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 4 Fun With Retrosheet Data, Episode 5 Fun With Retrosheet Data, Episode 6
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)
Pitchers Doing Random Things In The Most Consecutive Games (February 2, 2021) Players Doing Random Things In The Most Consecutive Games (January 24, 2021) Extra-Inning Season and Career Batting Records (October 19, 2019) Extra-Inning Single Game Batting Records (September 29, 2019) Second (and third) Generation Major League Players (September 14, 2019) Perhaps the Most Improbable Comebacks From 1901 to 2018 (May 13, 2019) Runs Produced By The Most and Fewest Hits (September 12, 2018) 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)
I've spent a lot of time over the last six weeks or so generating discrepancy files1 for the early Deadball Era, work that has required me to compare long columns of numbers associated with each player's batting, pitching and fielding logs. That is even more exciting than it sounds, and while I was doing this, I got to wondering what player had exactly four (or three or two or--you get the idea) at-bats in the most consecutive games. So I promised myself that once I was done with the discrepancy files, I was going to find the answer to that question, at least as it relates to major league baseball since 1901, and that once I knew the answer, I would write an article about it. And so this is that article.
Now people familiar with these articles of mine already know what to expect, but if you're new here, what follows will be a series of arcane and at times silly tables interspersed with some explanatory text. My only hope in presenting these is that some of it ends up being interesting (in a dull sort of way). Most of this verges dangerously close to a parody of what can be done with a mountain of easily accessible data and no sense of restraint. And almost all of it would not have been possible twenty or so years ago, before Retrosheet started making play-by-play and boxscore data freely available to the public. Well, some of it would have been possible with an enormous amount of effort, but as you'll quickly see below, the fruits of all that work would have been a meager return on a decade or more of your available free time.
Now that that's out of the way, one ground-rule: unless otherwise mentioned these streaks do not span seasons. So the player with the most consecutive games with no at-bats is not a DH-league relief pitcher (with apologies to Jose Mesa).2
Let's start with at-bats. Here's the list:
AB Streak Player Start End 0 92 Herb Washington 4- 4-1974 10- 1-1974 Pedro Feliciano 4- 7-2010 10- 2-2010 1 37 Bill Taylor 4-13-1955 7-10-1955 2 13 Brett Myers 7-10-2010 9-13-2010 3 13 Todd Cruz 7-15-1980 8- 7-1980 4 20 Fred McGriff 6-29-1996 7-22-1996 5 12 Red Schoendienst 6-21-1945 7- 1-1945(2) 6 4 Quilvio Veras 7-10-1997 7-13-1997 7 2 Done 21 times, last by Ben Revere in 2014. 8+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
One thing that surprised me was that there was a single record-holder for each number of at-bats from one through six. Going into this, I figured there would be, say, four or five players who had exactly three at-bats in twelve consecutive games or some such, but that wasn't the case.
With the exception of Herb Washington, Oakland's pinch-running specialist who went the entire 1974 season without an at-bat, and Pedro Feliciano, the Mets short-stint left-handed relief specialist, you could not have predicted the appearance of anyone on this list. Okay, Giant fans of a certain age might have guessed that left-handed pinch-hitting specialist Bill Taylor, who walked only once in 1955, might have held the single at-bat mark, but the rest of the list is a crap-shoot. I was surprised that a pitcher held the two at-bat mark, but Brett Myers was remarkably consistent in 2010, coming within a single out of finishing the sixth inning in all of his starts that season while, since he was pitching in the modern era, completing only two.
Bill Taylor ended his string with the only sacrifice fly of his season on July 16th or it could have gone on until July 26th, when he was announced as a pinch-hitter only to be replaced when the opposing manager brought in a lefty reliever. He had only himself to blame for being pulled, having struck out in all five of his previous career at-bats against lefties. And of course, the next time he faced one, he homered.
