Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Balking Debuts

Last Thursday, Kris Medlen was the Atlanta Braves' starting pitcher in a game against the Colorado Rockies. It was his major league debut. He lasted three innings, giving up five runs on three hits and five walks. He also hit a batter and threw two wild pitches. The Rockies went on to win the game 9-0.

The point of this isn't that Medlen had a rough debut - no doubt a desire to impress in his first big league game led to overthrowing and wildness (he has a career BB/9 of 2.0 in the minors). I only bring up his debut because of something else he did: he balked. With two out in the first inning, Todd Helton singled to end a 10-pitch at bat. Medlen then balked, moving Helton to second and allowing Brad Hawpe to drive him in.

Now, Medlen isn't the first player to balk in his major league pitching debut. In fact, he's the 127th player to do so since 1954. Here are some other members of the club: Jim Colborn, Gary Nolan, Jerry Reuss, Milt Wilcox, Bob McClure, Bob Walk, Fernando Valenzuela, Ron Darling, Rudy Seanez, Shane Reynolds, Freddy Garcia, and position players Rocky Colavito and Cesar Tovar. Surprisingly, only three pitchers joined in 1988, the "Year of the Balk."

Nine pitchers balked in their first two games (Medlen's second start was balk-free):
Interestingly, all nine players debuted in the National League. Of the 127 pitchers with debut balks since 1954, 80 of them started in the NL. I guess the senior circuit doesn't cotton to new kids on the block with their fancy moves.

Medlen is the thirteen player to balk in his pitching debut since the turn of the millenium. The others:
The last season without a first-time pitcher balk was 2000. The other such years since 1954 were 1955, 1957, 1959, 1964, 1965, and 1994.

So far, Kris Medlen is the only one of sixty-one new pitchers in 2009 to balk. Who knows? Maybe tonight will feature the guy who makes it two of sixty-two.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Consecutive Decisions

With the advent of pitch counts and specialized bullpens, starting pitchers have begun averaging fewer and fewer innings per start. One often-noted effect of this is a reduced number of complete games and shutouts around the league. Where the league complete games leader routinely reached double-digits and often more than 20 CG in the 1970's, now baseball has seen only two pitchers complete more than ten games in one year since 1999: Randy Johnson's 12 that season and CC Sabathia's 10 last year. Shutouts are the same way. Where leaders used to regularly place between 5-10, baseball has only seen three players reach five in a year since 1999: AJ Burnett in 2002, Dontrelle Willis in 2005, and CC Sabathia in 2008.

Complete games and shutouts aren't the only casualties of starters not pitching as deep into games anymore. The number of decisions by those starters have been falling as well. If pitchers only last six innings on a quality night, that leaves plenty of time for a bullpen to blow a lead. Likewise, there are plenty of opportunities for his offense to let him off the hook for the loss. This means it's tough for starters to put together long streaks of decisions in each start - somewhere along the line some reliever or batter messes things up.

NOTE: When I wrote this, I was actually looking at streaks of decisions in each appearance, whether starting or in relief. Since starters appeared in relief more prior to the 1970's, it makes a difference in some of the streaks below. You can find the longest streaks of decisions in starts here. The longest such streak is really Fergie Jenkins' 63 in 1970-1971. Sorry for the confusion.

