Digging out the obscure numbers

From "unhittable" pitchers to very "hittable" pitchers, the numbers offer the cold, hard facts.

Originally Published: January 28, 2005
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

The Useless Information keeps on coming, with our Top 10 Useless Info Nuggets of the Month ...

  • 10. Our definition of an "unhittable" pitcher would be a guy who submerged the batting average of both left-handed and right-handed hitters below the Mendoza Line. Just five relief pitchers (with 50 appearances or more) and one starter did that last year:

    Triviality
    Carlos Delgado is one of seven left-handed hitters who have averaged at least 35 homers a year in the five seasons of the 2000s. Can you name the others?

    See answer at the bottom of the page.

    Armando Benitez (LHs .168, RHs .140)
    Billy Wagner (.103, .197)
    Tom Gordon (.185, .174)
    Brad Lidge (.191, .155)
    Ugueth Urbina (.191, .196)
    Johan Santana (.196, .191)

  • 9. On the other hand, our definition of really, really "hittable" would be the opposite club -- pitchers who "held" both left-handed and right-handed hitters to averages over. 300. Six men qualified:

    Rocky Biddle (LHs .307, RHs .308)
    Kerry Ligtenberg (.306, .319)
    John Grabow (.327, .319)
    Brian Anderson (.337, .314)
    Josh Towers (.312, .308)
    Jason Davis (.305, .317)

  • 8. Or here's another way to look at that "unhittable" stuff -- pitchers who strike out more than one-third of the hitters they face. According to one of the year's fun new entrants into the stat-book arena, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual, only five pitchers turned at least 34 percent of their pitcher-hitter duels into whiffs last year:

    Brad Lidge 43 percent
    Francisco Rodriguez 37 percent
    Eric Gagne 35 percent
    Octavio Dotel 34 percent
    B.J. Ryan 34 percent

    Best starters in that category:

    Johan Santana 30 percent
    Randy Johnson 30 percent
    Oliver Perez 30 percent

  • 7. Our friends at Baseball Prospectus wondered recently how Scott Podsednik managed to steal 70 bases last season despite an on-base percentage of only .313. But thanks to the miracle of Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Encyclopedia, we know that's far from a record. Most steals by a guy with an OBP that low since 1900:

    Player Year OBP SB
    Vince Coleman 1986 .301 107
    Omar Moreno 1980 .306 96
    Vince Coleman 1988 .313 81
    Marquis Grissom 1991 .310 76
    Juan Samuel 1984 .307 72
    Frank Taveras 1977 .306 70
    Scott Podsednik 2004 .313 70

  • 6. Loyal reader Rob Brubeck noticed that two more managers got fired in the NL East last year (Larry Bowa and Art Howe). So he got to wondering how many men had managed the other NL East teams just in the 14½ seasons in which Bobby Cox has managed the Braves. And the answer is ...

    Would you believe 21 (not counting interims)? That's six by the Marlins (who weren't even around when Cox started), five each by the Mets, Phillies and Expos-Nationals.

  • 5. Curt Schilling now has finished second in the Cy Young voting three times -- without ever winning. Which led loyal reader Michel Jourdenais to wonder if that's some kind of record.

    Randy Johnson
    Johnson

    Curt Schilling
    Schilling

    Well, we don't know which kind -- good or bad. But Schilling is, in fact, the only pitcher ever to do that. The two other pitchers in history with three second-place Cy Young finishes, according to baseball-reference.com, are Randy Johnson and Warren Spahn -- but they both won a Cy.

    Three pitchers in history had two second-place finishes without winning -- Jimmy Key, Dan Quisenberry and Tommy John.

    And among active pitchers, only Johnson (eight), Roger Clemens (eight), Pedro Martinez (five), Greg Maddux (five) and Tom Glavine (four) have more top-two finishes than Schilling. Except those other five own a combined 21 Cy Youngs, to Schilling's zero. Timing is everything, isn't it?

  • 4. Think the Braves might notice a little difference between John Smoltz and Danny Kolb when those bullpen gates open in the ninth inning?

    Great as Kolb was last year, he also struck out fewer hitters (21) than any closer in history who saved at least 35 games. And his strikeout rate (3.3 per 9 IP) was the lowest by anybody with that many saves since Dan Quisenberry in 1984.

    Smoltz, on the other hand, has averaged 3.3 strikeouts for every nine outs over the last three years.

  • 3. Congratulations to loyal reader Regina Litman -- for being the first reader ever to check in with Useless Washington Nationals trivia. She asks:

    Who's the only player in history who has played for all three franchises to pass through Washington? The answer would be the great Al Newman (1985-86 Expos, 1987-91 Twins, 1992 Rangers).

    But wait. She's not through:

    In the last major-league game played at RFK Stadium in Washington, the home team's manager was a Hall of Fame outfielder, member of the 500-home run club, and someone who had once hit for the cycle (Ted Williams).

    When they play the next game at RFK, the home team's manager also will be a Hall of Fame outfielder, member of the 500-home run club and someone who once hit for the cycle (Frank Robinson). Excellent!

  • 2. After Edgar Renteria made the final out of the World Series, Useless Info reported that, if you include his Series-ending walkoff single in the 1997 Series, he joined Goose Goslin as the only men to make the last out of one World Series and get a walkoff hit to finish off another. But there's more.

    Loyal readers Lonnie Burstein and Mark Shapiro report that two other players were also the final batter in two World Series. One was Boss Schmidt (later reportedly demoted Assistant Custodian Schmidt), who was responsible for making the final out for the Tigers in both the 1907 and 1908 Series.

    But the other was Bob Meusel, who joined this club much more creatively -- since his bat never touched the ball in either at-bat. In 1926, he was up there when Babe Ruth got thrown out stealing to end the Series. The next year, he struck out on a wild pitch -- resulting in the winning run scoring. Hard to do.

    Hey, wait. We're still not through. Loyal reader Tim DeMoss wonders whether Renteria is the first player ever to make the final out of a World Series -- and then sign with the team he lost to.

    Not surprisingly, he sure is. The Elias Sports Bureau says that the only other player in the free-agent era to lose a World Series and then sign with the winning team that winter was Tommy John, who bailed on the Dodgers and signed with the Yankees after the 1978 Series.

  • 1. And our grand-prize winner is a fellow named Mike Carminati, the author of the Mike's Rants column on the all-baseball.com Web site. After Damian Miller signed with the Brewers, Carminati pounced all over the biggest subplot behind that signing -- namely, that there will now be a Miller playing nightly at Miller Park.

    So who else, you ask, has ever played games in a home park with the same name as his last name? Carminati actually looked it up. Here goes:

    Clark Griffith: Griffith Stadium in Washington, 1912-13-14
    Bert Griffith: Griffith Stadium in Washington, 1924
    Dan Murphy: Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, 1989
    Kevin King: Kingdome in Seattle, 1993-94-95

    Then there are the close-but-not-quites: Jim Hunt at the Huntingdon Avenue Grounds in Boston in 1910, and David Bell at Pac Bell Park in San Francisco in 2002.

    We're disqualifying all the guys named Field and Park who played in a Field or a Park. Sorry. Too easy.

    And we should disqualify Clark Griffith, too -- since he owned and managed the Senators. Not to mention that the stadium was named after him. Or that it was actually known as National Park when he played in it. For some reason, though, we're going to let him slide, trivia softies that we are.

    Trivia Answer
    Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Rafael Palmeiro, Todd Helton, Jim Edmonds and the artist formerly known as Jason Giambi.

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

    Jayson Stark | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com
  • ALSO SEE