floyd Weaver        5    3  1  1  0  8   W
1963- 9-21      3  CHI A  Fritz Ackley        6    5  3  2  3  4  ND
                4  DET A  Denny McLain        9    7  3  1  4  8   W
1971- 9- 5(2)   5  HOU N  J.R. Richard        9    7  3  2  3 15   W
                3  SF  N  Jim Willoughby      3    6  3  3  1  3   L
1974- 7- 7(1)   1  STL N  Bob Forsch          6.2  4  2  2  5  2   L
                2  CIN N  Tom Carroll         7    2  1  1  6  6   W
1990- 8-21      7  MIN A  Paul Abbott         3    6  7  7  5  3   L
                8  KC  A  Jim Campbell        4.2 10  7  7  0  1  ND
2001- 8- 8     19  DET A  Nate Cornejo        3    9  6  6  1  3  ND
                6  TEX A  Joaquin Benoit      5    8  6  6  3  4  ND
2008- 9- 4      0  WAS N  Shairon Martis      5    4  2  2  5  2   L
                2  ATL N  James Parr          6    2  0  0  3  3   W

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
2009- 4- 9      2  DET A  Rick Porcello       5    9  4  4  1  4   L
                6  TOR A  Ricky Romero        6    7  2  2  2  5   W
2010- 9- 7      4  NY  N  Dillon Gee          7    2  1  1  3  4   W
                1  WAS N  Yuniesky Maya       5    5  4  4  2  3   L
2014- 5-15      1  NY  A  Chase Whitley       4.2  2  0  0  2  4  ND
                0  NY  N  Jacob deGrom        7    4  1  1  2  6   L

* - appeared previously in a major league game

And now for the long version:

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1871- 5- 4      0  CLE n  Al Pratt            9    4  2  1  1  0   L
                2  KEK n  Bobby Mathews       9    4  0  0  1  6   W

Since this was the first game played by the National Association, it makes the list by default (and we can leave the argument over whether or not the league deserves to be classified as Major for another day). And while it might have been his first start in the NA, Al Pratt was starting his third season with the Forest Citys that day. Nineteen-year-old Bobby Mathews had joined the Fort Wayne team after spending three years pitching in Maryland and he would finish his career in 1887 with 297 wins.

Mathews' six strikeouts that day were a season high for the league and the two total runs scored in the game were the fewest all season. It would not be equaled until May 30 and June 4, 1874. Bobby Mathews was a starting pitcher in all three of these 2-0 games, winning the first two and losing the third. There would not be a lower scoring game until May 11, 1875 when Al Spalding (see below) led the Chicago White Stockings to a 1-0 win over Joe Blong (see a little further below) and the St. Louis Reds.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1871- 5- 5     20  BOS n  Al Spalding         9   14 18  6 10  2   W
               18  OLY n  Asa Brainard        9   13 20  7 18  5   L

This was the second game played in the National Association and so is another one that makes the list by default. Asa Brainard was already famous for his role on the undefeated 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings by the time he joined the Washington Olympics, and Spalding had made a name for himself in Rockford, Illinois, before being recruited by Boston prior to the season.

Spalding would lead the league in wins that year, a feat he would repeat each of the next five years (the last in the newly formed National League), and on June 21st, Spalding would throw the league's first one-hitter, a 21-0 rout of Mathews and the Kekiongas.

I expected there to be more than two games from 1871 on this list. After all, the league had nine members and it seemed unlikely that only two games featured teams that hadn't played before.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1872- 5- 2      2  ATL n  Jim Britt           9   12  8  3  0  0   L
                8  MAN n  Frank Buttery       9    6  2  1  0  0   W

This is the first of two games where one of the pitchers had appeared in a game prior to making their pitching debut. While this was sixteen-year-old Jim Britt's (and the Brooklyn Atlantics) first major league game, Frank Buttery had played third base in the Middletown Mansfields' first three games. Despite starting only five games that year, Buttery won the majority of his team's games, going 3-2 while the rest of the staff (Cy Bentley and Asa Brainard) went 2-17. Most of this was due to his teammates' scoring an average of 17.6 runs a game in his starts, compared to 6.9 for Bentley and Brainard.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1875- 5- 4     15  STL n  George Bradley      9   13  9            W
                9  RS  n  Joe Blong           9   13 15            L

This game was the first for both franchises and the starting pitchers where just two of ten players appearing in a National Association game for the first time that day. As I mentioned above, Joe Blong would lose the league's first 1-0 game a week later, one of his four shutout losses that year. The St. Louis Reds had the weakest attack in the league, scoring an average of only 3.2 runs a game. The same season, the Boston Red Stockings averaged more than ten.

George Bradley would throw sixteen shutouts the next year, a total matched only once since, by Pete Alexander in 1916. Legend has it that prior to games that season, Bradley would steam open the container holding a game ball, deaden the ball by squeezing it in a vise, before returning it to the box and resealing it. Then he would wait for the shutout-friendly ball to get entered into play.1

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1881- 5- 2      6  BUF N  Jack Lynch          9    4  5     1  5   W
                5  DET N  George Derby        9    7  6     1  1   L

This is the first game on our list that was not one of the first few games of both team's inaugural season. Yes, it was the first game for the Detroit Wolverines, but Buffalo was starting it's third campaign. While Jack Lynch and George Derby were new to the National League in 1881, they both had played in top leagues the three previous seasons, including stints in the 1878 International Association, a league that might have been better than the NL.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1884- 5- 1      0  BRO a  Sam Kimber          9   16 12     0  5   L
               12  WAS a  John Hamill         9    5  0  0  4  1   W

Apart from the first two days of the 1871 season, May 1, 1884 is the most likely date to appear on our list. It was the opening day of both the National League and American Association seasons, and with the turmoil caused by the Union Association that year, four of the franchises in the AA, including both Brooklyn and Washington, were new. Thirty-six players made their debut that day, by far the most in major league history, and nineteen of them debuted for those four new teams. Here are the days with twenty or more debuts:

 #     Date     Note
36  1884- 5- 1  Opening day of National League and American Association seasons
26  1879- 5- 1  Opening day of National League season
26  1882- 5- 2  First day in American Association history
26  1884- 4-17  Opening day of the Union Association season. Only three games.
26  1995- 4-26  First full day of play following 1994-1995 strike
25  1954- 4-13  Opening day of 1954 season.
23  1890- 4-19  Opening day of National League and Players League seasons
21  1958- 4-15  First full day of 1958 season.
20  1945- 4-17  Opening day of 1945 season.

Here are the two days with the most debuts that wasn't at the beginning of the season or involve September call-ups:

 #     Date     Note
 9  1912- 5-18  The Tigers field a team of replacements
 8  1884- 8- 5  Richmond joins the American Association to replace Washington

Back to the game in question, Hamill's shutout victory that day was not an indication of things to come. He would win only once more and finished his season (and major league career) with twelve straight losses. Kimber was the second best pitcher on Brooklyn (behind Adonis Terry), but was a victim of the contraction that followed the collapse of the Union Association and made only one more major league appearance after 1884.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1884- 7- 9      8  STL U  Henry Boyle                              W
                2  BAL U  Jerry Dorsey        4    7  8  4  0  3   L

At last: the first match-up that doesn't take play in the first five days of May. Jerry Dorsey's four-inning start that day was the extent of his major league career. Henry Boyle got his opportunity when Billy Taylor jumped to the Athletics. Despite his 25-4 record, Taylor actually had a worse mark than the rest of the staff (17-2) at the time of his departure. Boyle stepped in and finished the season with a 15-3 mark, a record that owed as much to St. Louis' domination of an uncompetitive league than it did to Boyle's pitching prowess.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1884- 8-13      1  CLE N  John Henry          9       0  0  3  6   W
                0  DET N  Pretzels Getzein    9       1     0  6   L

This was the first, and until 2014, the only 1-0 game on the list. Like Hamill, this was Henry's only career shutout and he pitched a total of three seasons (with a 4-14 record) before finishing his career as an outfielder with the 1890 National League New York Giants. Getzein had much more success, winning 145 games, almost all of them before his twenty-seventh birthday.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1887- 4-20      6  CLE a  Billy Crowell       9      14     5  0   L
               14  CIN a  Mike Shea           9       6     5  0   W

After winning his major league debut, Mike Shea got clobbered 19-6 by the St. Louis Browns in his next outing and his season (and MLB career) was over. Billy Crowell got a longer trial with a much worse team, the newly-minted Cleveland Blues, losing 31 games for the last place outfit, and his major league career ended when he pitched even worse the following year.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1890- 4-18     21  SYR a  Toby Lyons          8.1 19 22    11  2   L
               22  BRO a  Gus Williams        3    5  8     5  0  ND

In 1890, like 1884, a third major league, this time the Players League, threw the American Association into turmoil, and they again began the season with four new teams. In the second game for both the Syracuse Stars and Brooklyn Gladiators, they went with untried pitchers and the result was the highest scoring game on our list. Syracuse took a 21-18 lead into the bottom of the ninth when (we must suppose) a tiring Toby Lyons got only one out before Brooklyn pushed across four runs to win the game. In addition to all the hits and walks, Brooklyn also stole eleven bases against the rookie.

Gus Williams was just as bad, but he was long gone by the time his team rallied for the victory, having been relieved by Jim Powers at the start of the fourth. Powers was also making his major league debut and all three would be out of the majors within a month, taking a combined 1-5 mark with them. Williams would die, reportedly from a cold, that October.

 
   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1897- 4-24      3  CHI N  Roger Denzer        8    8  4     1  1   L
                4  CIN N  Bill Dammann        9    8  3     1  3   W

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1898- 4-22     12  BRO N  Joe Yeager          9   14  7     0  3   W
                7  WAS N  Bill Dinneen        3    6  7     1  0   L

The last two entries from the 19th century and unlike most of the previous ones, these are not caused by new leagues. Both games owe their inclusion on this list to early season attempts to fill out the back end of the rotation with untested pitchers. Despite the poor first impression, Bill Dinneen would be the best of the lot, winning 170 games in a twelve year career. For three years, he and Cy Young formed the front-end of a formable rotation for the Boston Americans, highlighted by his three wins (including two shutouts) in the 1903 World Series.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1901- 4-19      2  PHI N  Happy Townsend      8    8 10    10  6   L
               10  BRO N  Gene McCann         9    4  2     2  6   W

The first 20th century entry, but an old theme: teams looking to fill roster holes caused by defections to a new league. Townsend probably wouldn't have gotten his start had not three of the Phillies starters from 1900 (Chick Fraser, Bill Bernhard and Wiley Platt) jumped to the new kid in town, the Athletics. And the defending champion Brooklyn Superbas also had a big hole to fill as Joe McGinnity, the 1900 NL leader in wins, left for Baltimore.

Happy Townsend posted a 9-6 mark that year for the second-place Phillies, but his fortunes took a turn for the worse when he jumped to Washington in time for 1902. He went 8-16 in his first season in the junior circuit and that was as good as it got. He reached a low point in 1904, we he posted a 5-26 with a Senators team that would finish more than twenty games out of seventh-place. I wonder if his nickname was intended to be ironic.

Here are the pitchers with the lowest career winning percentages in the American League (minimum 100 decisions):

Pitcher            W   L   Pct
Happy Townsend    25  76  .248
Jesse Jefferson   38  81  .319
Rollie Naylor     42  83  .336
Jack Russell      72 133  .351
Jason Johnson     55  98  .359

Townsend is at the top of that list and it's not even close. The third-place entry (Naylor) has a higher winning percentage than Townsend had in his best season in the AL.

Gene McCann had the kind of short career that has been typical of many of the pitchers we've seen on this list. His win that day was one of only three he would have in the majors, although he was a prominent scout and executive with the New York Yankees from 1927 until his death in 1943.2

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1901- 4-25      3  CLE A  Earl Moore          8    9  7     5  3   L
                7  CHI A  John Skopec         9    5  3     4  2   W

This was the second day of action for the American League. Although the other game played that day was much more famous (featuring a ten-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning to overcome a 13-4 deficit), this one was the beginning of a long and successful career for Earl Moore. Two weeks after this game, Moore pitched nine innings of hitless ball in a return match with the White Sox before losing the no-hitter (and the game) in the tenth.

