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January 27, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

A Game Most Untrue

by Jim Baker

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Today's Hot Stove reminiscence is about one of the more unique pitching performances of 2005.

On Tuesday, Keith Woolner did a piece about the Three True Outcomes champions of 2005. He discussed the players who put the ball in play the least and, instead, have their games dominated by home runs, strikeouts and walks.

There is another side to the coin as well--the anti-Three True Outcomes. Keith discussed the hitters who qualified for that distinction in 2005. This got me to wondering about which pitchers were least likely to have true outcomes. Then I remembered that I had a chart in my files of a list of pitchers who had made the longest starts of 2005 without walking or striking out a batter. It looks like this:


DATE   PITCHER              TM  OPP    IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO   NP
--------- -------------------- --- --- ----- --- --- --- --- --- ----
19-JUL Horacio Ramirez      ATL SFN   7.3  10   4   4   0   0   81
05-JUN Kris Benson          NYN SFN   7.0   3   1   1   0   0   98
07-MAY Andy Pettitte        HOU ATL   7.0   7   3   3   0   0   82
18-APR Jason Johnson        DET BAL   7.0   7   2   2   0   0   79
19-MAY Brad Halsey          ARI HOU   7.0   6   1   1   0   0   79
06-APR Carlos Silva         MIN SEA   7.0   9   1   1   0   0   68

Are there any surprise names on this list? Looking at all the pitchers who threw at least 160 innings last year (a threshold created, admittedly, just so Brad Halsey could be included), we find most of these six near the upper end of the putting-balls-into-play list.

Horacio Ramirez, the man who had the longest start without walking or striking out a batter, is ranked tenth out of the 95 pitchers who qualify. My criteria were a little simpler than Keith's. I just took the total number of True Outcomes (strikeouts, walks, home runs--and hit batsmen) and divided it by Total Batters Faced. Ramirez was at .213.

Kris Benson ranked 27th at .233 while Andy Pettitte, at .265 was very nearly at the average point for the 95 qualifying pitchers, which was .267. Jason Johnson came in at number three overall and Halsey was 12th. The one thing you could have bet on was that Carlos Silva would have thrown one of these games. He was, by a good margin, the most untrue starting pitcher of 2005. Here are the top 10:


PLAYER TEAM           TBF  True  Ratio
Carlos Silva, MIN     749   108  .144
Paul Byrd, LAA        842   159  .189
Jason Johnson, DET    888   171  .193
Josh Towers, TOR      876   171  .195
Kenny Rogers, TEX     828   163  .197
Tom Glavine, NYM      901   181  .201
David Wells, BOS      780   158  .203
Mark Hendrickson, TBA 796   164  .206
Kyle Lohse, MIN       769   161  .209
Horacio Ramirez, ATL  847   180  .213

The thing about these six games is that four of them don't actually qualify as True Outcome-Free pitching. Pettitte, Ramirez, Johnson and Silva all surrendered one home run in these outings. That leaves the battle for the Untrue Start of the Year between Benson and Halsey.

In his game, Halsey faced 25 batters and threw 82 pitches. He bested Roger Clemens in a 6-1 victory. Given his BABIP of .320 on the year and the large number of balls that get put into play, this was an interesting outing. His Game Score on the day was 61; this doesn't even make his top five on the season, which makes sense because he didn't whiff anybody.

My vote for Untrue Start of the Year would have to go to Benson because of one fairly amazing start: he threw 98 pitches and faced 26 batters without walking or striking out anybody, which is almost four pitches per batter faced. The Giants went 3-for-26 that night, contributing to Benson's seasonal BABIP of .264--ninth-lowest among qualifying starters.

In none of the six games listed above did the bullpen continue the no-walks/no-Ks work of the starter. Benson's game came the closest, though, as Aaron Heilman walked a man and neither he nor Braden Looper--each of whom threw one inning in relief--struck anybody out. In each of the other five games, there were at least two strikeouts and/or walks and strikeouts combined by the relievers.

Benson's opponent in The Untrue Game of the Year was Jason Schmidt, who was also Ramirez's opponent in his no-walk, no-K game. Talk about diversity of foes, Schmidt was one of the pitchers least likely to have a game like Benson's. Here are the five pitchers who had the most True Outcomes per batter faced in 2005:


PLAYER TEAM            TBF  True  Ratio
Jason Schmidt, SFN     757   271  .358
Jake Peavy, SDN        812   291  .358
Scott Kazmir, TBA      818   296  .362
Daniel Cabrera, BAL    716   269  .376
Mark Prior, CHN        701   276  .394

How important is the venue in the pursuit of an Untrue Game? Let's put it this way: it can't hurt. Consider that the six parks in which the above games were thrown were: Shea Stadium, Safeco Field, Minute Maid Park, Camden Yards, Turner Field and SBC Park. None except Turner--in a diversion from the past--were especially friendly to hitters last year.

It will be interesting to see who pitches The Untrue Game of the Year in 2006. The most likely candidate would be Silva, provided he can keep the ball in the park. Watch for his starts in the tougher home run parks and see what happens. Kenny Rogers, getting half his starts in Comerica, is a good bet to compete for the honor, and Benson could always repeat.

It would be nice to see somebody pull it off while getting a complete game in the process. Benson tossed 72 pitches that weren't put into play, but a more economical performance could certainly net the pitcher a shot at going the route without running up a crazy pitch count. Since nobody is walking or striking out, we would assume that a lot of the batters were being dispatched early in the count. A five- or six-hitter in which nobody walks or strikes out could very easily be accomplished in 100 pitches over nine innings.

Related Content:  The Who,  Three True Outcomes

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