Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Most Games Pitched With Zero Plate Appearances

It's always strange to me to see a relief pitcher bat in a major league game. That's not to say it doesn't happen: a quick glance at teams in the 2007 NL Central reveals the Cubs sent seven relievers to the plate at least once and every other team did it at least a couple times. My favorite recent reliever batting episode took place in 2005, involving 36-year-old Korean lefty Dae-Sung Koo. Having already struck out five days earlier in his batting debut, Koo led off the seventh inning on May 21 against Yankees lefthander Randy Johnson. Without looking into it, a lefthanded hitting reliever squaring off against a lefthanded pitcher would seem to be pretty rare. Anyway, Koo took a ball and a strike and then doubled to centerfield for his only major league hit.

I bring all this up because most pitchers who have a lengthy major league career wind up hitting at some point. Of the 1,004 pitchers in major league history to make 300 or more appearances, only thirty of them never recorded a plate appearance. A quick look at the list shows this is mostly due to the designated hitter rule and partly to evolving bullpens: the earliest debuts on that thirty-pitcher list took place in 1974. In fact, if you look at only players who debuted before 1973 (when the DH rule took effect), the leader for most games pitched without a plate appearance ends up being Charlie Hudson with 40 career games (12 prior to 1973).

Obviously, pitching in the American League for a long time and/or being a relief pitcher (especially a lefty specialist) helps propel players up the list of most game pitched without a plate appearance. That doesn't mean there aren't some long-time AL starters on the list. Good luck finding them. Without further ado, here are the thirty pitchers in MLB history to pitch in 300 or more games without once coming up to bat.

Most Career Games Pitched, Zero Career Plate Appearances
  1. Buddy Groom, 786
  2. Bob Stanley, 637
  3. Mike Fetters, 620
  4. Tippy Martinez, 548
  5. Mike Flanagan, 529
  6. Steve Farr, 509
  7. Chad Bradford, 500*
  8. Jamie Walker, 496*
  9. Mark Clear, 481
  10. Edwin Nunez, 427
  11. Mark Gubicza, 384
  12. Brian Shouse, 383*
  13. Kirk McCaskill, 381
  14. Ron Guidry, 380
  15. Mark Williamson, 365
  16. Francisco Rodriguez, 363*
  17. Sammy Stewart, 359
  18. Scott McGregor, 357
  19. Mike Boddicker, 347
  20. Scott Bailes, 343
  21. Mike Witt, 341
  22. Bryan Harvey, 322
  23. Billy Taylor, 317
  24. Doug Corbett, 313
  25. Dennis Leonard, 313
  26. Richard Dotson, 312
  27. Chris Bosio, 310
  28. Bill Simas, 308
  29. Mike Venafro, 307
  30. Bill Castro, 303
*active player - stats now through 6/10/2008

Barring a plate appearance, J.J. Putz should join the list later this year as he's at 280 appearances now. Jason Frasor (254), Mike MacDougal (249), and George Sherrill (225) are the only other active players past 200 games. Something tells me it won't be widely noted that Chad Bradford did something done only six other times in MLB history after his next appearance.

UPDATE (6/11): Bradford did pitch in his 500th career game on June 10 but his entry into pretty exclusive company was unheralded in the recaps I saw. Shucks, I never woulda guessed!

1 comment:

Aaron Bolton said...

I found this list searching for a similar stat: most career innings pitched and no plate appearances. #1 would seem to be Mike Flanagan (2770 IP) if you ignore his World Series plate appearances in 79 & 83. Otherwise the leader would be Mark Gubicza (2223.1 IP) and not a single regular season or post season plate appearance. Can you verify? Thank you.