Although winning six of his first nine decisions, John Skopec failed to impress the White Sox brass and was dropped after walking nine men in seven innings of a 10-5 win over Boston on May 31st. He would also have a brief trail with the Tigers in 1903.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1906- 9-12      6  CIN N  Bill Essick         7.1  9  4     4  4   W
                5  PIT N  Bert Maxwell        8    8  6  5  2  1   L

This is the first appearance on this list of a type I expected to be very common: teams giving a start to late-season call-ups. Both pitchers here failed to make a lasting impression. Essick won only one more game in his ML career, and the game above was the extent of Maxwell's stint with the Pirates. Maxwell would surface briefly in three other years, finishing up by winning three games for the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in 1914.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1908-10- 6      3  NY  A  Andy O'Connor       8   15 11  9  7  5   L
               11  BOS A  Doc McMahon         9   14  3  3  0  3   W

Another example of late season pick-ups given an opportunity to show what they can do, this is the only game on the list featuring two one-game major leaguers. Both of these starters were making their only major league appearance. In addition to allowing fifteen hits and seven walks, O'Connor also hit three batters. Two of the hits he allowed were by Doc McMahon, who would finish his major league career with a .400 batting average and a undefeated pitching record.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1909- 9-17      1  STL A  Bill McCorry        8   12 10     4  4   L
               10  WAS A  Dixie Walker        9    4  1     1  7   W

McCorry pitched even worse in his only other major league start, a 11-0 loss to the Highlander's on September 29th, a game called in the middle of the eighth by either darkness or the mercy rule. Walker would have a four-year career, highlighted by eleven wins and a pair of one-hit shutouts in 1910, but he is most well-known today as the father of NL batting champions Dixie and Harry Walker.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1914- 4-19      6  CHI F  Max Fiske           4.1  5  4  4  1  1  ND
                7  KC  F  Ben Harris          8   10  5  4  1  1  ND

The last game that owes it's appearance on this list to a new league, this was the fourth game played by the Chi-Feds and Packers. Both pitchers were long gone by the time the game was decided in the bottom of the fifteenth inning, and although they would each pitch regularly for their respective teams in 1914, only Harris would play again in the majors (and that was an appearance lasting a single inning the following May).

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1939- 4-25      7  STL A  Jack Kramer         9    6  2  2  2  3   W
                2  DET A  Dizzy Trout         3.1  6  4  4  0  3   L

The twenty-five year gap between this entry and the previous one is the longest on the list. Both of these pitchers would win World Series games that would have been shutouts were it not for unearned runs, Kramer with the Browns in 1944, and Trout a year later with the Tigers. Trout probably should have been the league MVP in 1944. He led the AL in games started, complete games, shutouts, innings pitched and ERA, but lost the award to teammate Hal Newhouser by virtue of Newhouser's 29 to 27 edge in wins.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1941- 9-28      3  STL N  Johnny Beazley      9   10  1  1  3  4   W
                1  CHI N  Russ Meers          8    5  2  1  0  5   L

This game was played on the last regular season day before our entry into World War Two, and the war would factor prominently in the careers of both pitchers (as it would for most players of that time). Meers would spend the next four years in the military, and would finish his career pitching mostly in relief for the Cubs in 1946 and 1947.

Beazley's entrance into the war was delayed by a year and he made the most of it, winning twenty-one games for the 1942 Cards, and adding two complete game victories over the Yankees in the World Series. Three years of military service followed and Beazley was never the same pitcher upon his return, winning only nine more games before a sore arm ended his career.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1943- 9-27(1)   4  STL A  Al LaMacchia        4    9  6  5  2  2   L
                9  PHI A  Charlie Bowles      9    7  4  0  2  4   W

Like Frank Buttery above, Charlie Bowles had appeared in the majors prior to his complete game victory over the Browns, pinch-hitting two days earlier. After his trail with the Athletics, Bowles spent most of the next two years in the Army Air Force before returning for the last two months of the 1945 season. He would finish his career with just that one win. Al LaMacchia would not start another game after his debut, pitching a handful of games in relief for the Browns and Senators in 1945 and 1946.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1944- 9-25(1)   7  CHI N  Charlie Gassaway    8   12  6  6  7  4  ND
                6  PHI N  Charlie Ripple      2.1  6  4  4  4  2  ND

The last of our war entries, both Gassaway and Ripple would have short careers and be out of the major leagues for good by the end of 1946. Gassaway played each of his three years with a different team, finishing with a 5-9 record and a 4.04 ERA, while Ripple failed three brief trials with the Phillies.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1962- 4-14      6  CIN N  Sammy Ellis         2.1  5  7  3  1  2   L
               13  SF  N  Gaylord Perry       2.2  5  4  4  1  1  ND

It is probably not a coincidence that, after an absence of more than seventeen years, two games make the list from an expansion year. Still, it's hard to see how the Giants losing Sam Jones or the Reds losing Ken Johnson in the expansion draft would have caused them to start Ellis and Perry in the game above. Both pitchers were gone before the end of the third inning, but that was not a sign of things to come for the two. Ellis might have owed his twenty-two wins in 1965 to the 5.62 runs his team scored in his starts that season (the highest in the majors), but he still accomplished more than most pitchers on this list before his career ended in 1969.

Gaylord Perry is the first Hall of Famer to appear on our list since Al Spalding back in 1871. He might not have shown much in 1962 or 1963, but he started to turn his career around in 1964. On May 31st of that year, according to a later autobiography, he first threw a spitball in a major league game. His ERA, which was 4.76 prior to the game, was 2.57 over the rest of the season. His win that day was the seventh of his career, but he would win another 307 before calling it quits in 1983. Sure, he may very well owe his Hall of Fame plaque to his ability to cheat, but as today's sportswriters might say, it was the right kind of cheating.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1962- 9-30(2)   1  LA  A  Bobby Darwin        3.1  8  6  4  4  6   L
                6  CLE A  Floyd Weaver        5    3  1  1  0  8   W

After starting the last game of the 1962 season, both pitchers would wait a while for their next shot at the majors. Weaver would resurface first, pitching primarily in relief, for three different teams in 1965, 1970 and 1971. Darwin would wait even longer, failing in a brief trial with the Dodgers in 1969, before resurrecting his career as an outfielder with the Twins in the mid-1970s. He would average more than twenty homers a year for Minnesota from 1972 to 1974, leading the league in strikeouts each year.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1963- 9-21      3  CHI A  Fritz Ackley        6    5  3  2  3  4  ND
                4  DET A  Denny McLain        9    7  3  1  4  8   W

While Denny McLain pitched well in his debut, the game is most remembered for the home run he hit in his second at-bat. Like Hoyt Wilhelm, who hit a homer in his first major league at-bat, McLain would never hit another. His controversial career would be marked by a thirty-one win season, two Cy Young awards, suspensions, scandals and a sudden loss of effectiveness at an early age. All of which somewhat overshadows his mound opponent that day. Fritz Ackley won his next start, allowing only two hits to the Senators in seven innings, but pitched poorly in a brief trail the next year and was farmed out for good.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1971- 9- 5(2)   5  HOU N  J.R. Richard        9    7  3  2  3 15   W
                3  SF  N  Jim Willoughby      3    6  3  3  1  3   L

The second overall pick in the 1969 amateur draft (behind only Jeff Burroughs), J. R. Richard was the second pitcher to begin his career with a fifteen-strikeout game (Karl Spooner was the first). His early success was deceptive, however, and he didn't come up to the major leagues to stay until 1974. Over the last five years of his career, until a stroke forced him to call it quits at the age of thirty, he was consistently one of the top pitchers in the NL.

Jim Willoughby eventually found a role for himself out of the bullpen in the mid-1970s, most notably for the Red Sox, where he appeared in two controversial games during the 1975 World Series. In his first outing, he got charged with the loss after Ed Armbrister was not called out for an interference after colliding with Carlton Fisk on his sacrifice attempt. He also pitched (and pitched well) in the decisive game, before getting removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth, a move that was followed by the fateful decision to bring in rookie Jim Burton to pitch the ninth inning of the tie game.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1974- 7- 7(1)   1  STL N  Bob Forsch          6.2  4  2  2  5  2   L
                2  CIN N  Tom Carroll         7    2  1  1  6  6   W

This game is another example where the better pitcher that day did not have the brighter future. For Tom Carroll, it was arguably one of his two or three best days in the majors. During his short career, he started twenty games without finishing any. In these days of pitch limits and six inning quality starts, such a record would be normal, but at the end of the 1975 season, only one pitcher in history had made more starts without a complete game than Carroll: Mike Thompson, who in twenty-nine opportunities between 1971 and 1975, pitched into the ninth inning only once.

Bob Forsch, on the other hand, followed up his debut by shutting out the Braves on four-hits, the first of 168 wins over the next sixteen years. He was seldom better than a pretty good pitcher, winning ten or more games eleven times, but winning more than fifteen only once. He did manage to pitch two no-hitters and both came in losing seasons. In the last century, only four pitchers have thrown two no-hitters in losing seasons.3 They are:

Pitcher        Year   W   L      Year   W   L
Jim Tobin      1944  18  19 (2)
Virgil Trucks  1952   5  19 (2)  
Bill Stoneman  1969  11  19      1972  12  14
Bob Forsch     1978  11  17      1983  10  12
   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1990- 8-21      7  MIN A  Paul Abbott         3    6  7  7  5  3   L
                8  KC  A  Jim Campbell        4.2 10  7  7  0  1  ND

While Jim Campbell's brief two-start career is typical of others we have seen on this list, Paul Abbott followed a more unusual path. A disappointment at first, he had pitched himself out of the majors by his twenty-sixth birthday and looked done. It took him five years to work his way back and in 2001, when he was thirty-three years old, he posted a 17-4 mark with the Mariners, a season so out of line with the rest of his career, it looks like a misprint. His ERA wasn't anything special, but when your team averages over seven runs a start, you don't have to be too fine.

His career year ended when he was removed after five no-hit (but eight walk) innings in game four of the League Championship Series with the Yankees. He was pretty much done after that, going 5-14 along with a 7.46 ERA for four different teams over his last three seasons.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
2001- 8- 8     19  DET A  Nate Cornejo        3    9  6  6  1  3  ND
                6  TEX A  Joaquin Benoit      5    8  6  6  3  4  ND

Benoit was a bad starting pitcher with the Rangers who found success after being converted into a reliever after 2004. Cornejo, a former first round draft pick for the Tigers, was a bad starting pitcher who was finally sent to the minors for good in 2004. The two pitchers made nearly the same number of starts in their careers (55 for Benoit and 56 for Cornejo) and while both were awful, Benoit was probably a little worse.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
2008- 9- 4      0  WAS N  Shairon Martis      5    4  2  2  5  2   L
                2  ATL N  James Parr          6    2  0  0  3  3   W

Parr began his career with two scoreless starts. I thought that was pretty unusual and so created a list of all the pitchers who had managed that since 1914. Well, it used to be rare, back when a scoreless start was synonymous with a shutout. Here are the pitchers that did it from 1914 to 1999:

                                                                                     Career
   First         Second       Pitcher              IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO   W   L     W   L
1933- 9- 7     1933- 9-11(2)  Johnny Marcum        18    10   0   0   9   7   2   0    65  63
1945- 4-29(1)  1945- 5- 6(1)  Dave Ferriss         18    12   0   0  11   9   2   0    65  30
1953- 7- 6     1953- 7-11     Al Worthington       18     6   0   0   5  13   2   0    75  82
1954- 9-22     1954- 9-26     Karl Spooner         18     7   0   0   6  27   2   0    10   6
1966- 9-15(1)  1966- 9-20     Tom Phoebus          18     9   0   0   5  15   2   0    56  52
1978- 7-17(1)  1978- 7-23     Larry McWilliams     13     9   0   0   2   3   2   0    78  90
1990- 9- 5     1990- 9-10     Scott Chiamparino    12     7   0   0   2   7   0   0     2   6
1995- 5- 2     1995- 5- 7     Vaughn Eshelman      13     7   0   0   2   4   2   0    15   9

Eight times, or about once a decade. And while there aren't even any near Hall of Famers on this list, five of the first six won more than fifty games and the one who didn't, Karl Spooner, is famous for not winning more than he did.

By the way, Dave Ferriss not only pitched shutouts in his first two major league games, but also had five hits in six at-bats.