On Friday night, the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the Atlanta Braves 1-0 after a Casey Kotchman sacrifice fly drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 8th. Jays starter Roy Halladay had been pinch-hit for the inning before, so Jesse Carlson was tagged with the loss. Notably, Halladay hadn't had a no-decision since June 25, 2008. That start also occurred in interleague play, but the Blue Jays were at home, so you can't blame pinch-hitting. Halladay's string of 26 decisions in 26 starts ties him for the 40th longest such streak since 1954. The only other starters to carry a streak that far since 2000 were Roy Oswalt (26, 2004-2005), Tim Wakefield (26, 2007), and Bartolo Colon (30, 2004-2005). Colon is one of only nineteen pitchers to reach 30 straight decisions since 1954:
  • Gaylord Perry, 47 (28 W, 19 L) - 1972-1973
  • Nolan Ryan, 42 (25-17) - 1974-1975
  • Juan Marichal, 41 (28-13) - 1964-1965
  • Wilbur Wood, 38 (20-18) - 1972-1973
  • Charlie Hough, 36 (18-18) - 1985-1986
  • Fritz Peterson, 35 (18-17) - 1971-1972
  • Nolan Ryan, 34 (19-15) - 1976-1977
  • Dick Ellsworth, 34 (17-17) - 1963-1964
  • Gaylord Perry, 33 (12-21) - 1974-1975
  • Fergie Jenkins, 33 (20-13) - 1970
  • Robin Roberts, 33 (15-18) - 1959-1960
  • Bob Friend, 32 (19-13) - 1958
  • Ron Guidry, 31 (21-10) - 1983-1984
  • Luis Tiant, 31 (20-11) - 1973
  • Stan Bahnsen, 31 (12-19) - 1973-1974
  • Bartolo Colon, 30 (18-12) - 2004-2005
  • Steve Rogers, 30 (19-11) - 1981-1982
  • Mickey Lolich, 30 (19-11) - 1971-1972
  • Fergie Jenkins, 30 (20-10) - 1970-1971
Randy Johnson came close to joining in 1998, carrying a streak of 29 straight through the end of the year, but the Diamondbacks bullpen couldn't protect a lead in his first start of 1999.

Halladay hasn't had a no-decision against an American League opponent since September 21, 2007, when he threw 8 2/3 innings against the Yankees in what was eventually a 14-inning, 5-4 Toronto triumph. That gives him 40 straight starts with a win or loss against the AL, placing him behind only Perry's 47 51 and Ryan's 42 41 since 1954. In those 40 starts, Halladay is 29-11 with a 2.79 ERA and 246 strikeouts in exactly 300 innings pitched. Can he go eight twelve more starts to eclipse Perry? It's definitely something to keep tabs on when following the tight AL East race.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SO > TB, Minimum 200 AB

My first real post on this blog had to do with one of my favorite topics: guys with more strikeouts than total bases. Since I never posted a follow-up with 2007 and 2008 players added, I figured now was a good time. The 2009 season is about one-quarter over, so it's also easy to look at guys who might join the list.

First up, the updated list of players with more strikeouts than total bases in 200 or more at bats:

Bill Bergen1911BROC227.132.183.1543542-4
Billy Consolo1954BOSSS242.227.324.277676959
Billy Consolo1959BOS
Ernie Fazio1963HOU2B228.184.273.281647065
Jerry Kindall1963CLE2B234.205.266.295697158
Dave Nicholson1964CHWLF294.204.329.36510712696
Chris Cannizzaro1965NYMC251.183.270.231586046
Don Zimmer1965WSAC226.199.284.252575955
Ray Oyler1966DETSS210.171.263.252536248
Jerry Zimmerman1967MINC234.167.243.192454926
Ray Oyler1968DETSS215.135.213.186405920
George Scott1968BOS1B350.171.236.237838840
Dick Tracewski1968DETSS212.156.239.236505143
Al Weis1968NYMSS274.172.234.204566332
Darrel Chaney1969CINSS209.191.278.234497542
Ray Oyler1969SEPSS255.165.260.267688049
Jim Mason1975NYYSS223.152.228.211474927
John Hale1978SEARF211.171.283.265566456
Leroy Stanton1978SEALF302.182.265.248758047
Bobby Bonds1980STLLF231.203.305.316737472
Tom Donohue1980CALC218.188.216.243536327
Reggie Jackson1983CALRF397.194.290.34013514074
Gary Pettis1987CALCF394.208.302.25910212453
Jody Davis1989ATLC231.169.246.242566139
John Shelby1989LADCF345.183.237.229799236
Jeff Kunkel1990TEXSS200.170.221.280566640
Rob Deer1991DETRF448.179.314.38617317592
Hensley Meulens1991NYYLF288.222.276.319929765
Gary Pettis1991TEXCF282.216.341.277789175
Andujar Cedeno1992HOUSS220.173.232.277617147
Jack Clark1992BOSDH257.210.350.311808782
Billy Ashley1995LADLF215.237.320.372808890
Benji Gil1995TEXSS415.219.266.34714414760
Kimera Bartee1996DETCF217.253.308.304667757
Archi Cianfrocco1997SDP1B220.245.328.355788085
Mark Johnson1997PIT1B219.215.345.315697873
Ryan McGuire1998MON1B210.186.292.243515546
Greg Vaughn2002TBDLF251.163.286.315798260
Mark Bellhorn2005BOS
Mark Bellhorn2006SDP3B253.190.285.344879066
Ryan Langerhans2007ATL
Andruw Jones2008LADCF209.158.256.249527634
Tony Pena2008KCRSS225.169.189.20947497

