Numbers tell the story

From bloated ERAs to perfect ERAs, pitchers' stats were all over the map in 2004.

Originally Published: November 5, 2004
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

The games may be over. But the memories remain. So we look back in that rear-view mirror one final time, starting with our favorite ...

Box-score lines of the year
Gold medal division
Now presenting our 2004 champion, the No. 1, absolutely impossible-to-beat, box-score line of the year _ from Arizona's Edgar Gonzalez, Sept. 3 vs. the Giants:

Edgar Gonzalez
Gonzalez

1 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 1 WP, 1 HBP, 42 pitches to give up 10 runs.

Claim to fame: Gonzalez (who would finish the year 0-9, 9.32) was the first National League pitcher to allow 10 runs or more -- while getting just three outs or fewer -- since May 5, 1938, when Hal Kelleher gave up 12 in an inning for the Phillies at Wrigley Field.

October division
And now the most amazing box-score line in the history of postseason baseball -- unfurled by Braves starter John Thomson in Game 3 of the National League Division Series in Houston:

1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 4 pitches

Theoretically, friends, what Thomson did in this game was mathematically impossible: He faced three hitters. He walked one of them. And he still threw a total of only four pitches.

Which can't be done. But here's how he did it:

Ground-out on the first pitch. Single on the second pitch. Two straight balls to Jeff Bagwell. Emergency exit (after reaggravating a rib-cage muscle pull).

Paul Byrd then marched in and finished the walk, which was credited to Thomson, even though he was in the trainer's room for ball four.

So there you have it -- an out, a hit and a walk, all on four pitches. What a sport.

Debut division
Every pitcher dreams of reaching The Show. Nobody dreams of reaching it -- and then doing stuff like this in his major-league debut:

  • Third prize: Arizona's Casey Daigle, April 9 vs. St. Louis:

    2 2/3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 5 HR.

    Claim to fame: Daigle was the first pitcher in history to give up five homers and get fewer than nine outs in his big-league debut.

  • Second prize: White Sox pitcher Arnie Munoz, June 19 vs. Montreal:

    3 IP, 10 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 2 HR, 2 WP, 1 HBP, 91 pitches to get 9 outs.

    Claim to fame: Munoz was only the second pitcher in the division-play era to give up 11 runs or more in his big-league debut. (The other, Mike Busby, gave up 13 for the Cardinals in Atlanta on April 7, 1996.)

    Lino Urdaneta
    Urdaneta

  • First prize: Detroit's Lino Urdaneta, Sept. 9 vs. Kansas City (in relief):

    0 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 0 K -- giving him a career ERA of Infinity.

    Claim to fame: This was Urdaneta's only big-league appearance. So if he never returns, he could become the first pitcher to retire with an infinity ERA since outfielder Vic Davalillo (4 hitters, 1 run, 0 outs) gave up pitching for a living in 1969.

    Walkathon division
    The first thing they tell any pitcher is: If you want to win, throw strikes. Well, don't tell that to these two guys:

  • The 10-spot: How about this line, from Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan, in an 11-10 win July 28 vs. the Reds:

    4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 10 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 1 WP, 118 pitches (more than half of them balls) to get 14 outs.

    Claim to fame: Last Cardinals pitcher before Suppan to walk 10 or more: Steve Carlton vs. the Giants, on July 3, 1971 (10 BB in 5 2/3 2 IP).

  • The big 7-0: This was Rockies starter Jason Jennings, June 5 vs. the Giants, in a nearly impossible, don't-try-this-at-home kind of win:

    5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 50 strikes, 49 balls.

    Claim to fame: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jennings was the first starting pitcher to win a game of at least seven walks and zero strikeouts since Arthur Rhodes spit out a 5-2-1-1-7-0 line for the Orioles in a win against the Brewers on Aug. 4, 1993.

    Back-to-back division
    Before Victor Zambrano ever appeared on the Mets' radar screen, he appeared on the Box Score Line of the Year radar screen, with these two consecutive starts for Tampa Bay:

  • May 15 vs. Cleveland: 1 1/3 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 7 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 72 pitches to get 4 outs.

  • May 20 vs. Boston: 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 9 BB, 8 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 132 pitches to get 14 outs.