Now, the list since the turn of the century:

2001- 8-18     2001- 8-23     Carlos Hernandez     13     7   0   0   3  14   1   0     9   8
2002- 4- 6     2002- 4-12     Kazuhisa Ishii       11.2   4   0   0   6  15   2   0    39  34
2005- 5-21     2005- 5-25     Kyle Davies          10.1   9   0   0   4  12   2   0    43  65
2008- 9- 4     2008- 9-10     James Parr           12     7   0   0   3   8   1   0     1   0
2008- 9-10     2008- 9-15     Scott Lewis          14     6   0   0   2   8   2   0     4   0
2009- 6- 2     2009- 6- 7     Vin Mazzaro          13.2   8   0   0   4   5   2   0    23  23
2009- 6-28     2009- 7- 3     Ryan Sadowski        13     7   0   0   4   6   2   0     2   4
2013- 8- 6     2013- 8-12     Andrew Albers        17.1   6   0   0   1   4   2   0     2   5

So these days it's pretty common. As a matter of fact, Parr wasn't even the only pitcher that month to accomplish the feat. And although many of these pitchers are still active, it is a pretty safe bet that no one in this group is going to reach fifty wins.

The following pitchers also pitched scoreless ball in their first two starts but are not included here because of prior scoreless relief appearances: Marty Bystrom, Randy O'Neal and Randy Wells.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
2009- 4- 9      2  DET A  Rick Porcello       5    9  4  4  1  4   L
                6  TOR A  Ricky Romero        6    7  2  2  2  5   W

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
2010- 9- 7      4  NY  N  Dillon Gee          7    2  1  1  3  4   W
                1  WAS N  Yuniesky Maya       5    5  4  4  2  3   L

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
2014- 5-15      1  NY  A  Chase Whitley       4.2  2  0  0  2  4  ND
                0  NY  N  Jacob deGrom        7    4  1  1  2  6   L

I'm not sure why these match-ups have gotten more frequent in the last six years, but they have continued to follow the pattern of occuring either early in the season or after the beginning of September. Here's the breakdown of the games by month for the games above, for all pitchers, and for all players:

Month      Mar   Apr   May  June  July   Aug  Sept   Oct   Total
 List        0    10     7     0     2     3    10     1      33
All Pit     20  2197  1051   952  1018   986  2069   127    8420
 All        53  4899  2233  1900  1989  1949  5063   307   18393

Note: our first six entries on our list were from early May and date from 1871 to 1884, when the season typically began in late April or early May. The only entry since 1884 that took place in May is the one from 2014.

And finally, here is the average pitching line for all starting pitching debuts (no prior relief outings) for each decade:

  Years       #     IP    H     R     ER    BB    SO
1914-1919    94    6.34  6.56  3.57  2.56  3.39  2.03
1920-1929   114    6.49  7.22  4.07  3.29  3.19  1.89
1930-1939   112    6.42  6.82  4.14  3.47  3.57  2.53
1940-1949   141    6.11  6.43  3.55  3.09  2.81  2.47
1950-1959   132    5.78  6.17  3.58  3.22  3.17  3.01
1960-1969   153    5.61  5.34  2.97  2.51  2.71  3.49
1970-1979   188    5.57  5.44  2.93  2.64  2.64  3.22
1980-1989   237    5.44  5.57  3.03  2.75  2.52  2.86
1990-1999   323    5.34  5.47  3.16  2.85  2.46  3.41
2000-2009   365    5.12  5.42  3.26  3.07  2.41  3.41
2010-2013   139    5.31  5.12  2.85  2.58  2.23  3.80

I suppose that's enough for now. Actually, it was probably more than enough quite some time ago.

Notes:

1I got this from David Nemec's wonderful two-volume "Major League Baseball Profiles 1871-1900", books I can't recommend strongly enough for both serious and casual fans of 19th century baseball.

2I got this from Jim Sandoval's biography written as part of SABR's BioProject, another indispensable resource for people interested in baseball history.

3And here I'm defining a no-hitter as simply a complete game in which the pitcher didn't allow a hit, regardless of the length of the game. Requiring that the pitcher throw at least nine innings would have eliminated Jim Tobin from this list. (And what would have been the fun of that?)

Both Starting Pitchers Making MLB Exits

This article seems like an inevitable companion piece to my last one, but doing a similar study of career finales didn't occur to me until David Nemec posted a question to SABR-L1 asking if any team other than the 1901 Cleveland Blues had ever started four pitchers in a row making their last major league appearance.2 So blame him for this one.

Anyway, let's start by looking at all major league games featuring two starting pitchers appearing for the last time. Well, probably not ALL of them. We are going to cut our search off after 2009, since it seems bad form to declare categorically that a pitcher who last appeared in 2010 (for example) will not appear again. You might think that even a 2009 cutoff won't guarantee that there aren't pitchers on our list who will resurface at some point down the road, but you'd be wrong, since the last game on the list below is from 1998. I suspect that even the most optimistic among us doesn't hold out much hope for the return of those two pitchers.

So as before, let's start with the concise list:

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1882- 9-30      6  PHI a  George Synder       9    4  3  0  2  0   W
                3  BAL a  Doc Landis                                
1890- 8-12      4  SYR a  Ezra Lincoln                             L
               18  LOU a  Mike Jones          9    5  4            W
1890-10-11(2)  15  SYR a  John Keefe                               W
                4  PHI a  Horace Helmbold     7   17 15 11  6  3   L
1890-10-12     12  SYR a  Ed Mars                                  W
                2  PHI a  Sterling            5   16 12 12  4  1   L
1901- 9-26      9  CLE A  Harry McNeal        8   17 10     5  1   L
               10  BAL A  Bill Karns          9   17  9     2  1   W
1902- 7-29      7  CLE A  Dick Varney                       5  1    
                8  BAL A  George Prentiss                   0  1    
1902- 9- 4      5  BAL A  Crese Heismann      8   10  7     6  1   L
                7  CLE A  Jack Lundbom                              
1902- 9- 5(2)   1  PIT N  Harvey Cushman      1.2  7 10 10  9  1   L
               12  BOS N  Fred Klobedanz      8    9  1  1  2  4   W
1902- 9-18      2  WAS A  Cy Vorhees          8   10  6  4  2  1   L
                6  PHI A  Bert Husting        0    2  2  2  1  0  ND
1908-10- 6      3  NY  A  Andy O'Connor       8   15 11  9  7  5   L
               11  BOS A  Doc McMahon         9   14  3  3  0  3   W

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1909-10- 2(1)   6  NY  A  Pete Wilson         9   10  5     3  4   W
                5  BOS A  Jack Chesbro        6    6  4     2  3   L
1912-10- 6      9  CHI A  Harry Smith         5    6  1  1  0  1   W
                4  DET A  Charlie Wheatley    3    1  3  0  2  2   L
1915- 9-29      4  CIN N  King Lear           8.2 11  5  4  2  0   L
                5  CHI N  Zip Zabel           0.1  1  0  0  0  0  ND
1915- 9-30      3  BUF F  Gene Krapp          9    6  2  2  4  8   W
                2  BRO F  Dan Marion          9    7  3  3  3  1   L
1916- 9- 4(2)  10  CIN N  Christy Mathewson   9   15  8  8  1  3   W
                8  CHI N  Mordecai Brown      9   19 10  9  1  2   L
1929-10- 5      0  CHI N  Mike Cvengros       8   14  9  9  3  1   L
                9  CIN N  Rube Ehrhardt       9    5  0  0  1  1   W
1934- 9-30(2)   5  PIT N  Steamboat Struss    7    7  6  5  6  3   L
                7  CHI N  C. Wiedemeyer       4    9  5  5  0  2  ND
1945- 9-27(2)   7  CHI N  Paul Derringer      9    8  4  3  0  3   W
                4  CIN N  Vern Kennedy        8    8  5  3  4  1   L
1946- 9-29(2)   2  PIT N  Al Tate             8    5  3  3  6  2   L
                3  CIN N  Al Libke            5    4  2  2  3  2  ND
1954- 9-25      2  PHI A  Bill Oster          3    3  4  1  5  1   L
               10  NY  A  Allie Reynolds      5    6  1  1  2  5   W

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1970- 9-30      3  CLE A  Jim Rittwage        5    2  3  3  5  1   L
                4  DET A  Bob Reed            8.1 10  2  2  5  5   W
1980-10- 5      2  SEA A  Rick Anderson       5.2  2  2  1  6  6  ND
                3  TEX A  Don Kainer          6    7  2  1  5  4  ND
1994- 8- 7(2)  15  CLE A  Jack Morris         3.1  9  7  6  4  2  ND
               10  BOS A  Gar Finnvoid        1.2  8  5  5  0  2  ND
1998- 9-23      4  CLE A  Jason Jacome        5   10  8  8  3  2   L
                8  NY  A  Mike Jerzembeck     3    5  4  4  2  0  ND

By the way, if you relax the restriction and look at players up through the end of 2012, the only game with a chance of making the list is this one:

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
2011-09-25      6  OAK A  Rich Harden         6    8  3  3  1  5  ND
                5  ANA A  Joel Pineiro        6.1  3  0  0  0  4  ND

And both Harden and Pineiro still have hopes of pitching in the majors again.

Now for the long version:

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1882- 9-30      6  PHI a  George Synder       9    4  3  0  2  0   W
                3  BAL a  Doc Landis                                

Like the vast majority of entries on this list, this game took place in the waning days of the season. In this case, it was the season finale for both teams. Despite holding Baltimore to only four hits, this was the only major league appearance for George Snyder, who also scored two runs that day. Landis pitched briefly for the Athletics at the beginning of the season before moving to Baltimore, where he did the bulk of the pitching for the tail-enders, compiling a combined mark of 12-29 in his only year in the majors. His 359 innings pitched is the fourth most among pitchers appearing in a single season. The top five:

Year  Player            IP     W   L
1884  Fleury Sullivan  441    16  35
1889  Parke Swartzel   410.1  19  27
1892  George Cobb      394.1  10  37
1882  Doc Landis       359    12  29
1890  John Keefe       352.1  17  24

What? You were expecting household names? Well, actually "Keefe" would qualify, but only because of John's famous cousin.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1890- 8-12      4  SYR a  Ezra Lincoln                             L
               18  LOU a  Mike Jones          9    5  4            W

Both Lincoln and Jones were making their third and last starts for their respective teams (Lincoln also played with Cleveland that year). Lincoln lost all three of his starts for Syracuse, while Jones won his only two decisions with Louisville.

As you would expect, the fall of the Player League cost a lot of jobs in the upper echelon of professional baseball. The years with the most departures prior to expansion in 1961:

  #  Date  Notes
293  1884  Rise of fall of the Union Association
256  1915  End of the Federal League
234  1945  End of World War Two
213  1890  Rise of fall of the Players League
197  1914  The first year of the Federal League
178  1946  The World War Two veterans return
   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1890-10-11(2)  15  SYR a  John Keefe                               W
                4  PHI a  Horace Helmbold     7   17 15 11  6  3   L

We mentioned John Keefe above and here he is, paired with Horace Helmbold, who was saying both Hello and Good-bye to the majors that day.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1890-10-12     12  SYR a  Ed Mars                                  W
                2  PHI a  Sterling            5   16 12 12  4  1   L

This is the second straight game between these two teams. The Athletics were coming to the end of a horrific close to their season (a 13-57 closing after a 41-21 start) and their last four (or five) starting pitchers that year would not play in the majors again. This is the third straight game on our list involving the 1890 Syracuse Stars.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1901- 9-26      9  CLE A  Harry McNeal        8   17 10     5  1   L
               10  BAL A  Bill Karns          9   17  9     2  1   W

If you're going to go out, it might as well be in an exciting game. This one featured a triple play, a lot of hits and runs, and was won by the home team with none out in the bottom of the ninth.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1902- 7-29      7  CLE A  Dick Varney                       5  1    
                8  BAL A  George Prentiss                   0  1    

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1902- 9- 4      5  BAL A  Crese Heismann      8   10  7     6  1   L
                7  CLE A  Jack Lundbom                              

Baltimore's presence on this list in these two games stems from their attempt to cobble together a roster following the defection of several of their stars, including staff ace Joe McGinnnity in July. The four starters above combined for seven career major league wins.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1902- 9- 5(2)   1  PIT N  Harvey Cushman      1.2  7 10 10  9  1   L
               12  BOS N  Fred Klobedanz      8    9  1  1  2  4   W

Harvey Cushman made four starts for the Pirates and lost them all, which is not easy to do when your team goes 103-32 the rest of the time. When the Pittsburgh gave him his first start that August, they already had a twenty game lead over second-place Brooklyn, so I suppose they figured they had nothing to lose. Only one other pitcher lost as many as four games without a win for a team with a winning percentage over .700: Kazuhiro Sasaki, the 0-4 closer for the 116-win 2001 Seattle Mariners.

