Thursday, August 28, 2008

Most Unearned Runs In a Game

If you've ever scrolled to the bottom of my blog you may have noticed a small Site Meter logo. Clicking on it takes you to the site summary for Recondite Baseball, and from there you can see the number of visits here every day. Another cool page there lists the referring URL for people who make it to my site. Most of the time it's Google searches directing people here but occasionally it's a new link from another website. Every once in a while, one of those Google searches or links brings up something interesting.

Last night, someone visited from a forum where a question was posted about the most unearned runs given up by a team in one game. I didn't have the answer on the site, but last September, I posted about the most unearned runs charged to individual pitchers and that entry was linked to in the forum. Of course, once I saw that, I wanted to know what the answer actually was.

I'm sure unearned runs were far more common in the late 19th century and early 20th century, when errors occurred much more frequently. In fact, looking at the career numbers of some pitchers from then confirms this. Nearly one-third of the runs allowed by Christy Mathewson were unearned. One-quarter of the runs Walter Johnson allowed were unearned. Cy Young gave up over 1000 unearned runs in his career.

When so many runs were unearned, it's likely at least some blowout games saw a lot of unearned runs. I would also think unearned runs weren't very notable. Sure, fans might harp on a team's defense (or lack thereof), but giving up, say, five unearned runs in a game probably wouldn't have the same surprise factor as it would today. With that in mind, perhaps it's good that the following list covers 1956-2008, where a lot of errors in a game is pretty glaring.

Most Unearned Runs Allowed In a Game By One Team, 1956-2008

Houston AstrosNew York Mets7/27/198516016
Houston AstrosChicago Cubs5/31/197316313
Minnesota TwinsKansas City Royals9/12/197616313
Texas RangersCalifornia Angels9/14/197816313
New York YankeesBaltimore Orioles6/5/198916313
Toronto Blue JaysBalitmore Orioles9/28/2000231013
New York MetsLos Angeles Dodgers8/26/196216412
Chicago CubsSan Francisco Giants9/3/196316511
Toronto Blue JaysTexas Rangers6/30/199216511
Boston Red SoxCleveland Indians7/14/195717710
Chicago CubsMontreal Expos6/25/197512210
San Francisco GiantsSt. Louis Cardinals4/26/197615510
California AngelsChicago White Sox5/31/197817710
Oakland AthleticsMinnesota Twins4/27/1980201010
Los Angeles DodgersPittsburgh Pirates5/3/198516610
Oakland AthleticsCleveland Indians6/7/198712210
Oakland AthleticsChicago White Sox10/3/198717710
Minnesota TwinsNew York Yankees7/22/199010010
Houston AstrosSan Diego Padres4/7/199617710
Boston Red SoxToronto Blue Jays5/5/199611110
Arizona DiamondbacksMilwaukee Brewers10/7/200115510
Los Angeles AngelsNew York Yankees8/3/200814410

Hm, I guess sixteen runs allowed is the magic number for a lot of them to be unearned. I didn't realize the Angels gave up ten unearned runs only a couple weeks ago. I guess you learn something new every day.


Bopperland said...

Jay, you know I always look for trends or underlying causes in these great studies. In this case, scoring decisions may be partially attributable to the awarding of an error. Two factors immediately come to mind.

1) How many of these teams giving up all these unearned runs were the Home heam? It is the Home team's designated scorer who makes the Error decision, and that could factor into protecting a star pitcher's ERA.

2) What was the peak number of runs allowed in an inning of that game? If you have an early error, all the remaining runs for that inning are generally considered unearned, so an opponent can go on a roll against a despondent team and run up quite an inning.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for researching this question. It may have been my original question on Yahoo that is the inquiry you mentioned. I have searched for the answer to this question off and on ever since that game. What a relief to finally know the answer.

The reason I asked was that my father and I attended that Astros vs. Mets game back in 1985. As I recall it was part of a double header no less...possibly due to an earlier rain out. I kept score, but did not focus on stats like earned runs. After the game we were listening to the post game wrap up and, to our amazement, they mentioned all 16 runs the Mets scored were unearned and how unusual that was. Little did they know it probably set a record.

Thanks again.

Dan Freiberger said...

I recall that Charlie Hough once gave up six or seven runs, all unearned, in a game in which his team committed NO errors! I am trying to research the oddity of pitchers giving up the most unearned runs in one game in which his team committed NO errors behind him! Believe it or not, this is possible!

Theron Schultz said...

Hi Dan, it looks like Geno Petralli had a tough time in the game you are thinking of:

Six passed balls.