Angels catcher Jeff Mathis came close to joining in 2008. Fortunately for him, two singles in his last two at-bats of the campaign gave him 90 total bases to go with his 90 strikeouts in 283 at bats.

As I said, the 2009 season is roughly 25% over. Here are the players with more strikeouts than total bases in 50 or more AB so far:
  • Brent Lillibridge, CHW - 68 AB, 13 TB, 21 SO
  • Edwin Encarnacion, CIN - 63 AB, 12 TB, 19 SO
  • Jordan Schafer, ATL - 125 AB, 40 TB, 46 SO
  • B.J. Upton, TBR - 136 AB, 38 TB, 43 SO
  • Cameron Maybin, FLA - 84 AB, 26 TB, 31 SO
  • Josh Fields, CHW - 129 AB, 40 TB, 43 SO
  • Travis Ishikawa, SFG - 89 AB, 26 TB, 28 SO
  • Ramon Vazquez, PIT - 59 AB, 13 TB, 15 SO
  • Jeff Mathis, LAA - 58 AB, 16 TB, 18 SO
  • Kelly Shoppach, CLE - 66 AB, 26 TB, 27 SO
  • Rob Johnson, SEA - 63 AB, 18 TB, 19 SO

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Most Plate Appearances, No Singles

Brad Nelson, 0 for 21 this year, was outrighted (booted off the 40-man roster but not released) to the minors by Milwaukee earlier this week. Since he was outrighted once before, he had the option to choose free agency rather than report to AAA. He did and has had contact from several teams. Until he signs, however, his brief major league career qualifies him for the following list:

Most Career Plate Apperances, No Singles

Bobby Tiefenauer1952-1968481100
Randy Tate1975470000
Bo McLaughlin1976-1982450000
Tony McKnight2000-2001440000
Daryl Patterson1968-1974370000
Charlie Cady1883-1884362110
George Borchers1888-1895342200
Ted Davidson1965-1968340000
Charley Stanceu1941-1946340000
Hank Biasatti1949332200
Andy Hassler1971-1985310000
Brad Nelson2008-2009312200
Sean Burnett2004-2008301100
Skip Pitlock1970-1975302101

As you can tell by the years each played, most of those players were pitches. Only Hank Biasatti, a first baseman for the Athletics, and Nelson were not pitchers for a significant portion of their careers. Charlie Cody started five games as a pitcher and also appeared in the outfield, second base, and catcher.

Another active position player who has struggled to single is Matthew Brown, a third baseman for the Angels. He batted 27 times in 2007 and 2008, hitting only a double. Brown is currently playing for the AAA Salt Lake Bees. Both Nelson and Brown will likely get more chances to single in the majors, so hopefully their time around this list is short.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Update: Last Position Players to Pitch by Team

UPDATE: New post through August 30, 2009 here.

Since plenty of people have stumbled across my April 2008 post about the last position players to pitch for each team, I figured it was high time for an update. So far in 2009, four position players have taken the mound for their teams: Paul Janish, Cody Ross, Nick Swisher, and Jonathan Van Every. Last year Jamie Burke, Aaron Miles, and shortstop Tony Pena pitched. Burke even picked up a loss.