Cushman's opponent that day was Fred Klobedanz, who was making his only 1902 start and his first since 1899. In 1897 and 1898, he had gone a combined 45-17 with the pennant-winning Boston Beaneaters, but was the worst pitcher in their rotation both years and was released following a slow start the next season.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1902- 9-18      2  WAS A  Cy Vorhees          8   10  6  4  2  1   L
                6  PHI A  Bert Husting        0    2  2  2  1  0  ND

Despite his short outing that day, Husting pitched pretty well for the Athletics in 1902, although not as well as his 14-5 record indicated. Connie Mack tried to sign him for 1903 but Husting, who had married that August, preferred the life of a lawyer to that of a ball-player and refused.3

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1908-10- 6      3  NY  A  Andy O'Connor       8   15 11  9  7  5   L
               11  BOS A  Doc McMahon         9   14  3  3  0  3   W

We already saw this entry in the previous article, since both of these pitchers appeared in only one major league game.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1909-10- 2(1)   6  NY  A  Pete Wilson         9   10  5     3  4   W
                5  BOS A  Jack Chesbro        6    6  4     2  3   L

The best pitcher we've seen so far on this list, Jack Chesbro was five years removed from winning forty-one games (and throwing more than 450 innings) for the 1904 New York Highlanders when he lost his final game to Pete Wilson. Despite his heroics in 1904, Chesbro is most remembered for throwing the wild pitch on the last day of the season that allowed the pennant-clinching run to score for the Boston Americans. Nowadays, most managers would be reluctant to let one of their pitchers throw even 350 innings, much less 450.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1912-10- 6      9  CHI A  Harry Smith         5    6  1  1  0  1   W
                4  DET A  Charlie Wheatley    3    1  3  0  2  2   L

With Tigers stars Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford and Donie Bush (as well as manager Hughie Jennings) already getting a head start on the 1912 off-season, Harry Smith faced a weakened outfit in his combination ML debut and finale. According to the New York Times, Detroit dressed only eleven players, so by the time Charlie Wheatley departed in the fourth inning ("to catch a train" according to the game story), only Oscar Stanage was left on the bench.4

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1915- 9-29      4  CIN N  King Lear           8.2 11  5  4  2  0   L
                5  CHI N  Zip Zabel           0.1  1  0  0  0  0  ND

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1915- 9-30      3  BUF F  Gene Krapp          9    6  2  2  4  8   W
                2  BRO F  Dan Marion          9    7  3  3  3  1   L

These four pitchers probably wouldn't have gotten the opportunities they did were it not for the Federal League, and the collapse of that league following the 1915 season was largely responsible for the end of their time in the big leagues.

Zip Zabel left his final start after pitching to only two batters (due to a "kink in the shoulder" according to the Chicago Daily Tribune)5 but he owes his place in history to another quick hook earlier that year. On June 17th, Bert Humphries was removed with two out in the top of the first inning. Zip replaced him and was still in the game when the Cubs finally scored the winning run in the bottom of the nineteenth inning. His eighteen and a third innings pitched ranks as the longest relief outing in major league history.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1916- 9- 4(2)  10  CIN N  Christy Mathewson   9   15  8  8  1  3   W
                8  CHI N  Mordecai Brown      9   19 10  9  1  2   L

These are the two best pitchers on our list and their appearance here is no accident. It was arranged as a publicity stunt to draw fans to an otherwise lackluster Labor Day double-header between two second-division teams. And it was a financial if not an artistic success, as 17,000 fans turned out despite a rainstorm to see the old warriors go at it one last time. They allowed a combined thirty-four hits and eighteen runs, but the two pitchers both gamely staggered to the finish line. It couldn't have been pretty to watch.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1929-10- 5      0  CHI N  Mike Cvengros       8   14  9  9  3  1   L
                9  CIN N  Rube Ehrhardt       9    5  0  0  1  1   W

Rube Ehrhardt became the first pitcher in more than twenty years to end his career with a shutout when he held the NL champion Cubs to five hits on the next to last day of the 1929 season. The last pitcher to do that was Tacks Neuer for the 1907 Highlanders, who not only pitched a three-hit shutout to end his major league career, but had also pitched a three-hit shutout to begin it a little more than five weeks earlier.6 The other pitchers to end their career with shutouts prior to Ehrhardt are Arlie Pond in 1898, John Sowders in 1890, and Daisy Davis in 1885 (a five-inning game).

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1934- 9-30(2)   5  PIT N  Steamboat Struss    7    7  6  5  6  3   L
                7  CHI N  C. Wiedemeyer       4    9  5  5  0  2  ND

Both Struss and Wiedemeyer were making their only major league starts in that game, although Wiedemeyer had three prior relief appearances.

Twenty-nine players made their last major league appearance on the last day of the 1934 season, including Struss and Wiedemeyer, which is tied for the fourth most prior to expansion in 1961. Here are top five:

 #     Date     Notes
39  1915-10- 3  Last day of the Federal League.
39  1945- 9-30  Last day of World War Two baseball.
29  1934- 9-30  Last day of the 1934 season.
29  1935- 9-30  Last day of the 1935 season.
27  1918- 9- 2  Last day of World War One baseball

I'm not sure what it was about 1934 and 1935 that caused such an exodus of players, but the other dates make sense. In case you were wondering, the top two days in the 19th century are also what you might expect: the waning days of the Union Association and the Players League produced eighteen finales each in 1884 and 1890.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1945- 9-27(2)   7  CHI N  Paul Derringer      9    8  4  3  0  3   W
                4  CIN N  Vern Kennedy        8    8  5  3  4  1   L

This was not actually Derringer's finale, since he would go on to pitch three times in relief for the Cubs in the 1945 World Series. Considering his 16-11 record, you might have figured Derringer for a start in the series, but with the mid-season purchase of Hank Borowy (11-2 and a 2.13 ERA with Chicago) as well as the strong second-half by Ray Prim (11-4 with a 1.27 ERA after the beginning of July), Derringer was no better than his team's fifth best starter heading into October.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1946- 9-29(2)   2  PIT N  Al Tate             8    5  3  3  6  2   L
                3  CIN N  Al Libke            5    4  2  2  3  2  ND

Both pitchers made their only major league start in the final game of the season for both teams. Tate had pitched in relief two days earlier, while Libke had spent much of the 1945 and 1946 playing the outfield for the Reds.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1954- 9-25      2  PHI A  Bill Oster          3    3  4  1  5  1   L
               10  NY  A  Allie Reynolds      5    6  1  1  2  5   W

While Bill Oster was making the only start of a five-week trial with the Athletics, Allie Reynolds was putting the finishing touches on a distinguished thirteen year career that included a 182-107 mark, seven World Series wins and six championships. Had he pitched a shutout that day, he would have tied for the league lead with five, and it would have been the third time in his last four years that he led or tied for the lead in shutouts.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1970- 9-30      3  CLE A  Jim Rittwage        5    2  3  3  5  1   L
                4  DET A  Bob Reed            8.1 10  2  2  5  5   W

Rittwage made only three starts during his month-long trial with the Indians, but in his second he was part of an unusual strategy when he left the mound, headed temporarily to another position (in his case, third base) for a couple of batters, and then resumed pitching. How rare is a managerial move like this? It has happened twenty-seven times7 since 1914, the first one in 1951, when White Sox manager Paul Richards had Fritz Dorish go from the mound to third base and back again in the ninth inning so he could avoid pitching to Ted Williams.

It was the first of four such maneuvers by Richards from 1951 to 1955. Here are is a list of the managers who did this:

 #  Name              
 5  Al Dark           1968  1969  1970  1970  1970
 4  Paul Richards     1951  1953  1954  1955
 2  Harry Walker      1955  1965
 2  Frank Lucchesi    1970  1971
 2  Lou Piniella      1993  2009
 2  Brad Mills        2011  2012
 1  Birdie Tebbetts   1955
 1  Bill Rigney       1957
 1  Bobby Bragan      1965
 1  Chuck Tanner      1986
 1  Roger Craig       1987
 1  Whitey Herzog     1987
 1  Tom Trebelhorn    1989
 1  Don Zimmer        1990
 1  Tom Lasorda       1991
 1  Bobby Cox         2008

So Rittwage was part of Al Dark's (modern) record-breaking fifth time. And how did all of this lineup shuffling work? Well, the first (and usually only) hitter faced by the pitcher brought in via this unusual double-shift went 13-26 with one walk (intentional), two doubles and two home runs. All of which works out to a slash line of .500/.519/.808.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1980-10- 5      2  SEA A  Rick Anderson       5.2  2  2  1  6  6  ND
                3  TEX A  Don Kainer          6    7  2  1  5  4  ND

Don Kainor didn't win any of his three major league starts, but he could have won them all. He left his debut with a 4-0 lead in the eighth inning, a runner on first and one out. Even after Bob Babcock allowed the inherited runner to score, the Rangers still had a three-run lead heading into the ninth, a lead that evaporated when the Angels rallied to tie the score against Babcock and three other relievers.

He left his second start with a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out. Certainly not a safe lead given the circumstances, but one he could have won, at least until Tom Paciorek's two-out single tied the score.

Which bring us to his last game. This time he didn't leave the game only to have his bullpen squander the lead. He pitched well (two runs in six innings), but so did Rick Anderson, and by the seventh inning the score was tied at two and the game securely in the hands of the bullpen. Anderson, making his second and last major league start, never got that elusive first win either.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1994- 8- 7(2)  15  CLE A  Jack Morris         3.1  9  7  6  4  2  ND
               10  BOS A  Gar Finnvoid        1.2  8  5  5  0  2  ND

I originally thought that this game owed its appearance on the list to the strike that prematurely ended the 1994 season. Sure, this probably would have been the end of the line for Gar Finnvoid even without the strike, but surely Jack Morris, who had a 10-6 record despite a 5.60 ERA, would have made a few more starts for the Indians. And then I noticed that the Indians released Morris two days after the start above, a few days before the strike ended the season.

It's sort of a shame that Morris got to be the standard bearer for the Old School in the "Old Curmudgeons versus the New Interweb Punks" battle that centered around Morris' Hall of Fame qualifications, the anti-Bert Blyleven as it were. On the other hand, anything that makes Murray Chass froth at the mouth can't be all bad.

Fun Facts: Gar's full name is Anders Gar Finnvoid. He is the only player in major league history with either Anders or Gar as a first or middle name. Surprisingly enough, Finnvoid is also uniquely his. At present, he is one of the go-to guys and gals when it comes to real estate around Delray Beach, Florida.

   Date     Score  Team   Pitcher            IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC
1998- 9-23      4  CLE A  Jason Jacome        5   10  8  8  3  2   L
                8  NY  A  Mike Jerzembeck     3    5  4  4  2  0  ND

It wasn't exactly a preview of the LCS when the Indians met the Yankees on the last Wednesday of the 1998 regular season. Both teams had clinched their divisions earlier and were simply trying to avoid injuries before the playoffs began. Neither Jacome, who was making his only appearance for the Indians that year, nor Jerzembeck, who was given a two-start trial, were going to be on the post-season roster even had they pitched well (which they most emphatically didn't). Yankees pitcher Ryan Bradley, who picked up the victory that day with three scoreless innings of work, was also making his last ML appearance.

So much for the list.

And finally, here is the average pitching line for all starting pitching finales (no subsequent relief outings) for each decade:

  Years       #     IP    H     R     ER    BB    SO
1914-1919   107    5.76  7.37  4.76  3.72  2.68  1.97
1920-1929   106    4.63  6.98  4.81  4.02  2.32  1.11
1930-1939    78    4.96  6.88  4.59  3.92  2.56  1.50
1940-1949    88    5.05  6.28  3.99  3.56  2.48  1.41
1950-1959    71    3.76  5.24  3.93  3.45  2.23  1.45
1960-1969    71    3.99  5.06  3.11  2.69  2.04  1.92
1970-1979    85    4.05  5.53  3.55  3.29  2.11  1.76
1980-1989   138    4.06  5.43  3.54  3.21  2.12  1.80
1990-1999   171    3.84  5.99  4.46  4.09  2.15  1.98
2000-2009   233    3.72  5.64  4.31  3.99  2.44  2.18

All of which shows what we already knew: pitchers don't usually do very well on their way out of the major leagues.