A similar chart for runs scored:
R Streak Player Start End 0 94 Salomon Torres 4- 3-2006 10- 1-2006 1 12 Jimmie Foxx 5-13-1932 5-23-1932 Marv Rackley 8-11-1948 8-25-1948 Johnny Groth 8-14-1950 8-25-1950 Mike Schmidt 6-17-1976 6-28-1976 2 7 Don Baylor 6-28-1979 7- 4-1979 3 3 Done 18 times, last by Jeff DaVanon in 2003. 4 2 Done 8 times, last by Hunter Pence in 2016. 5+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
As above, the first entry on the list encompassed an entire season. Had Torres pitched in the AL, he could've bumped Herb Washington and Pedro Feliciano out of the top spot on the at-bat list as well. Don Baylor hit seven home runs during his streak, and added two more the game after it ended. Jimmie Foxx was also one of the 18 players with three straight games of three runs scored, doing it in August 1939. I was kind of surprised that no one since 1901 has scored three runs in more than three consecutive games.
On to the hit chart:
H Streak Player Start End 0 92 Herb Washington 4- 4-1974 10- 1-1974 Pedro Feliciano 4- 7-2010 10- 2-1974 1 16 Ted Sizemore 6- 1-1975 6-18-1975 2 11 Tony Perez 8- 8-1973 8-20-1973 3 6 George Brett 5- 8-1976 5-13-1976 4 4 Milt Stock 6-30-1925 7- 3-1925 5 2 Hi Myers 8-21-1917 8-22-1917 Roberto Clemente 8-22-1976 8-23-1976 6+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
I suppose it's not too surprising that a player without an at-bat in 92 games would also not have a hit. Salomon Torres managed a hit in his five at-bats in 2006, removing him from another top spot. Hi Myers got more than his share of chances to get his back-to-back 5-hit games, getting his fifth hit in the tenth inning on August 21 and in the twenty-first inning the next day. In that last game, Carson Bigbee had six hits and Jim Hickman five. To be fair, Clemente also benefited from extra opportunities in his games as well, getting his fifth hit in the first game in the sixteenth inning.
The first of the extra-base hit charts:
2B Streak Player Start End 0 122 Rafael Belliard 4- 6-1988 10- 2-1988 1 9 Bo Bichette 7-31-2019 8- 8-2019 2 3 Done 11 times, the last by in 2019. 3 2 Joe Dugan 9-24-1920 9-25-1920 Earl Sheely 5-20-1926 5-21-1926 Carl Reynolds 7- 3-1929 7- 4-1929(1) Red Schoendienst 6- 5-1948 6- 6-1948(1) Hank Majeski 8-27-1948(1) 8-27-1948(2) 4+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
I think it's pretty amazing that even a poor-hitting middle-infielder like Belliard could get only four extra-base hits in 286 at-bats--all of them triples. Bo Bichette started his double-a-game run in his third career game. He also hit four homers, and unlike his father didn't play his home games in Coors Field.
Since I mentioned discrepancy files at the beginning of this article, I should point out that Earl Sheely is credited with hitting 40 doubles in 1926, but we think he should have 41, since it appears as if a double credited to Bill Hunnefield on August 14th should have gone to Earl instead. Had he played in the NL, that extra double would have given him sole ownership of the league lead, but over in the AL, he would still have been a mile behind George Burns, who had eclipsed 41 doubles on July 24th on his way to a record 64.3
And no one has hit as many doubles in a single day since 1901 as Hank Majeski did during the double-header in the chart above, but Art Griggs came close with five in a double-header on the last day of the 1918 season. It would also be the last day of Griggs' major league career. He added two singles in the second game, but his seven hits that day weren't enough to convince Detroit to keep him on once Harry Heilmann returned from military service in 1919.
The triples chart:
3B Streak Player Start End 0 163 Todd Zeile 4- 2-1996 9-29-1996 1 4 Done 13 times, the last by Nomar Garciaparra in 2003. 2 2 Elmer Flick 7- 6-1903(2) 7- 7-1903 3+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
Lots of hitters have completed seasons without hitting any triples. Todd Zeile's season above was the middle of three straight without a triple. He played for two teams in 1996 and managed to become the only player to appear in as many as 163 games without a three-base hit. The next year, he played 160 games without tripling. If you permit streaks to span seasons, Mark McGwire once went 1398 games between triples, a span of more than eleven years.
