Sunday, January 11, 2009

Completing Every Start

Have you ever seen something online, decided to pursue more information on the topic, and realize an hour later that you've wandered into topics far from the original? I had such an experience last night and it resulted in my finding the BR Bullpen page of turn-of-the-century hurler Kid Nichols. Nichols is deservedly a Hall of Famer and I was struck by this quote on the page:
"(He) took pride in two things - his election to (the Hall of Fame), and the fact he was never removed from a game for a relief hurler." - from the New York Times obituary of Kid Nichols
If you look at his career stats, you can see he started 561 games and completed 531 of them. That means he went the distance in nearly 95% of his starts. That's a stunning number, even for those days. Among pitchers who started at least 400 games (~10 seasons), only Will White, Charley Radbourn, Jim McCormick, and Mickey Welch completed a higher percentage of their starts.

You might be saying that it's all well and good Nichols was a durable pitcher, but the quote is wrong. He had thirty starts that he didn't finish, so obviously relievers were used. I wonder how many of those thirty starts were ended by pinch hitters sent up to bat for him (he was no great shakes with the bat). You could argue that situation isn't being removed for a relief pitcher. Also, if he only came out of games between innings, he was never relieved while on the mound. Either way, I'm willing to give a guy who completed 95% of his starts the benefit of the doubt.

That quote also made me wonder about pitchers who did complete every single game they started. It turns out twenty pitchers, all from 1901 or before, started ten or more games in their career and completed every one.

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