Notes:

1SABR-L is a mailing list associated with the Society For American Baseball Research.

2In case you were wondering, the answer is yes. Here are the three teams who started pitchers making their last ML appearance in three or more consecutive games:

#     Date        Team   Pitcher
4  1890-10- 9     PHI a  William Stecher
   1890-10-11(1)         Ed Green
   1890-10-11(2)         Horace Helmbold
   1890-10-12            Sterling

4  1901- 9-26     CLE A  Harry McNeal
   1901- 9-27            Jack Bracken
   1901- 9-28(1)         Bill Cristall
   1901- 9-28(2)         Pete Dowling

3  1890-10-10     TOL a  Charlie Sprague
   1890-10-11            Ed Cushman
   1890-10-12            Fred Smith

And, no, Sterling was not one of those people (like Madonna or McLovin) known by only one name. Instead, he was one of four Athletics who played that day (the others were McBride, Stafford and Sweigert) whose first name is unknown.

Late addition: David Nemec recently pointed out that the 1890 Athletics actually ended their season with five straight starters making their final major league pitching appearance. While Ed O'Neill did not pitch again after his start on October 8th, he did appear in a non-pitching capacity four days later.

3I got this from the (linked to) biography of Bert Husting by John F. Green, part of SABR's Bioproject.

4"Chicago Downs Detroit in Comedy Contest by Score of 9 to 4," The New York Times. October 7, 1912. Page 12.

5"Homers Defeat Redlegs 5 to 4," James Crusinberry. Chicago Daily Tribune. September 30, 1915. Page 11.

6Thanks to Peter Morris' biography of Tacks Neuer, another gem courtesy of SABR's BioProject.

7I am not counting three unusual games where this strategy was (sort of) employed. On September 28, 1952, Eddie Stanky sent Stan Musial in to pitch to the second batter of the game, Frank Baumholtz, as a joke (I guess you had to be there). Going along with the farce, Baumholtz, normally a left-handed batter, turned around and hit right-handed against Musial, reaching base on an error.

In a similar maneuver with a much different back-story, Larry Shepard brought in Roy Face to face the second batter of the game on August 31, 1968 so he could tie Walter Johnson's mark of 802 games pitched with one team (Pittsburgh was planning to trade Face to the Tigers later that day). That record is now held by Mariano Rivera (with 1115).

And finally, on July 22, 1986, Davey Johnson had Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell shared pitching duties (as well as an outfield spot) during the last five innings of the Mets wild fifteen-inning victory over the Reds.

Most Surprising Pitching Performances

This article began (as most things do) with Bill Werle. On August 27, 1950, he struck out thirteen in a 7-3 extra-inning loss to the Braves. This was five more batters than his second highest career strikeout total (which came in his next start) and far higher than his average rate that season of 3.27 batters per nine innings. So that got me to wondering (and I suppose the title of the article has somewhat reduced the suspense here): what were the most surprising pitching performances of the last hundred years?

There are all sorts of ways to attempt to calibrate the element of surprise and I chose a relatively straightforward (if slightly boring) one: I used the ratio between what happened in each game and the expected performance based upon the seasonal statistics. So to continue picking on Bill Werle, he pitched twelve innings in the game mentioned above. Based upon his rate that year of 3.27 strike outs per nine innings, he should have been expected to fan 4.35 batters in that game. And so his surprise factor comes out to:

       13         /       4.35          =   2.99
(his actual SOs)    (his expected SOs)

So using this measurement, what were the most surprising strikeout performances from 1914 to 2013? Well, although he started the ball rolling on this article, Mr. Werle fails to make the cut.

Here are the top five:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Bob Harmon         1918-06-17      0.1   1   82.1    7    0.028  0.972 35.286
Tom Earley         1945-06-14      0.1   1   41      4    0.033  0.967 30.750
Rosy Ryan          1926-04-14      0.2   1   19      1    0.035  0.965 28.500
Ted Wingfield      1927-08-10      3     1   74.2    1    0.040  0.960 24.889
Charlie Biggs      1932-09-19      1     1   24.2    1    0.041  0.959 24.667

Where:
Exp#  - the expected number based upon his seasonal rate
SO-Ex - the difference (SO - Exp#)
SO/Ex - the ratio (SO / Exp#)

Well, that wasn't very interesting.1 Bob Harmon and Tom Earley had very low strikeout rates in 1918 and 1945, but happened to record their only out that way during the games above. And the last three pitchers fanned only a single batter in their seasons, so the games in which they did it naturally look like a shocker.

Let's try again. Here are the top entries for pitchers with five through twelve strikeouts in a game:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Dutch Leonard      1934-07-15(2)   2     5  183.2   58    0.632  4.368  7.917
S. Thurston        1923-08-22      3     6  195.2   55    0.843  5.157  7.115
Ed Hanyzewski      1943-09-30      3     7  130     55    1.269  5.731  5.515
Nino Espinosa      1978-04-29      3.2   8  203.2   76    1.368  6.632  5.847
Jim Tobin          1943-09-19(1)   9     9  250     52    1.872  7.128  4.808
Manny Salvo        1941-04-20      6.1  10  195     67    2.176  7.824  4.595
Kirk Saarloos      2006-09-19      5    11  121.1   52    2.143  8.857  5.133
Jimmy Ring         1923-08-25      8    12  304.1  112    2.944  9.056  4.076

Rookie Sloppy Thurston set a career high when he fanned six in only three innings of relief work during the game listed above. The next year, he would strike out only 37 batters in 291 innings, an average of 1.14 a game. Nino Espinoso never made it out of the fourth inning in his start, a game more remembered for the three home runs Pete Rose hit (as well as being the eighth of ten five-hit games in his career), but Nino would never match the eight strikeouts he recorded that day.

Jim Tobin was noted for several things during his career: being the only pitcher since Guy Hecker in 1886 to hit three home runs in a game, for pitching a one-hitter followed by a no-hitter in April of 1944, and for pitching another no-hitter (this one a five-inning affair) later that same year. But he was not noted for his strikeouts, averaging only 2.36 per nine innings during his career.

Like some other pitchers above him on the list, Kirk Saarloos wasn't particularly hard to hit during his outing. Here are the pitching lines for three of them:

Pitcher          IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO
Nino Espinosa     3.2   7   4   4   2   8
Manny Salvo       6.1  11   5   4   6  10
Kirk Saarloos     5     8   2   2   4  11

The strikeouts in his game represented a career high for Saarloos. He got dropped from the starting rotation after the game and spent the bulk of his remaining time in the majors pitching out of the bullpen.

And the second half of the list above, the top entries for pitchers with thirteen through twenty strikeouts:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Sugar Cain         1935-08-16      9    13  193.2   73    3.392  9.608  3.832
Urban Shocker      1920-07-13(1)   9    14  245.2  107    3.920 10.080  3.571
Bob Shawkey        1919-09-27(2)   9    15  261.1  122    4.202 10.798  3.570
Ron Villone        2000-09-29      9    16  141     77    4.915 11.085  3.255
Dizzy Dean         1933-07-30(1)   9    17  293    199    6.113 10.887  2.781
Don Wilson         1968-07-14(2)   9    18  208.2  175    7.548 10.452  2.385
Steve Carlton      1969-09-15      9    19  236.1  210    7.997 11.003  2.376
Roger Clemens      1986-04-29      9    20  254    238    8.433 11.567  2.372

Sugar Cain was more known for walking batters than striking them out (his 388 walks from 1933 to 1935 led the major leagues) and his second highest strikeout total in a game was seven (set during a outing in which he was otherwise ineffective, allowing fifteen hits and eight runs in a 12-7 loss).

The game above was the second (and last) complete game of Ron Villone's career (although he would pitch, primarily in relief, for nine more years) and he never struck out more than eight before or after that night. The three hits he got that day were also a career high.

Dizzy Dean had three hits in his game as well, although he was a much better hitter than Villone. His record-setting game came in a middle of the four straight years Dean led the NL in strikeouts. Before his career was wrecked by arm miseries, he was one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. From 1932 to 1936, he averaged 306 innings pitched a year and his strikeout totals were 191, 199, 195, 190 and 195. His second highest single game total was eleven, accomplished twice.

Don Wilson almost made the list twice. Among pitchers with fourteen strikeouts in a game, this entry was next on the list after Shocker's:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Don Wilson         1974-05-12(2)   8    14  204.2  112    4.378  9.622  3.198

You can also look at the most surprising performances by innings pitched rather than by strikeouts. Here are the top performances by pitchers with five through nine innings:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
John Whitehead     1939-04-20      5     5   98     18    0.918   4.082  5.444
Hugh McQuillan     1920-09-23(2)   6     7  225.2   53    1.409   5.591  4.968
Lou Fette          1940-06-08      7     2   35.1    2    0.396   1.604  5.048
Chick Davies       1915-09-29(1)   8     6   15.1    2    1.043   4.957  5.750
Ernie Wingard      1924-06-09      9     6  218     23    0.950   5.050  6.319

These are all pitchers with extremely low strikeout rates. How low, you ask? Well, Lou Fette makes this list because his two strikeouts in seven innings was unusually high for him (he failed to strikeout anyone the rest of the year). Lou Fette is most known for winning twenty games as a thirty-year-old rookie for the Boston Bees in 1937, but after his shutout over the Pirates on July 23, 1939, he would not win another major league game, losing his last thirteen decisions, including the one above.

This list does serve to highlight another possible pitfall to studies like this: the curious case of Chick Davies. If you look at his entry above, you'll notice that he struck out six batters in the game, four more than he fanned all season long. How is that possible? Well, it isn't. The problem is that officially, Chick Davies didn't strike out anyone on September 29th. As a matter of fact, he didn't pitch at all. Bud Davis is credited with that game. Once this mistake is corrected, Chick's entry will look like this:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Chick Davies       1915-09-29(1)   8     6   23.1    8    2.743   3.257  2.187

and it will no longer qualify for our list, being replaced by:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Hooks Dauss        1919-09-10      8.1  10  256.1   73    2.373   7.627  4.214

Another pitcher with an extremely low strikeout rate.

Up until now, we have been talking about cases in which a pitcher struck out more batters than expected, and of course, he can also do the reverse. Here are the pitchers with the lowest ratios (so they struck out much fewer than expected) with zero through ten strikeouts in a game:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP     SO     Exp#  SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Roger Clemens      1987-07-01      9     0  281.2  256    8.180 -8.180  0.000
Roger Clemens      1987-07-21      9     0  281.2  256    8.180 -8.180  0.000
Johan Santana      2007-06-19      9     1  219    235    9.658 -8.658  0.104
Octavio Dotel      2001-04-06      7     2  105    145    9.667 -7.667  0.207
Randy Johnson      1997-05-13      8     3  213    291   10.930 -7.930  0.274
Nolan Ryan         1972-09-21      9     4  284    329   10.426 -6.426  0.384
Pedro Martinez     1999-07-02      8     5  213.1  313   11.737 -6.737  0.426
Randy Johnson      2001-09-17      8     6  249.2  372   11.920 -5.920  0.503
Nolan Ryan         1973-05-02     12     7  326    383   14.098 -7.098  0.497
Randy Johnson      2000-04-20      9     8  248.2  347   12.559 -4.559  0.637
M. McDermott       1951-07-13     17     9  172    127   12.552 -3.552  0.717
Nolan Ryan         1972-08-27     12    10  284    329   13.901 -3.901  0.719

Since every batter who fails to strike out a batter will have a ratio of zero, I listed the games with the highest number of expected strike outs in that slot. Roger Clemens came within six strikeouts of leading the American League in 1987, but twice that July pitched a complete game without fanning anyone.

Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan appear on the list three times each and Johnson would have made it four were it not for Mickey McDermott's unexpected appearance. Obviously, you aren't going to make this list unless you have a very high seasonal strikeout rate or (in the case of McDermott) pitch a lot of extra-innings.

I next decided to do something similar with walks, although I made one change. Since strikeouts almost always result in an out, it made sense to calculate the rate based upon innings pitched. In the case of walks, however, I decided to use batters faced instead.