I was surprised that no one has had back-to-back games with two triples since 1903. Six players have hit a total of four in back-to-back games, but all but Flick have done that with a three/one split.
HR Streak Player Start End 0 162 Jimmy Barrett 4-14-1904 10- 8-1904 Juan Pierre 4- 2-2007 9-30-2007 1 8 Dale Long 5-19-1956 5-28-1956 Ken Griffey 7-20-1993 7-28-1993 2 3 Gus Zernial 5-13-1951(2) 5-16-1951 Frank Thomas 8- 1-1962 8- 3-1962 Lee May 5-24-1969 5-28-1969 Jeff DaVanon 6- 1-2003 6- 4-2003 3+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
Once again, Barrett and Pierre make the chart because they played the most games in their homer-free seasons. The only thing surprising is that the two seasons were 103 years apart. Barrett's Tigers played ten tie games in 1904, making the length of his season look oddly modern. Once we get past those two and into the players who actually homered their way onto the list, many of the names and their streaks are well known. The outlier, of course, is Jeff DaVanon. These were the only multi-homer games in his career, and apart from that June, he never hit more than two home runs in any one month.
Don Mattingly, who shares the record with Long and Griffey for the most consecutive games with at least one home run missed making the list above because on two occasions he hit a pair.
Next up: RBIs:
RBI Streak Player Start End 0 97 Jack Reed 5- 1-1963 9-28-1963 1 10 Frank White 6-10-1983 6-21-1983 2 5 Done 10 times, the last by Josh Hamilton in 2008. 3 4 Done 6 times, the last by Frank Catalanotto in 2005. 4 3 Lou Gehrig 8-29-1931 8-31-1931 Travis Hafner 5- 1-2006 5- 3-2006 5 2 Done 17 times, the last by Nelson Cruz in 2019. 6 2 Rusty Greer 8-22-1997 8-23-1997 Geoff Jenkins 4-28-2001 4-29-2001 7+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
This only covers 1920 to 2020 since RBIs are unofficial and somewhat incomplete prior to that.
For the first time, the top entry on the list doesn't represent a player's entire season, but it comes close. Jack Reed, normally a late-inning defensive replacement, got into the game early on April 24th when Roger Maris injured his left hamstring in the second inning. Reed then proceeded to hit a double and a triple, the last driving in his first run of the season, and the last of his major league career. He is most known today for the role he played in the longest game in Yankee history, which I wrote about elsewhere.
Frank White was in a mild slump during his string of single-RBI games, going 8-36 (.222) with an OPS under .600. In one hitless three-game stretch, only sacrifice flies kept his streak intact.
Lou Gehrig came within one RBI in the first game of the September 1st double-header of knocking in four runs in five straight games. Those games were part of six straight with a homer, including three grand-slams.
Just a few more, starting with walks:
BB Streak Player Start End 0 106 Mike Marshall 4- 8-1974 10- 1-1974 1 15 Chipper Jones 8-20-1999 9- 5-1999 2 6 Jack Clark 7-29-1987 8-10-1987 David Justice 9-25-1991(1) 9-29-1991 Barry Bonds 6-22-2004 6-27-2004 3 4 Mickey Mantle 7- 2-1957 7- 4-1957 4 2 Don Hurst 7- 3-1928(2) 7- 4-1928 Max Bishop 7- 8-1934(1) 7- 8-1934(2) Babe Young 6-29-1941 6-30-1941 Eddie Stanky 8-29-1950 8-30-1950 Pete Runnels 8-14-1959 8-15-1959 5+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
Mike Marshall, during his record-setting season with the Dodgers, had more opportunities to walk that you might expect of a relief pitcher, with 36 plate appearances. Salomon Torres, who is tied for the second-most relief appearances in a season, pitching 32 years later, had only 5 plate appearances.
David Justice walked three times in the game before his streak began, but Barry Bonds topped that by walking four times in the first game after his. For Bonds, that was one of seven games that year with four or more walks.
