Thursday, December 27, 2007

Most Career Innings Pitched, Zero Wild Pitches

I was a little surprised to find out today that wild pitch totals exist all the way back to the first games of the National League in 1876. For some reason I figured that would be a stat (like strikeouts as a batter?) that didn't pop up until later. Whether they were recorded by contemporary stat crews or figured out later as part of a research project, the data makes for an interesting post.

Though it's cool to know which pitchers were wild in the 19th century, I find some numbers dubious at best. Consider Hall of Famer Tim Keefe, a pitcher from 1880 to 1893. In 5047.2 career innings, he tossed 233 wild pitches, or so the record says. What stands out from his yearly totals, however, is his 1884 season for the American Association's (then the second major league) New York Metropolitans. During that season, Keefe supposedly threw 483 innings without a single wild pitch. The year before he had 26 wild pitches in 619 innings and the year after (back in the National League) he had 35 wild pitches in 400 total innings. Is it possible he had great control that season? Sure, but I find it very unlikely. After all, the 1883 and 1884 New York Metropolitans used the same two catchers for most of each season. Further lending doubt as to the accuracy of his wild pitch count is the AA leaderboard for wild pitches: Bob Emslie had 43 wild pitches, followed by Bill Mountjoy with 18. Tom Sullivan claims fifth in the league...with three. That just seems strange, especially since Emslie only had 12 wild pitches in 1883. Was there a change in the definition of a wild pitch over time?

In any case, the cloudy 19th century data means I'm only going to look at numbers since 1901. That's a pretty common way to view records anyway. There's no guarantee numbers from the beginning part of the 20th century are any better than those of the previous twenty-five years, of course, but we'll hope they are. Let's see which pitchers had the longest careers sans wild pitches.

Most Career Innings Pitched, Zero Wild Pitches (1901-2007)

RankNameCareer IPCareer Span
1Joe Black414.01952-1957
2Scott Baker280.22005-2007
3Cactus Keck218.01922-1923
4Frank Shellenback217.21918-1919
5Max Fiske198.01914
6Tommy de la Cruz191.11944
7Dennis Burns181.01923-1924
8Dale Gear163.01901*
9Jim Bivin161.21935
10Rick Williams156.01978-1979
11Mark Brandenburg144.11995-1997
12Clem Dreisewerd140.21944-1948

Farmer Ray140.21910
14Jim Wright139.01978-1979
15Jess Doyle136.01925-1931
16Bud Smith132.22001-2002
17Lynn Brenton131.11913-1921
18Mark Lee127.11988-1995
19Joe Martina125.11924
20Dick Robertson124.21913-1919

*Gear also pitched 23 innings in 1896 without a wild pitch. If you count those (and I didn't) he leaps over Dennis Burns and takes over seventh place with 186.0 career innings.

Now, let's look at the active pitchers with the most career innings without a wild pitch. Obviously, Scott Baker leads the list, but who else has more than fifty career innings?
  1. Scott Baker, 280.2 IP
  2. Kyle Kendrick, 121.0
  3. Manny Delcarmen, 106.1
  4. Tim Stauffer, 94.2
  5. Yusmeiro Petit, 83.1
  6. Edinson Volquez, 80.0
  7. Ken Ray, 79.0
  8. Chris Schroeder, 73.2
  9. Hideki Okajima, 69.0
  10. Chris Britton, 66.1
  11. Bill Bray, 65.0
  12. Jeff Harris, 57.0
  13. Brian Wilson, 53.2
  14. Bryan Corey, 53.1
Though they didn't pitch in the majors this year, Ken Ray and Jeff Harris toiled in AAA, so it's possible they will get another shot at the majors in the future.

As a final note, the all-time leader for most wild pitches, Nolan Ryan, threw 277 wild pitches, or one every 19.44 innings. Since 2000, 119 players have had MLB pitching careers shorter than 277 total pitches. Of those, 13 were primarily position players, but 106 pitchers, even if many are still active, is still a lot.

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