So here is the chart of the pitchers who walked more than expected with one through thirteen walks:

                                     Game        Season
Pitcher               Game        IP  BFP BB   IP    BFP  BB     Exp#  BB-Ex  BB/Ex
Zach Stewart       2012-06-02      0    1  1   35.2  168   4    0.024  0.976 42.000
Larry Benton       1932-05-05      0    2  2  179.2  745  27    0.072  1.928 27.593
Rick Aguilera      1993-05-26      0    3  3   72.1  287  14    0.146  2.854 20.500
Carl Hubbell       1928-09-15      0.1  5  4  124    511  21    0.205  3.795 19.467
Hal Carlson        1925-06-06      0.2  7  5  234   1024  52    0.355  4.645 14.066
Elmer Myers        1917-06-08      0.2  7  6  201.2  865  79    0.639  5.361  9.385
Tim Stauffer       2011-08-30      1.2 13  7  185.2  777  53    0.887  6.113  7.894
Jim Merritt        1969-06-15(1)   5.2 27  8  251   1072  61    1.536  6.464  5.207
Ray Kremer         1926-07-30      6.1 33  9  231.1  955  51    1.762  7.238  5.107
Jeff Suppan        2004-07-28      4.2 28 10  188    811  65    2.244  7.756  4.456
John Hiller        1974-08-09      5.2 29 11  150    633  62    2.840  8.160  3.873
Bobby Burke        1932-05-03      6.2 35 12   91    409  44    3.765  8.235  3.187
Bud Podbielan      1953-05-18     10   49 13  186.1  818  67    4.013  8.987  3.239

Nothing too earth-shaking here. Almost all of these pitchers had good to excellent control. The top half of the list features pitchers in very short outings who walked nearly everyone they faced. And if nothing else, it's always nice to look at a list with Bud Podbielan on it. John Hiller lost the game above, one of his major league record 31 decisions in relief that year.

For all of the pitchers on the bottom half the list (from Stauffer to Podbielan) the game represented their career high in walks allowed.

Here's the reverse: pitchers showing uncharactistically good control.

                                     Game        Season
Pitcher               Game        IP  BFP BB   IP    BFP  BB     Exp#  BB-Ex  BB/Ex
Turk Lown          1951-09-17      9   39  0  127    584  90    6.010 -6.010  0.000
Zip Zabel          1915-06-17     18.1 78  1  163    688  84    9.523 -8.523  0.105
G. Hesselbacher    1916-07-04(1)   9   46  2   26    128  22    7.906 -5.906  0.253
Joe Decker         1975-04-13      8   37  3   26.1  135  36    9.867 -6.867  0.304
Dick Weik          1949-07-29      9.1 38  4   95.1  448 103    8.737 -4.737  0.458
Bill Zuber         1936-09-25(1)   9   43  5   13.2   67  15    9.627 -4.627  0.519
Rex Barney         1943-09-04     14   54  6   45.1  214  41   10.346 -4.346  0.580
D. Littlefield     1951-05-02      6   31  7    9.2   54  17    9.759 -2.759  0.717
Dick Weik          1949-08-04(1)  11   48  8   95.1  448 103   11.036 -3.036  0.725
Cal Hogue          1952-08-05     12   51  9   83.2  385  68    9.008 -0.008  0.999
Dick Weik          1948-09-08(2)   5.2 31 10   12.2   68  22   10.029 -0.029  0.997

Once again, since every pitcher with zero walks will have the same ratio (zero), I used the pitcher with the highest expected walk total in the game for the first slot.

Zip Zabel set a record for the longest relief outing in major league history in his entry, a mark that should stand for generations to come. While George Hesselbacher had the best control of his short (six-game) career in the start above, he did allow sixteen hits and ended up on the losing end of a 11-2 score. In Joe Decker's next three combined starts, he walked thirteen and recorded only five outs.

Bill Zuber's entry on the list above was his second major league start. In his first, he walked ten batters in less than five innings. But while he had much better (if not good control) in his second outing, he was also far easier to hit, getting reached for twelve hits in a 8-2 loss, compared to only two hits allowed (and a win) in his ten-walk debut.

Dick Weik has three entries on this list, which should eliminate the element of surprise from the next list, the pitchers (200 or more career innings minimum) with the highest walk rate per nine innings:

Pitcher          IP     BB   BB/G
Dick Weik       213.2  237   9.983
Bob Wiesler     241.1  218   8.130
Dave Cole       237.1  199   7.546
Mitch Williams  691.1  544   7.082
Ken Wright      236    180   6.864
Tommy Byrne    1362   1037   6.852

Finally, I figured we'd looked at hits allowed. This time, instead of innings pitched or batters faced, I used at-bats as the denominator. Here's the list of pitchers who allowed a surprisingly large number of hits:

                                     Game        Season
Pitcher               Game        IP   AB  H   IP     AB   H     Exp#   H-Ex   H/Ex
Eric Gagne         2003-05-12      0.1  3  3   82.1  279  37    0.398   2.602  7.541
Jeff Zimmerman     1999-08-31      0    4  4   87.2  302  50    0.662   3.338  6.040
Heath Bell         2007-07-14      0.1  5  5   93.2  326  60    0.920   4.080  5.433
Jesse Orosco       1996-04-19      0.1  6  6   55.2  203  42    1.241   4.759  4.833
F. Francisco       2009-08-14      0.2  8  7   49.1  187  40    1.711   5.289  4.091
Chris Codiroli     1983-07-30(1)   0.2  8  8  205.2  789 208    2.109   5.891  3.793
M. Bumgarner       2011-06-21      0.1 10  9  204.2  777 202    2.600   6.400  3.462
Charles Hudson     1988-08-27      1.1 13 10  106.1  395  93    3.061   6.939  3.267
Phil Niekro        1980-06-14      1   14 11  275   1030 256    3.480   7.520  3.161
Johnny Podres      1963-09-28      1.2 16 12  198.1  764 196    4.105   7.895  2.923
Andy Benes         1996-08-21      2.2 17 13  230.1  872 215    4.192   8.808  3.102
Ron Darling        1991-08-25      4.2 22 14  194.1  727 185    5.598   8.402  2.501
Barry Zito         2003-07-08      5.1 28 15  231.2  849 186    6.134   8.866  2.445

Eric Gagne was at the height of his powers in 2003, finishing the season with a 1.20 ERA while converting all 55 of his save opportunities on his way to sweeping all of the major pitching awards. When he entered a tie game in the top of the ninth on May 13th, he had allowed only a single run and seven hits in over eighteen innings pitched that year. So his rough treatment at the hands of the Braves that day certainly qualifies as a big surprise.

Rookie Jeff Zimmerman was almost as dominant as the Rangers' setup man for John Wetteland in 1999 before getting blasted by the Tigers in back-to-back appearances in late August and early September. He allowed eight runs in an inning and a third in the two games and saw his earned run average go from 1.16 to 2.06.

Like Zimmerman, Heath Bell was in the middle of an excellent season as a setup man (to Trevor Hoffman) when back-to-back bad outings around the All-Star break raised his ERA from 1.45 to 2.29. He would finish strong, however, holding opposing batters hitless in fifteen of his last eighteen appearances.

Jesse Orosco took one for the team during his game on this list. Entering with his team down 10-7 in the bottom of the eighth with no one out and the bases loaded, he was left in the absorb the worst beating of his career. By the time manager Davey Johnson eventually came and got him, there was one out, the bases were still loaded and the Rangers now led 18-7. Reserve infielder Manny Alexander came in to pitch, promptly walking all three of Orosco's base-runners home before giving up five more runs of his own to cap a sixteen run inning. It was the most runs scored in a single inning in the major leagues since the Boston Red Sox scored seventeen on June 18, 1953.

Orosco's poor outing that day was sandwiched between two other ineffective games which left him with a 25.07 ERA on April 22nd. Over his remaining 59 appearances that year, he allowed only eight more earned runs (or as many as he allowed in the game referenced above), good for a 1.29 ERA.

The first starter on our list, Chris Codiroli allowed batters to bat 1.000 against him (the two outs he recorded were on a sacrifice bunt and a runner getting thrown out trying to score from first on a double) before leaving down by seven runs in the bottom of the first. His Oakland teammates took him off the hook, however, scoring the next twelve runs on their way to a 13-8 victory. Tom Burgmeier picked up the win with eight and a third innings of five-hit relief. The only pitcher with a longer relief outing since was Neil Allen who pitched nine shutout innings in relief on May 31, 1988.

Madison Bumgarner allowed a record-tying eight straight hits to open his game.2 After striking out the opposing pitcher, he was gone after giving up a two-run double to the next batter. His loss that day dropped his record to 3-9, but he would go 10-4 with a 2.62 ERA the rest of the way.

Johnny Podres' start came in the Dodgers second to last game of the season and was simply intended as a tune-up for the World Series. Despite his poor showing that day, Podres pitched and pitched well in the second game of the series, a 4-1 win over the Yankees. It was his first appearance against New York since his shutout clinched Brooklyn's only modern World Series win in 1955.

Andy Benes' loss in the game above broke a ten-game winning streak and was a rare low-point during a twenty-two start stretch that saw his record go from 1-7 to 17-9 and his ERA drop from 5.92 to 3.80.

So much for the pitchers suffering through bad games. What about the ones who gave up a surprisingly low number of hits?

                                     Game        Season
Pitcher               Game        IP   AB  H   IP     AB   H     Exp#   H-Ex   H/Ex
Jesse Haines       1924-07-17      9   27  0  222.2  890 275    8.343  -8.343  0.000
Zach Stewart       2011-09-05(2)   9   28  1   67.1  273  90    9.231  -8.231  0.108
Al Milnar          1942-08-11(1)  14   41  2  157    582 146   10.285  -8.285  0.194
Jeff Pfeffer       1917-09-04     14   48  3  266    963 225   11.215  -8.215  0.267
Phil Douglas       1915-07-07(2)  16   52  4  188.1  700 174   12.926  -8.926  0.309
Willis Hudlin      1933-07-16     14   46  5  147.1  586 161   12.638  -7.638  0.396
Bob Osborn         1927-05-17     14   48  6  107.2  425 125   14.118  -8.118  0.425
Bud Podbielan      1953-06-02     13   46  7  186.1  737 214   13.357  -6.357  0.524
Fred Heimach       1922-05-17     13   47  8  171.2  697 220   14.835  -6.835  0.539
Joe Oeschger       1920-05-01     26   85  9  299   1111 294   22.493 -13.493  0.400

Obviously, the easiest way to give up fewer hits than expected is to spread them out over a whole lot of extra innings. We'll adjust the list in a moment, but first a few comments about some of the long games:

Al Milnar didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the top of the ninth. After pitching fourteen scoreless innings in this game, he failed to get out of the first inning his next time out and made only two more appearances the rest of the year.

Like Milnar's game, Jeff Pfeffer's game also ended in a fourteen-inning scoreless tie. His opponent was Joe Oeschger, who appears later on the list (courtesy of his record-tying twenty-six inning game). In his previous start, Pfeffer allowed a single run in eleven innings, only to see that game end in a tie as well. Pfeffer is one of only two players since 1914 to pitch eighteen or more innings in a game twice. In the second of these games, Pfeffer allowed twenty-three hits in a 10-9 eighteen-inning loss to the Phillies.

Phil Douglas was making his second start for the Robins in 1915 when he pitched sixteen innings of four-hit ball in (you guessed it) a scoreless tie. It was the second of three teams he would pitch for that year, on his way to drinking himself out of the league for the first time.

Bob Osborn got rewarded for his fourteen innings of scoreless relief when Charlie Grimm singled in a run off of opposing starter Bob Smith, in the top of the twenty-second inning. It was the twentieth hit allowed in the complete-game loss by Smith, who also walked nine. I suspect that whoever was supposed to keep track of his pitch count took the day off. The Braves did give him nine days off before his next start, a 8-1 victory over the Phillies.

Three starts after walking thirteen in ten innings to make an earlier list, Bud Podbielan allowed only seven hits in thirteen innings to merit inclusion on this one as well. Despite these two games (both wins), this would not be a good year for Podbielan, who would lose ten straight games during the second half of the season.