Roy Cullenbine, the player who had one or more walks in 22 consecutive games in 1947, the longest since at least 1901, doesn't appear on the list above, much as Joe DiMaggio doesn't appear on this list.
SO Streak Player Start End 0 115 Joe Sewell 5-19-1929 9-19-1929 1 15 Bruce Dal Canton 5-10-1971 7-31-1971 2 7 Dick Ellsworth 7-20-1968 9- 3-1968 Dave Kingman 7- 6-1972 7-12-1972 J. Saltalamacchia 6-26-2008 7- 5-2008 Melvin Upton 8- 2-2016 8- 8-2016 Miguel Sano 8-17-2019 8-24-2019 3 5 Jorge Soler 8-12-2020 8-17-2020 4 2 Done 15 times, the last by Matt Davidson in 2018. 5+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
This only covers 1914 to 2020 since strike out data is unofficial and largely incomplete prior to that.
Joe Sewell's ability to make contact is well-known. He struck out only four times in 1929, but he had two other seasons (1924 and 1931) with an even lower strikeout rate.
Bruce Dal Canton's run of single strikeout games could have been even longer had he not been shelved for a month with shoulder problems after it had reached fifteen. He never got to bat the rest of the year, making three relief appearances and two brief starts.
Miguel Sano actually hit pretty well in his seven games listed above. Despite striking out in nearly half of his at-bats, he also managed to hit two doubles and four homers in those seven games.
Despite not appearing above, Aaron Judge set the current mark in 2017 with 37 games in a row with at least one strikeout (38 if you count his appearance in that years All-Star game). When the streak started on July 9th, he was leading the AL with 30 homers and was hitting .330 with a 1.149 OPS on his way to an historic rookie season. What followed was a six-week slump (his slash-line4 during these games was .176/.333/.351) that was largely forgotten when he rebounded to hit 13 home runs in his last 19 games.
SB Streak Player Start End 0 163 Justin Morneau 3-31-2008 9-30-2008 1 7 Honus Wagner 8- 4-1904 8-12-1904 Josh Devore 7-27-1911 8- 5-1911 Clyde Milan 4-24-1913 5- 3-1913 Davey Lopes 9- 2-1976(2) 9- 9-1976 Ron LeFlore 6- 8-1980(1) 6-14-1980 2 4 Jose Altuve 6-26-2014 6-29-2014 3 2 Done 12 times, the last by Leonys Martin in 2013. 4+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
If you let the streak span seasons, Jesse Orosco replaces Morneau in the first row, with no career stolen bases in 1252 games pitched. If you eliminate pitchers, he is replaced by Cecil Fielder, who was playing in his 1097th game when he swiped the first bag of his major league career on April 2, 1996.
Except for Justin Morneau (obviously) and Leonys Martin, all of the players above stole at least 50 bases in their season. Clyde Milan's streak would have been two games longer had he stolen one less base on May 5th.
Bert Campaneris set the mark since 1901 by stealing at least one base in twelve straight games, and in the last six of those he stole a single base, just missing being included on the list above.
That's probably more than enough for now. For those of you who think this has been a pointless exercise, focused primarily on statistical anomalies, I don't necessarily disagree, but in my defense, there are a host of tables (intentional walks, sacrifice hits/flies, caught stealing and catcher interference) that I didn't include. So it could have been worse.
1Discrepancy files attempt to document instances where the game by game data on our site differs from more official accounts (either official league dailies or ICI accounts). A random sample is here.
2Jose Mesa may or may not be the record-holder if you allow the streak to span seasons. I just picked him because I know he was playing in his 868th game when he got his first major league at-bat.
3A record that was eclipsed five years later by Earl Webb. Unlike Webb, who had more than half of his career doubles in his record season, George Burns had three other years with more than forty doubles, including 51 in 1927.
4For the non-stat nerds out there, a slash line is simply batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage.
This is a lot like my previous article, but with pitchers. I wasn't going to do this originally, but then I figured it wouldn't hurt to look at the data, and right off the bat saw that two different pitchers once failed to retire a batter in five consecutive games and decided that this was a story that simply had to be told.