    Claims to fame: Over just these two mind-warping starts, Zambrano became the first pitcher to issue 16 walks in two outings since Tim Wakefield walked 19 on April 22-27, 1993. And in the second start, Zambrano joined Cal Eldred (134 pitches, 4 2/3 IP on July 2, 1993) and Dwight Gooden (132 in 4 2/3 on Sept. 3, 1996) as the only three pitchers in the last 18 seasons to throw 132 pitches or more without making it through the fifth inning.

    Jake Westbrook
    Westbrook

    El perfecto division
    There's only one nominee for the greatest bullpen outing of the year. That would be Jake Westbrook, who stampeded out of the Indians' bullpen April 19 and cranked out this picturesque line:

    7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

    Yes, this man faced 21 hitters in relief that day -- and retired them all. He was the first reliever to throw seven perfect innings, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since Lindy McDaniel spun a pretty little 7-0-0-0-0-6 line on Aug. 23, 1968.

    But McDaniel did that in a 17-inning game. Westbrook's outing came in a nine-inning game. And what went on in those other two innings made this one amazing ball game. Here's the rest of that day's story.

    This was a game, believe it or not, which the Indians lost (Detroit 10, Cleveland 4). It was also a game in which their starting pitcher, Jeff D'Amico, faced six hitters and got no outs. And it was a game in which the relievers who followed Westbrook gave up six runs and got three outs.

    So let's sum this up:

    All Cleveland pitchers not named Jake Westbrook: 10 runs, 3 outs.

    All Cleveland pitchers who were named Jake Westbrook: 7 IP, 0 baserunners.

    Why do we love baseball? This game might sum it up.

    Deja vu division
    On May 16 and 22, Brad Penny (still in Florida back then) did something we've seen only a couple of times in 20 years of following epic box-score lines -- repeat exactly the same pitching line in two straight starts:

    6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.

    Hard to do, friends.

    Farm land division
    It's no secret that incredible stuff happens regularly in the minor leagues. And you sure can't beat these three lines for vintage incredibility:

  • Gimme five: From Lancaster JetHawks right-hander Mike Schultz, July 15 vs. Cucamonga:

    1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 WP, 1 HBP

    Claim to fame: Yeah, you read that right. This man struck out five hitters in one inning (and even struck out one guy, David Gates, twice). Which made Schultz the third pitcher in minor-league history to whiff five in an inning. He joined Kelly Wunsch (for Beloit in 1994) and Scott Gardner (for Fayetteville in 1995), according to SportsTicker. Schultz's fascinating inning went: strikeout, strikeout-wild pitch, hit batter, single, error, strikeout, passed ball, single, strikeout-wild pitch, single, strikeout No. 5.

  • Not cheaper by the dozen: From Ottawa knuckleballer Joe Gannon, April 23 vs. Buffalo:

    3 IP, 2 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 12 BB, 2 K, 4 WP, 4 PB on his catcher.

    Claim to fame: Minor-league data on this is a little fuzzy, but the last major league pitcher to walk 12 in one game was Jack Fisher on Aug. 30, 1961.

    Postscript: Gannon's insane line for the season when Ottawa finally released him:

    19 1/3 IP, 20 H, 23 R, 22 ER, 26 BB, 10 K, 7 WP, 1 HR, 46 of 71 hitters reaching base (not counting one on a strikeout-wild pitch).

    The untouchable: It isn't every day a guy strikes out 12 hitters in a row, or gets all 15 of his outs in a game on strikeouts. But that's the historic show put on June 23 by Orioles farmhand Luis Ramirez for Aberdeen of the New York Penn League. His unbelievable line:

    5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 15 K

    Claim to fame: According to Jim Keller and Joe Barbieri of SportsTicker, only one other minor-league pitcher in the last 10 years has even struck out 10 hitters in a row. And it happened in the same league, in the same week (when New Jersey's Derek Roper fanned 10 in a row).

    Jon Garland
    Garland

    Best-quote division
    First, White Sox starter Jon Garland went out and compiled this line, June 9 vs. the Phillies:

    4 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 3 HR, 1 WP

    Then Garland guaranteed his inclusion in this column by just about fainting when all he got from the media afterward were a few tame questions.

    "That's it?" he said, as his interviewers turned to leave. "After that beating?"

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

    Jayson Stark | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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