Earlier, I wrote that Jeff Pfeffer was one of two pitchers since 1914 to throw more than eighteen innings a game twice. Joe Oeschger is the other, but in his case, he threw twenty or more innings twice. A year and a day before the twenty-six inning game on our list, he went the distance in a 9-9 tie against Burleigh Grimes and the Brooklyn Robins. Both starters finished the game, and both of them gave up three runs in the nineteenth inning.

Here's the same list, with a nine-inning limit:

                                     Game        Season
Pitcher               Game        IP   AB  H   IP     AB   H     Exp#   H-Ex   H/Ex
Jesse Haines       1924-07-17      9   27  0  222.2  890 275    8.343  -8.343  0.000
Zach Stewart       2011-09-05(2)   9   28  1   67.1  273  90    9.231  -8.231  0.108
Blue Moon Odom     1964-09-11(2)   9   28  2   17     80  29   10.150  -8.150  0.197
Les Sweetland      1930-04-15      9   30  3  167    726 271   11.198  -8.198  0.268
Tommy Thomas       1930-07-04(2)   9   34  4  169    708 229   10.997  -6.997  0.364
C. Willoughby      1930-08-10(1)   9   33  5  153    654 241   12.161  -7.161  0.411
Danny McDevitt     1958-08-17(2)   9   34  6   48.1  200  71   12.070  -6.070  0.497
B. Bush            1927-07-02(1)   9   34  7   18.2   87  32   12.506  -5.506  0.560
Lee Meadows        1928-07-21(2)   9   35  8   10     47  18   13.404  -5.404  0.597
Carl Doyle         1936-07-17      9   36  9   38.2  179  66   13.274  -4.274  0.678
Clise Dudley       1930-04-28      9   37 10   66.2  278 103   13.709  -3.709  0.729
Les Sweetland      1930-07-21      9   38 11  167    726 271   14.185  -3.185  0.775

Zach Stewart is only twenty-seven years old so it's a little early to sum up his career, but at present he ranks as one of the unlikeliest pitchers to ever throw a one-hitter. His career record as a starter is 2-9 with a 7.51 ERA. In his other starts, the league has hit .387 against him, with 111 hits in only 65 1/3 innings.

Nineteen-year-old Blue Moon Odom wasn't ready for the majors when he was called up in September, 1964. Well, except for his two-hit shutout over the Orioles in his second major league appearance. He would eventually pitch in two All-Star games, throw a pair of one-hitters and be part of three World Championship teams.

Danny McDevitt had shown promise as a rookie for the Dodgers in 1957, but he suffered through a miserable first season in Los Angeles. He allowed six hits and walks in his game on this list, not a gem by any means, but far better than the .392 batting average the league had against him is his other games that year.

Bullet Joe Bush and Lee Meadows were at the other end of their careers when they pitched the games on the list above. Bush held the Braves to seven hits to win his first start with the Giants in 1927, but pitched only three more innings for New York that season (allowing eleven hits) and would win only two more times before calling it quits. Meadows was making his first start with the Pirates on that day in 1928. He won that game, but failed to retire another batter that season, giving up nine straight hits over two appearances before wrapping up his career with another short, ineffective outing the following spring.

And, except for the mediocre games above, both Carl Doyle and Clise Dudley were horrible the rest of 1936 and 1930, respectively. In their other games those years, the league hit .399 against Doyle and .386 against Dudley, the main reason they went a combined 1-6 in those games.

One thing all of the pitchers I just discussed have in common is that they pitched briefly during the season they made the list. In just about all cases they had one good (or at least decent game) and were horrible the rest of the time. But what if only look at pitchers who threw a minimum of 150 innings that year? Here's the updated list:

                                     Game        Season
Pitcher               Game        IP   AB  H   IP     AB   H     Exp#   H-Ex   H/Ex
Jesse Haines       1924-07-17      9   27  0  222.2  890 275    8.343  -8.343  0.000
Phil Douglas       1921-06-04      9   29  1  221.2  864 266    8.928  -7.928  0.112
Jack Kramer        1939-05-12      9   30  2  211.2  845 269    9.550  -7.550  0.209
Les Sweetland      1930-04-15      9   30  3  167    726 271   11.198  -8.198  0.268
Tommy Thomas       1930-07-04(2)   9   34  4  169    708 229   10.997  -6.997  0.364
C. Willoughby      1930-08-10(1)   9   33  5  153    654 241   12.161  -7.161  0.411
Jim Walkup         1937-07-02      9   33  6  150.1  629 218   11.437  -5.437  0.525
Ray Benge          1930-06-08(2)   9   35  7  225.2  931 305   11.466  -4.466  0.610
Tommy Thomas       1930-09-16(1)   9   38  8  169    708 229   12.291  -4.291  0.651
L. Hernandez       2008-05-07      9   36  9  180    752 257   12.303  -3.303  0.732
Les Sweetland      1930-08-27      9   35 10  167    726 271   13.065  -3.065  0.765
Les Sweetland      1930-07-21      9   38 11  167    726 271   14.185  -3.185  0.775

National League hitters batted .309 against Jesse Haines in 1924, but on one unlikely day in mid-July he managed to hold the Boston Braves hitless. Admittedly, they were the worst hitting team in the league, scoring 129 runs less than the second-worst, batting only .256 in a league that hit .283. Haines had entered the game with a 4-12 mark and a 3.89 ERA, but his performance that day in Boston did not signal the start of a second half surge. In his three starts after the no-hitter, he allowed an average of thirteen hits, and his two worst months of the year turned out to be August and September. He would eventually return to the form he had shown the previous three years and become a mainstay of the Cardinals staff into the 1930s, but except for one fine day against the Braves that year, 1924 would remain one of his poorest seasons.

Les Sweetland has three entries on this list from his 1930 campaign, which follows from the following chart, the pitchers allowing the highest batting average against in a season from 1914 to 2013 (150 or more innings minimum):

Pitcher            Year   IP     AB    H   AVG
Les Sweetland      1930  167    726  271  .373
C. Willoughby      1930  153    654  241  .369
Jim Walkup         1937  150.1  629  218  .347
L. Hernandez       2008  180    752  257  .342
Ernie Wingard      1927  156.1  627  213  .340
Whitey Glazner     1924  156.2  620  210  .339
Ray Benge          1936  160.2  684  231  .338
Bill Sherdel       1929  195.2  825  278  .337
George Smith       1921  221.1  905  303  .335
S. Thurston        1925  183    747  250  .335

Both Sweetland and Willoughby were on the 1930 Phillies, a team whose pitching staff allowed opposing batters to hit .346 against them in 1930, an average exceeded by only one other pitcher (Jim Walkup) with at least 150 innings pitched in the last 100 years.

I suppose that's more than enough for now.

One final note: I made several decisions in preparing this article and I suspect that at least some of them were, as my folks used to say, sub-optimal. Others might have opted to use a consistent denominator (perhaps innings pitched) throughout. Someone else (with more math skills than I possess) might have thrown out the idea of a ratio entirely, opting instead for a method of determining the probability of extreme performances. In short, there are all sorts of ways of approaching a topic like this, and many of them might be better than the ones I chose. But hopefully, this article was still of some interest.

Notes:

1Actually, this list eliminates the entries where the ratio was undefined. Here are the last five of those:

                                    Game      Season
Pitcher               Game        IP    SO   IP      SO     Exp#   SO-Ex  SO/Ex
Caleb Thielbar     2013-08-21      0     1   46      39    0.000   1.000      -
P. Aumont          2012-09-29      0     1   14.2    14    0.000   1.000      -
E. Del Rosario     2010-05-24      0     1   10       4    0.000   1.000      -
Miguel Batista     2009-04-15      0     1   71.1    52    0.000   1.000      -
Matt Thornton      2006-09-24      0     1   54      49    0.000   1.000      -

As you probably guessed, these are all cases where a pitcher struck out a batter without recording any outs (the batters all reached base via a wild pitch, passed ball or error). And of course, there are also cases where a pitcher failed to strike out any hitters (so the actual and expected values are both zero), a ratio (0/0) which looks like it might evaluate to 1 but is also undefined.

2This was the seventh time a team had opened a game with eight straight hits. Here is the complete list:

Team      Date         Result
CHI N  1973- 4-21      W 10- 9
PHI N  1975- 8- 5      W 13- 5
PIT N  1975- 8-26      W  8- 2
OAK A  1991- 9-27(1)   L  5- 9
NY  A  1990- 9-25      W 15- 3
CHI N  2009- 9- 8      W  9- 4
MIN A  2011- 6-21      W  9- 2

The Greatest Incomplete Starts

On May 13, 2015, Corey Kluber pitched a great game (or at least a great 8/9 of a game), allowing one hit and no runs or walks while striking out eighteen over eight shutout innings.

At the time it was reported that he had the highest game score1 for any eight-inning start in at least a hundred years. But until a relatively short time ago, the idea of removing a pitcher throwing as well as Kluber after only eight innings would have been considered crazy (and judging from some of the reactions in comment sections across the web, some still consider it at least partially nuts). To give you an idea of how this has changed over time, here are the number of starting pitchers removed after eight innings with a game score of 80 or more in each five-year period since 1950:

1950-1954    3
1955-1959    2
1960-1964   11
1965-1969   13
1970-1974   10
1975-1979    9
1980-1984   18
1985-1989   45
1990-1994   79
1995-1999  121
2000-2004  153
2005-2009  178
2010-2014  271

Soon, we will look at who had the highest game score over the first eight innings for any starter (well, at least since 1948), but first let's look just at the pitchers who were removed after the inning in question. Here's the eight-inning list covering the years 1914-2014 (which most people are already partly familiar with):

Eight innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Corey Kluber         CLE A  5-13-2015     98    8  1  0  0  0 18
Johan Santana        MIN A  8-19-2007     95    8  2  0  0  0 17
Nolan Ryan           TEX A  4-12-1989     93    8  1  0  0  2 15
Jon Lester           BOS A  5- 3-2014     93    8  1  0  0  2 15
John Smoltz          ATL N  4-14-1996     92    8  1  0  0  1 13
Randy Johnson        SEA A  6- 8-1997     92    8  1  0  0  3 15
Kevin Brown          SD  N  9-29-1998     92    8  2  0  0  2 16
Brad Penny           FLA N  6-26-2001     92    8  1  0  0  1 13

I added Kluber's start by hand (since I don't have access to play-by-play data for 2015 yet).

The oldest game on this list featured a 42-year-old pitcher. It was Ryan's second start (and first win) for the Rangers. He would throw a complete game one-hitter two starts later and follow that with another one-hitter in early June. Smoltz's entry was an early-season start and part of a fourteen-game winning streak that helped earn him a Cy Young award. Kevin Brown pitched his gem in the opening game of San Diego's 1998 Division Series with the Astros.2 And Randy Johnson's game was part of career-high streak of 32 consecutive scoreless innings.

Next up: the seven, six and five inning lists.

Seven innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Jake Peavy           SD  N  4-25-2007     86    7  2  0  0  3 16
Nine pitchers with 85
Six innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Matt Perisho         TEX A 10- 3-1999     80    6  2  0  0  0 12
Chris Sale           CHI A  5-22-2014     80    6  1  0  0  0 10
Hank Aguirre         DET A  8- 3-1960     79    6  1  0  0  0  9
Randy Johnson        ARI N  5-15-2007     79    6  1  0  0  0  9
Jordan Zimmermann    WAS N  8-31-2010     79    6  1  0  0  0  9
Josh Johnson         MIA N  7-23-2012     79    6  1  0  0  0  9
Michael Fiers        MIL N  8-14-2014     79    6  3  0  0  1 14

Matt Perisho's gem came on the last day of the season and was his only start of the year. He entered the game looking for his first major league win and, thanks to an offense that managed only five scattered singles, left the game the same way. It was far from a typical performance for him: in 28 career starts, he had a 1-13 record to go with a 8.39 ERA.

I suspect there was an injury behind Hank Aguirre's early exit. In his previous appearance, nearly two weeks earlier, he had pitched a three-hitter. After leaving the start on our list (with a 12-0 lead), he didn't appear in another game for eight days and would not make another start for a year and a half.