As before, these are single-season streaks, although I will occasionally note if there were longer ones that span seasons.
With a few exceptions, I'm only going to show instances where the longest streak happened once, the thinking being that if more than one player managed to do something, it couldn't have been extraordinary enough to merit a place here. So if you see an elided value on occasion, that's why. And you'll also notice that I've changed the way I display the date ranges. Since I'm only dealing with streaks within a single season, it seemed silly to repeat the year. And besides, as several sharp-eyed readers politely pointed out, I had quite a few typos where the years didn't match.
So without further ado, the innings pitched chart:
IP Streak Player Start - End 0 5 Joey Eischen 7- 6 7-17-2005 Trever Miller 4-17 4-28-2011 0.1 13 Tim Byrdak 5- 4 5-22-2012 1 65 Greg Holland 4- 9 9-29-2013 1.1 5 Sean Doolittle 9- 6 9-15-2013 1.2 5 Brad Voyles 5-31 6-10-2002 2 10 Lindy McDaniel 4-18 5-11-1965 3 9 Daniel Norris 8-11 9-25-2019 3.1 4 Rich Monteleone 6- 1 6-12-1993 4 5 Alex White 8- 7 8-25-2012 4.2 4 Clint Zavaras 8-24 9-19-1989 5.2 4 Jake Westbrook 4-16 5- 3-2003 6 8 Luis Perdomo 8- 2 9-10-2017 7 8 Jacob deGrom 8-17 9-25-2019 7.2 3 Philip Humber 5-26 6- 7-2011 8 10 Bill Carrick 7- 4 8- 5-1901(2) 9 14 Noodles Hahn 8- 5 9-28-1902 Bill Bernhard 4-29 7- 6-1903(1) 13 2 Harry Coveleski 7-20 7-24-1916 13.1+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
I like this one because of what it tells us about how pitching usage has changed in the last decade or so. Had the two pitchers at the top come in the 1930s (to pick an older decade), it would have been surprising that a manager kept them around after they'd gotten hammered over and over again. But Joey Eischen and Trevor Miller were LOOGYs (lefty one-out guys), which for the most part meant that they'd simply failed to retire their one guy five times. Not good, but not career- (or at least season-) ending bad. Miller faced only five batters and Eischen six during their out-free appearances and in one of his games, Eischen intentionally walked the only batter he faced.
Another more successful LOOGY has the longest run of appearances lasting a third of an inning. In those games, Tim Byrdbak walked the first batter he faced on May 4th before retiring thirteen straight in as many games, six of them by strikeout.
Greg Holland's near season-long string of single-inning appearances show the morphing of the closer role into a ninth-inning specialist. After closing 2013 with his streak intact, he entered the opening game of the 2014 season with the scored tied and one out. There were men on first and third and the first batter he faced singled to end the game. He then assumed his customary role of being on the mound at the start of the ninth and proceeded to finish that inning in 46 of his next 47 appearances.
Lindy McDaniel was in the Cubs' bullpen in 1965, back when two-innings were a reasonable day's work for a middle-reliever. He pitched 129 innings in relief that year, and while it was only the second-most on his team (behind closer Ted Abernathy's' 136 1/3 innings), it is more relief innings that any pitcher has thrown in a year since 1986.
By the time we get to Daniel Norris' run of three-inning games, the chart starts to deal almost exclusively with starting pitchers. Norris started all of the games referenced above and was restricted to three innings by design. In seven of the nine games, he allowed one run or less. Not surprisingly, this didn't help his won-loss record, as barring shortened games, starting pitchers can only lose outings of less than five innings. So despite a respectable 3.33 ERA in those nine starts, he went 0-4.
