May 2, 2014
This Week's New Pitching Lines, 5/2
About once a week there's a line that's so unusual that I get a basket of tweets as it's happening, or immediately after the pitcher leaves the game. This week's was Brandon Morrow's 2.2/0/4/4/8/1; no surprise it's never happened before, but perhaps surprising is how close a few other lines have come. Dick Weik's 2.1/0/1/1/8/0 line in 1950; Dave Cole's 2/0/2/2/8/2 in 1952; Sandy Koufax's 2.2/0/5/5/6/3 in 1965; Steve Adkins' 1.1/0/3/3/8/1 line in 1990. The details are all just a little bit off, but the basic premise that made everybody notice Morrow's line—eight walks and no hits in a start shorter than three innings—has been done.
Oddly enough, the same day there was another no-hitter in progress that was interrupted with two outs in the third: Anibal Sanchez's 2.2/0/0/0/2/2. Sanchez left the start with an injury. There have now been 16 starts in major-league history that went 2 2/3 innings with no hits allowed, and two of them happened within an hour of each other.
The best new pitching line of the week: Marco Estrada's 7.2/4/3/3/0/9. No new stunners this week. Estrada's sure doesn't look like anything you've never seen before, does it? Part of the reason it's new is the strikeouts (the same line with eight Ks has been done), but it seems to be more that few pitchers give up so many runs on so few baserunners. If you add two or more baserunners in any direction--two hits; two walks; a hit and a walk; two hits and a walk; two walks and two hits; and so on--you get results for almost every iteration up to nine baserunners.
The worst new pitching line of the week (tie):
None of these was the worst in the conventional sense, but represented a particular kind of failure by each pitcher: The failure to get through five innings despite getting so, so close. Managers hate pulling pitchers after 4 2/3 innings; not only does it cost the pitcher a shot at the win, but there's something symbolic about bringing in a reliever before five that makes it officially a burden on the bullpen. There have been, in history, just 300 starts in which a pitcher went 4.1 or 4.2 innings while allowing one run or fewer; by contrast, there have been 1,600 that went 5.1 or 5.2 innings with one or no runs allowed. In other words, managers have a much slower hook before the Win threshold is passed, and yet all three of these guys--on the same day!--managed to get hooked anyway. (Chris Tillman’s 4.2/6/3/3/3/8, incidentally, came the same day and is also a new line.) Ramos walked back-to-back batters and was pulled before he could face Mike Napoli; his pitch count was already at 95, thanks to all those walks. Patterson, in his major-league debut, was pulled after 87 pitches with Joe Mauer coming up and two Patterson walks on base. Johnson was pulled with the lead, having already thrown 106 pitches with one out in the fifth.
The most surprisingly new pitching line of the week: Jenrry Mejia's 5.2/8/6/6/1/6. Surprising because of this: A large portion of our new lines come because the pitcher allowed unearned runs, which foul up typical lines in atypical ways. Think of it like a landscape painting that looks more or less like all landscape paintings, except it was left alone with a child and a magic marker for three minutes. So what makes Mejia's line surprising is this: There has been a 5.2/8/6/5/1/6--so, the same line but with one unearned run. And there has been a 5.2/8/6/4/1/6. And a 5.2/8/6/3/1/6. This line is a landscape painting in a world where every other landscape painting has been Magic Markered.
The Stephen Strasburg line of the week: 7/7/0/0/2/9. As we've established, Stephen Strasburg only has new lines or close to new lines, because nothing like Strasburg has ever existed before. This is a new line. He has now made six starts this year:
So he has produced six pitching lines that have been produced a total of seven times in history, or as many as Erik Johnson's 1.2/4/4/4/4/1 this week.
*Asterisk denotes a line that would have precedents if all unearned runs were counted as earned. Only starting pitching lines count when looking for uniqueness.