Five innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Pascual Perez        MON N  9-24-1988     74    5  0  0  0  1  8
John Smoltz          ATL N  9-23-1998     74    5  1  0  0  0  9
Francisco Cordova    PIT N  8-31-1996     73    5  1  0  0  0  8
Mike Krukow          CHI N  6- 9-1981     72    5  1  0  0  0  7
Jose Rijo            OAK A  8-23-1985     72    5  1  0  0  0  7
Juan Guzman          TOR A  7- 4-1997     72    5  1  0  0  1  8
Devern Hansack       BOS A 10- 6-2008     72    5  0  0  0  1  6
Jorge de la Rosa     COL N  6-14-2008     72    5  1  0  0  1  8

Pascual Perez and Devern Hansack pitched the only complete games on the lists so far, both rain-shortened no-hitters (although some would say they no longer count). It was the second of only three major league starts for Hansack and his first win. Alex Madrid, the losing pitcher in Perez's gem, was making his first major league start (and would make only four more).

Toward the end of 1998, Smoltz was more interested in tuning up for the playoffs than going deep into a game. In his previous outing, he had left after six shutout innings. Cordova was making his first major league start after pitching 53 times in relief that year. He would remain a starter for the rest of his career and is most well known for pitching the first nine innings of a ten-inning no-hitter the following year. And for 20-year-old Jose Rijo, who had come to Oakland from the Yankees as part of the Rickey Henderson trade, the game on the list was his first start for the A's following his recall from the minors two weeks earlier.

Note that the earliest game on these lists is from 1960, which is a reflection of both the eagerness of modern managers to cut short a dominant outing as well as the ever increasing number of strikeouts in today's game.

Before moving on, I just wanted to briefly mention the best starts of one through four innings. I was reluctant to research these because I assumed they would all involve injuries of some sort, but with one exception, such was not the case. Here they are:

Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Ervin Santana        ANA A  5- 4-2011     68    4  0  0  0  1  7
Jose Nunez           TOR A 10- 1-1989     65    3  0  0  0  0  6
John Tudor           STL N  8-10-1990     60    2  0  0  0  0  4
Merkin Valdez        SF  N  4- 2-2008     60    2  0  0  0  0  4
Ernie Shore          BOS A 10- 6-1915(1)  56    1  0  0  0  0  3

Only Tudor left his start due to an injury and his career would end a little more than a month later. For the others: Santana's outing was cut short by a rain delay, Nunez was a reliever called upon to pitch the first few innings of a meaningless game, while Shore was getting in a little (highly successful) work only two days before starting the first game of the 1915 World Series.

Merkin Valdez appearance was caused by the threat of rain. Originally, Tim Lincecum had been scheduled to start, but Valdez replaced him right before game time. It was his only major league start and he would set career highs in both innings pitched (2) and strikeouts (4). His sacrifice bunt in the top of the second was his only plate appearance. Lincecum eventually took the mound, throwing four innings and scoring the go-ahead run for his first win of what turned out to be a Cy Young award-winning season.

So what's next? As I alluded to earlier, I also wanted to include the performances of pitchers who continued to pitch beyond the inning in question. So here are the best performances of eight through five innings for starting pitchers regardless of how many innings they ended up throwing. Since this analysis requires play-by-play data, only the 1948 to 2014 period is covered (again, with Kluber added):

Eight innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Corey Kluber         CLE A  5-13-2015     98    8  1  0  0  0 18
Kerry Wood           CHI N  5- 6-1998     98    8  1  0  0  0 18
Brandon Morrow       TOR A  8- 8-2010     97    8  0  0  0  1 16
Ramon Martinez       LA  N  6- 4-1990     96    8  2  0  0  0 18
Matt Cain            SF  N  6-13-2012     96    8  0  0  0  0 14
Yu Darvish           TEX A  4- 2-2013     96    8  0  0  0  0 14
Clayton Kershaw      LA  N  6-18-2014     96    8  0  0  0  0 14

When throwing eight perfect innings with fourteen strikeouts only gets you a tie for third place, you know this is a tough list to crack. Kluber tops it, although this time he has company. Both Kluber and Wood hit a batter in their outings so that's no use as a tie breaker.

Of the six non-Kluber pitchers on this list, only Yu Darvish failed to complete his game, and in their last inning of work they combined to pitch 5 2/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood's game began with eight straight combined strikeouts (five by Wood and three by Shane Reynolds). That's the most consecutive strikeouts to open a game since at least 1948 and no other is even close. There are nineteen games tied for second place with five consecutive opening strikeouts, starting with a Braves-Cubs contest in 1963 (which ended up a 10-6 slugfest), and wrapping up with a Marlins-Mets game last September 15th, one that is also the last time a team started three different players whose last names begin with a lower-case 'd': the Mets' Travis d'Arnaud, Matt den Dekker and Jacob deGrom.

Seven innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Corey Kluber*        CLE A  5-13-2015     91    7  1  0  0  0 16
Nolan Ryan           TEX A  4-12-1989     90    7  0  0  0  1 14
Roger Clemens        BOS A  9-18-1996     90    7  2  0  0  0 17
Kerry Wood*          CHI N  5- 6-1998     90    7  1  0  0  0 15
Brandon Morrow*      TOR A  8- 8-2010     90    7  0  0  0  1 14
Matt Cain*           SF  N  6-13-2012     90    7  0  0  0  0 13

There are a number of repeats on this list, including Corey Kluber, this time alone in the top spot.

Six innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Corey Kluber*        CLE A  5-13-2015     85    6  0  0  0  0 13
Roger Nelson         BAL A  9-18-1968     84    6  0  0  0  1 13
Roger Clemens        BOS A  4-29-1986     84    6  1  0  0  0 14
Nolan Ryan*          TEX A  4-12-1989     84    6  0  0  0  0 12
Ramon Martinez*      LA  N  6- 4-1990     84    6  1  0  0  0 14
Nolan Ryan           TEX A  7- 7-1991     84    6  0  0  0  0 12

* - appears on a previous list

Roger Nelson failed to retire any of the four batters he faced in the seventh and ended up with a loss for his efforts. Following the season, he was the first pick in the American League expansion draft. Roger Clemens appears on the seven and six inning lists, representing both of his twenty-strikeout games. After beginning his 1991 game with six perfect innings, Nolan Ryan allowed the lead-off hitters in the next three innings to reach base before being relieved with a man out in the ninth. He can perhaps be excused for tiring somewhat down the stretch. He was 44 years old after all.

Five innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Corey Kluber*        CLE A  5-13-2015     78    5  0  0  0  0 11
Nolan Ryan           CAL A  6- 8-1977     78    5  0  0  0  0 11
Eleven pitchers with 77

Kluber is at the top of all four of these lists, either all by himself (six and seven innings) or tied with another pitcher (five and eight).

So much for excellence.

I thought I'd turn this on its head and finish with the worst game scores over the first five through eight innings. Of course these are not the worst performances by starters, since those seldom last more than an inning or two. Rather, these represent an unusual blend of ineffectiveness and a manager who is either strapped for pitching or simply enjoying seeing one of his charges getting beaten up.

Eight innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Carl Scheib          PHI A  7-22-1949     -9    8 18 12 12  8  1
Joe Coleman          PHI A  8-16-1950(1)   5    8 14 11 11  5  0
Phil Marchildon      PHI A  6-20-1948(2)   7    8 15 10 10  6  1
Alex Kellner         PHI A  9- 9-1950(2)  10    8 15 11 10  3  3
Ned Garver           STL A  6-10-1951(1)  11    8 18  9  8  2  1

The first four entries on this list have one thing in common: manager Connie Mack. For Coleman, the start above represented his second straight complete game. In the first, he allowed seven runs while walking nine in eight innings. Ned Garver, the only non-Mack pitcher on the list, actually managed to win his game, one of twenty for him that year. After laboring mightily in the first game of the double-header that day, Garver was called upon to pinch-run in the second. I guess manager Zach Taylor figured that his legs were still fresh.

Seven innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Joe Coleman*         PHI A  8-16-1950(1)   4    7 12 11 11  5  0
Tom Brewer           BOS A  5-17-1960      4    7 14 11 10  4  1
Ray Scarborough      WAS A  4-23-1949      7    7 15 10 10  2  2
Billy O'Dell         SF  N  7-23-1964      7    7 11 12 11  4  2
Ned Garver*          STL A  6-10-1951(1)   8    7 17  9  8  2  1
Lew Burdette         MIL N 10- 2-1960     10    7 15  9  9  1  0

In his start above, Lew Burdette was trying (and failing) to win at least twenty games in a season for the third straight year. Four years later, he was the opposing pitcher when Billy O'Dell was routed by the Cubs 13-4. And Burdette was responsible for a large share of the damage in that game with four hits, including a triple and a homer.

Six innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Billy O'Dell*        SF  N  7-23-1964      1    6 11 12 11  4  1
Early Wynn           WAS A  4-19-1948      6    6 14  9  9  2  0
Jason Jennings       COL N  7-20-2004      6    6 15  9  9  1  1
Mitchell Boggs       STL N  7- 3-2008      6    6 10 11 10  6  2
Curt Young           OAK A  4-28-1990      7    6 11 10 10  3  0
Greg Hibbard         SEA A  5-24-1994      7    6 15 10  7  2  1

* - appears on a previous list

Mitchell Boggs was undefeated with three wins in his brief major league career before getting clobbered by the Mets that day in 2008. Greg Hibbard had a worse start three weeks later, giving up twelve hits and two walks, good for ten earned runs, in only three innings of work. Jose Canseco hit two homers and a single off him in that game, knocking in six runs.

Five innings
Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Mike Oquist          OAK A  8- 3-1998    -21    5 16 14 14  3  3
Jerry Augustine      MIL A  5-11-1982    -12    5 15 12 12  2  1
Jason Marquis        STL N  6-21-2006    -11    5 14 13 13  1  3
R. Rowland-Smith     SEA A  7-27-2010      0    5 11 11 11  2  1
Mark Davis           SF  N  5- 7-1984      2    5 14 10 10  1  4
Mike Maroth          STL N  7-19-2007      2    5 11 10 10  3  0

Jason Marquis would have a very similar start four weeks later:

Player               Team     Date        GS   IP  H  R ER BB SO
Jason Marquis        STL N  7-18-2006     -7    5 14 12 12  2  4

So why isn't it also on the list above? Because he wasn't removed after the fifth inning. Instead he pitched to two batters in the sixth, giving up a home run and a single, before heading for the showers. The two starts helped Marquis lead (or tie for the league lead) that season in losses, runs, earned runs as well as triples and home runs allowed. He also had the highest ERA among qualifiers (6.20).

Only two other pitchers since 1914 have had two starts with negative game scores in a season:

Player               Team     Date        GS   IP    H  R ER BB SO
Pat Caraway          CHI A  7-23-1931     -8    4.2 13 11 11  4  2
                     CHI A  7-26-1931(2) -12    2    7 13 10  8  0
Jamie Navarro        CHI A  7-31-1997     -1    4.2 11 11 10  2  1
                     CHI A  8-22-1997     -5    3   10 11 10  3  1

Pat Caraway's starts were back-to-back and Jamie Navarro didn't even get the loss in the first start above, as the White Sox had jumped out to a 9-0 lead before eventually winning 14-12.

And while Mike Oquist's game score of -21 is the lowest one we've seen so far, it is certainly not among the lowest of all-time. Here are the lowest ones of any length since 1914:

Player               Team     Date        GS   IP    H  R ER BB SO
George LeClair       PIT F  8-16-1914    -56    8   24 21 20  8  0
Hod Lisenbee         PHI A  9-11-1936    -35    8   26 17 14  1  2
Howard Ehmke         BOS A  9-28-1923    -34    6   21 17 16  4  6
Tom Sheehan          PHI A  9-29-1915(2) -29    8   23 20 12  4  3
Win Noyes            PHI A  9- 5-1919    -26    7   22 15 15  2  3
Johnny Miljus        CLE A  7-25-1929    -26    3   13 14 14  3  0

I was kind of surprised that only half of the six games featured pitchers managed by Connie Mack. And Babe Ruth helped put two of the games on this list (Win Noyes in 1919 and Howard Ehmke in 1923) with five hits in each.

Notes:

1Game scores were a method devised by Bill James in the 1980s to evaluate a start by a pitcher. You begin with 50 points and add one point for each hitter the pitcher retires, two points for each inning completed after the fourth inning, and one point for each strikeout. You then subtract one point for a walk, two points for hit, four points for an earned run and two points for an unearned run.

2A hat tip to Pete Ridges for reminding about both this game and the existence of the post-season in general.