A (hopefully) brief digression. Here are the shortest and longest average outings by starting pitchers since 1901:
Shortest Longest IP Year IP Year 4.783 2020 8.301 1902 5.179 2019 8.297 1904 5.361 2018 8.219 1901 5.512 2017 8.211 1903 5.645 2016 8.004 1905 5.787 2007 7.982 1906 5.807 2008 7.806 1907 5.810 2015 7.696 1918 5.814 2009 7.695 1908 5.824 2006 7.632 1909
Clearly 2020 is an outlier, for a variety of reasons, but there's been a steady but significant drop in how long a starting pitcher is allowed to stay in the game. Here are the teams with the shortest average outings:
IP Year Team 3.852 2018 TB A 4.092 2020 DET A 4.100 2020 BOS A 4.194 2020 ATL N 4.204 2019 ANA A 4.256 2020 TOR A 4.300 2020 TB A 4.335 2019 TB A 4.391 2019 TOR A 4.450 2020 BAL A
The last two years dominate this list. Only two teams from years earlier than 2019 crack the top 32 spots, the 2012 Rockies, in 20th place, and the 2018 Rays, at the top. The Rays that year basically divided their starting rotation into two groups: Cy Young award winner Blake Snell and everyone else:
AVG GS IP ER W L ERA Blake Snell 5.828 31 180.2 38 21 5 1.89 The Others 3.384 131 443.1 217 14 31 4.41 Relief Crew 824.1 378 55 36 3.79
The pitchers behind Blake in the rotation were almost exactly league average pitchers (AL starters had a 4.39 ERA in 2018), but were only allowed to record on average ten outs per game. Not coincidentally, Tampa Bay's Ryan Yarbrough pitched the most innings in relief (118.2) since Duane Ward in 1990. Unlike Ward, who pitched 73 games out of the pen, Yarbrough pitched only 32 times in relief, and the average length of his relief outing (3.7 IP) was longer than the average length of the non-Blake starters. He was usually the second pitcher into the game and was treated as if he were a second starting pitcher. But since he wasn't the starting pitcher, he was eligible to win any time he inherited a lead and his team didn't lose it. As a result, he went 14-4 in relief, winning as many games in his 32 relief outings as all of the non-Blake starters won in 131 games.
By the way, no pitcher with at least 30 relief appearances pitched more innings per outing than Yarbrough. The only other pitcher who averaged 3.5 innings or more per relief appearance was Bob Stanley in 1982, who pitched 168 innings in 48 games. The pitcher who retired the fewest batters per outing was LOOGY Randy Choate who pitched 27 1/3 innings for the Cardinals in 2015, but took 71 games to do it. Chaote also set a record that year by failing to retire a batter in 20 games. The runner-up is Sean Runyanr with 17 games without an inning pitched in 1998.
Getting back to the innings pitched chart, Alex White in 2012 was an early version of Daniel Norris and came within one out of having a nine-game run when he was removed with 2 outs in the top of the fourth on August 31st. He didn't pitch poorly, with an ERA of 3.60 in the 20 innings, and emerged from the streak with a best-case record of 0-0.
Four times in a five-game span in 2011, Phillip Humber got within one out of finishing eight innings for the first time in his career only to get taken out. In his second start of 2012, he got two outs in the eighth again, but this time not only completed the game but completed a perfect game. It would be the last time he would pitch past the seventh inning in his career.
The six, seven, eight and nine inning streaks all reflect an understanding of just how far it was reasonable to expect a hurler to go into the game. Perdomo was routinely taken out after six innings regardless of how he was pitching and only pitched into the seventh on three occasions that year. DeGrom, coming off one Cy Young Award season and on his way to another, was allowed to finish the seventh but went past that barrier only once in 2019. DeGrom held his opponents scoreless in eight starts that year, but didn't take the mound in the eighth in any of them.
And the eighth and ninth inning entries reflect a time when a pitcher was expected to finish what he started. As soon as I saw that Bill Carrick had a long run of eight-inning starts in 1902, I knew he had been on a long, unpleasant road trip full of complete game losses. And sure enough, his only home game was an eight-inning relief stint while the only other game he didn't lose was a complete-game tie. Both Noodles Hahn (12-2) and Bill Berhnard (11-3), on the other hand won the lion share of their fourteen straight nine-inning complete games. Bernhard started his in the second start of his season and only a 2 1/3 inning relief outing prevented it from reaching seventeen before a badly broken finger on his pitching hand ended his season in late July.