Here's the updated list:

Last Position Player to Pitch by Team

Arizona DiamondbacksJeff Cirillo8-20-2007
Atlanta BravesJohn Russell6-25-1989
Baltimore OriolesManny Alexander4-19-1996
Boston Red SoxJonathan Van Every
Chicago CubsGary Gaetti7-3-1999
Chicago White SoxDave Martinez8-4-1995
Cincinnati RedsPaul Janish5-6-2009
Cleveland IndiansTim Laker4-20-2004
Colorado RockiesTodd Zeile9-14-2002
Detroit TigersShane Halter10-1-2000
Florida MarlinsCody Ross
Houston AstrosTim Bogar6-24-2000
Kansas City RoyalsTony Pena
Los Angeles AngelsChili Davis6-17-1993
Los Angeles DodgersRobin Ventura6-25-2004
Milwaukee BrewersTrent Durrington4-17-2004
Minnesota TwinsJohn Moses7-31-1990
New York MetsTodd Zeile7-26-2004
New York YankeesNick Swisher
Oakland AthleticsFrank Menechino7-18-2000
Philadelphia PhilliesTomas Perez5-13-2002
Pittsburgh PiratesAbraham Nunez5-30-2004
San Diego PadresSean Burroughs9-20-2005
Seattle MarinersJamie Burke
San Francisco GiantsGreg Litton7-4-1991
St. Louis CardinalsAaron Miles6-13-2008
Tampa Bay RaysJosh Wilson6-8-2007
Texas RangersScott Sheldon9-6-2000
Toronto Blue JaysFrank Menechino8-28-2004
Washington NationalsJunior Noboa7-20-1990*

* - Fellow position player Dave Martinez pitched right before Noboa in the same game.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Unique Nationals

The Washington Nationals might have the worst record in the majors, but they've got one thing going for them. Through May 5th, every regular* in the Nationals lineup has an OPS+ over 100. No other team can claim that.

* Guys in the top spots on each team's page.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Update: Most Games Pitched With Zero Plate Appearances

Back in the day I looked at pitchers who have made the most appearances without ever batting. With guys like Brian Shouse and Jamie Walker still LOOGY'ing it up in the AL East, I thought it'd be interesting to take another look at the leaderboard.

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. Chad Bradford, 541*
  6. Mike Flanagan, 529
  7. Jamie Walker, 523*
  8. Steve Farr, 509
  9. Mark Clear, 481
  10. Edwin Nunez, 427
  11. Brian Shouse, 422*
  12. Francisco Rodriguez, 418*
  13. Mark Gubicza, 384
  14. Kirk McCaskill, 381
  15. Ron Guidry, 380
  16. Mark Williamson, 365
  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. J.J. Putz, 321*
  24. Billy Taylor, 317
  25. Doug Corbett, 313
  26. Dennis Leonard, 313
  27. Richard Dotson, 312
  28. Chris Bosio, 310
  29. Bill Simas, 308
  30. Mike Venafro, 307
  31. Bill Castro, 303
*active player - stats through 5/3/2009

Obviously the guys that were on the list last time have climbed further up the ladder. Walker became only the eighth pitcher to appear in 500 games without batting last June and since Bradford is currently on the disabled list, he should take over as the active leader pretty soon. Speaking of the submariner, he's only 96 appearances away from setting the record for a righthander, but Francisco Rodriguez might end up seizing the top spot shortly after Bradford gets there.

J.J. Putz is the only new addition to the list. As I mentioned last time, Jason Frasor is getting near to 300 games without batting. He currently sits at 291 and, apropos of nothing, is 4-0 in ten appearances this year. Orioles closer George Sherrill has now appeared in 263 games without batting. The other active players above 200 games:
  • Mike MacDougal (262)
  • Huston Street (259)
  • Jesse Crain (256)
  • Bobby Jenks (231)
  • Jonathan Papelbon (212)