Tuesday, April 8, 2008

(Don't) Swing, Batter!

It's always frustrating for fans to watch their team's pitchers miss the strike zone consistently. In yesterday's Chicago-Pittsburgh game, Pirates Rule 5 pick Evan Meek, forced into a tie game in the twelfth, threw thirty-six pitches and only eleven of them were strikes. Granted, he had two intentional walks mixed in there, but that's still a hard thing to watch. A Rule 5 back-of-the-bullpen pitcher might have an excuse, although it might not be a good one.

Starting pitchers, on the other hand, who throw more balls than strikes in an outing are really annoying. The Baseball-Reference.com Play Index lists 43,722 starts from 1999-2007 (the years I've found with reliable pitch data) and only 705 of them (1.6%) featured at least as many balls as strikes thrown. The wild starters' teams were a combined 191-514 (.271) in those games and the pitchers themselves went 40-386 (.094).

I've put together some lists of the lowest percentage of strikes thrown in a start and broken it into multiple categories so the list isn't cluttered by guys who left shortly after the game started due to injury or managerial ire.

Lowest Percentage of Strikes Thrown in a Start, 1-49 pitches

RankNameDateTeamOpponentPitchesStrikesStrike %
1Aaron Myette9/3/2002TEXBAL400.0
2Justin Wayne5/3/2003FLAHOU23417.4
3Ryan Dempster10/5/2001FLAATL451431.1
4Kyle Davies7/16/2007ATLCIN22731.8
5Jason Standridge7/13/2003TBDSEA311032.3
6Kevin Correia9/12/2005SFGSDP27933.3
7Mickey Callaway6/18/1999TBDMIN12433.3
8Chad Gaudin6/22/2004TBDTOR291034.5
9Brian Tollberg6/10/2003SDPCLE26934.6
10Michael Tejera7/1/2004FLAATL23834.8
Ramon Martinez9/28/2000BOSCHW23834.8

Lowest Percentage of Strikes Thrown in a Start, 50-99 pitches

RankNameDateTeamOpponentPitchesStrikesStrike %
1Alan Levine9/27/2000ANAOAK511835.3
2Daniel Cabrera4/7/2006BALBOS602236.7
3Ryan Dempster4/30/2003CINCOL501938.0
4Shawn Chacon8/16/2003COLNYM522038.5
5Jim Brower7/5/2000CLETOR522038.5
6Rocky Coppinger4/25/1999BALOAK572238.6
7Jonathan Johnson6/13/2003HOUBOS763039.5
8Mario Ramos6/29/2003TEXHOU753040.0
9Wes Obermueller5/31/2005MILSDP552240.0
10Darryl Kile4/23/1999COLSFG542240.7

Lowest Percentage of Strikes Thrown in a Start, 100+ pitches

RankNameDateTeamOpponentPitchesStrikesStrike %
1Ervin Santana7/20/2006LAAKCR1034644.7
Jason Jennings9/8/2002COLSDP1084945.4
Tom Glavine8/21/2004NYMSFG1105045.5
Tom Glavine9/18/2001ATLPHI1054845.7
Shawn Chacon7/24/2002COLARI1185445.8
Al Leiter5/1/2004NYMSDP1135246.0
Robert Person7/17/2002PHICHC1155346.1
Chris Capuano4/18/2005MILLAD1044846.2
Russ Ortiz9/8/2003ATLPHI1105146.4
10Darren Dreifort4/20/1999LADATL1034846.6

It's interesting that Tom Glavine shows up on the last list twice. On the final list, Ortiz and Dreifort got wins for their trouble.

There are quite a few pitchers who show up more than once on the list of starts with at least as many balls thrown as strikes. Below you'll find the pitchers with six or more such games.

Most Starts With at Least as Many Balls Thrown as Strikes, 1999-2007
  • Russ Ortiz, 12
  • Shawn Estes, 10
    Tom Glavine, 10
  • Al Leiter, 9
  • Daniel Cabrera, 8
  • Jimmy Anderson, 7
    Jason Bere, 7
    Jaret Wright, 7
    Victor Zambrano, 7
  • Chris Carpenter, 6
    Shawn Chacon, 6
    Ryan Dempster, 6
    Scott Erickson, 6
    Mike Hampton, 6
    Hideo Nomo, 6
    Mark Redman, 6
    Dan Reichert, 6
    Jamey Wright, 6
Some of those guys are still active, so watch for them to pad their "wild start" numbers. Also note that since this is only since the 1999 season, guys like Tom Glavine probably have more starts that qualify from before then.

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