So much for the innings pitched chart. I promise to pick up pace.
Next up: the longest streaks of games started, complete games, games finished, saves, wins and losses (I told you we were picking up the pace).
Streak Player Start - End GS: 49 Wilbur Wood 4-15 10- 1-1972 CG: 37 Bill Dinneen 4-16 10-10-1904(1) SHO: 6 Don Drysdale 5-14 6- 4-1968 GF: 59 Mike Williams 4- 3 9-25-2002 SV: 24 John Wetteland 5-31 7-14-1996 W: 15 Rube Marquard 5- 7 7- 3-1912(1) L: 13 Lum Harris 7-31(1) 9-30-1943
John Wetteland opted for free agency after the 1996 season and was replaced as the Yankees' closer by Mariano Rivera. Were it not for two brief relief appearances, Marquard's record would have been 19 and begun on opening day. Once his streak was broken, he lost his next three, going 7-11 the rest of the year. Walter Johnson also had a lengthy winning streak that year, one that reached 16 before he was given a controversial loss on August 26th, when he was charged with the inherited runners who scored the tying and go-ahead runs for the Browns. The issue of whether that game should have ended his winning streak became moot when he lost his next four games as well.
H Streak Player Start - End 0 20 Randy Choate 4-25 6-13-2011 1 11 Jim Mecir 7-27 8-31-2002 2 8 Mike MacDougal 9- 6 9-27-2009 3 6 Sam Leever 8-20 9- 5-1910(1) 4 6 Dave Lemanczyk 6-11(1) 7-27-1975(1) 5 7 Joe Engel 8- 4 9- 2-1913 7 7 Wilbur Wood 6-20 7- 9-1972(1) 8 6 Larry Jackson 5-14(1) 6- 5-1967 9 7 Togie Pittinger 8-27 9-23-1904 10 5 Bob Stanley 5-19 6- 8-1987 13 3 Bill Hubbell 8-30(1) 9- 7-1921(2) 14 3 Jack Taylor 4-19 4-27-1901 15+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
We've already talked about Randy Choate's role as a left-handed one-out guy. Here is his line for those 20 hitless games:
IP H R ER BB SO HBP 8.2 0 0 0 2 12 1
His streak ended in the second game of the July 15th double-header with the Phillies when, after retiring the first two batters he faced, Placido Polanco doubled.
And most of what remains in the chart (as well as most of the ones below) are simply statistical curiosities. That's not an apology, since statistical curiosities are sort of the point of this (and the last) article.
R Streak Player Start - End 0 38 Craig Kimbrel 6-14 9- 8-2011(1) 2 7 Cy Morgan 6-11 7-21-1908(2) 4 7 Pat Mahomes 6- 4 7- 5-1994 7 4 Ed Doheny 6-13 6-27-1901(1) 11 2 Jamie Moyer 8- 9 8-14-2000 12+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
So to reiterate, the missing rows indicate that there were multiple pitchers with the same streak. In the case of the run chart, 3 different pitchers allowed a single run in 7 straight games, 7 different pitchers allowed 3 runs in 6 straight games, and so on.
Kimbrel's scoreless streak reached 39 innings by the time it ended. It came within a single out of tying Brad Ziegler's record for the longest scoreless streak by a relief pitcher. Ziegler set the mark from the start of his career, not allowing a run until his 30th major league game.
If you look at scoreless games across seasons, Ryan Pressly tops Kimbrel's mark with 40 straight games from August 15, 2018 to May 20, 2019.
BB Streak Player Start - End 0 33 Yimi Garcia 6- 7 9-28-2015 2 9 Jamey Wright 5- 1 6-13-2006 3 8 Ed Willett 8-22(1) 9-27-1913(2) 6 4 Wilson Alvarez 5-18 6- 4-1993 8 3 Nolan Ryan 5-10 5-19-1974(1) 9+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
Yimi Garcia pitched 34 consecutive innings without a walk in 2015, which is far from the longest among relief pitchers, that being the 49 1/3 straight walk-less innings Tom Morgan pitched between his two walks in his first game of 1958 and the two he walked 32 games later on August 14th1.
Dennis Eckersley has the longest multi-season string of games without a walk with 41 from August 17, 1989 to June 10, 1990.
SO Streak Player Start - End 0 21 Randy Choate 7- 7 8-24-2009 1 12 Aaron Heilman 8-30 10- 2-2010 2 8 Mychal Givens 5-29 6-22-2019 3 6 Chris Stratton 6- 6 7- 3-2018 4 7 Bob Turley 8-10(2) 9-12-1958 6 6 Whitey Ford 7-20(2) 8-13-1958 8 5 Bob Gibson 4-13 5- 6-1969 12 4 Randy Johnson 6-19 7- 5-1998 15 2 Pedro Martinez 5- 7 5-12-1999 16 2 Dwight Gooden 9-12 9-17-1984 17+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
Once again, Randy Choate didn't pitch a lot of innings in those 21 games. I showed his composite line in his hitless games above, so here is the same for these:
IP H R ER BB SO HBP 9.1 16 9 9 2 0 0
In case you were wondering which was better for a pitcher to avoid: hits or strikeouts.
Not surprisingly, this isn't close to being the most consecutive relief innings pitched without a strikeout. That mark is held by Benny Frey who failed to strike out a single batter in his last 29 1/3 relief innings in 19332. If you allow streaks to span seasons, he nearly doubles that mark to 57 1/3 innings from August 26, 1933 to April 18, 1935.
Whitey Ford and Bob Turley both turned joined the list above while pitching for the 1958 Yankees, and for a few days that August their streaks overlapped.
HBP Streak Player Start - End 0 99 Mike Marshall 4- 8 9-21-1974 1 7 Jamey Wright 7-24 8-25-2001 Pedro Martinez 5-28 7- 1-2004 4+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
Jamey Wright hit two batters in the games both before and after hitting a single batter in seven straight games. It was part of his record-tying (at least since 1901) ten consecutive games with a hit batsman. Casey Fossum also did it in 2005.
WP Streak Player Start - End 1 8 Jaime Cocanower 6-14 7-25-1985 4 2 R.A. Dickey 5-24 7-30-2017 5+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row. BK Streak Player Start - End 1 5 Steve Carlton 5-21 6-10-1979 3+ 1 No one has had more than one of these in a row.
I don't have much to add to these last two charts. Steve Carlton is not just the major league career leader in committing balks, he has twice as many as the next person on the list, Bob Welch. The league-leading eleven balks Carlton was charged with in 1979 was a career high, but he led or tied for the NL lead on seven other occasions as well. He had a total of four balks in his first nine seasons. Something must have changed then in either the way he was holding runners on base or in the way umpires viewed his pickoff move, because he averaged more than six balks a year over his next fifteen seasons.
Before leaving, I did want to point out that this and the preceding article are based upon Retrosheet's box score and play-by-play data from 1901 to 2020. I selected that starting point because at present 1901 is as far back as their data goes, not because of any lack of interest in 19th century baseball. When earlier years are available, I will use them, and I suspect the charts above will look quite a bit different than they do now.
1There are people out there who insist that a pitcher who gives up a lead-off homer before retiring the side without further damage, ends that inning with an active streak of 0 scoreless innings since the inning, properly speaking, wasn't scoreless. And while they have a point, this introduces a painful level of complexity to what should be a joyous endeavour, leading to questions such as: "What if the pitcher was removed after the home run--would the reliever get credit for a scoreless inning?" Or: "What if the pitcher was taken out after retiring the first two batters and the reliever gives up a run?" And so on and so on. So when I talk about consecutive inning streaks, I really mean the number of outs recorded between events divided by three.
2Note that these are consecutive RELIEF appearances. Benny Frey started games during the streak, and struck out batters in those games (well, not a lot of batters), and for the purpose of his relief streak these games are ignored.