Commentary

Pitchers did some odd things in 2010

Four Brewers had a bad stretch in July, and Edwin Jackson had a wild year altogether

Originally Published: December 22, 2010
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Any time a season gives us a pitcher who serves up nine extra-base hits but no singles, another pitcher who goes 4-for-4 at the plate but gives up seven runs, and yet another who throws a no-hitter and a 13-hitter in the same year, you know it was, officially, a Strange But True kind of season. So let's look back at the Strangest But Truest Pitching Feats of 2010:

Strangest But Truest Fearsome Foursome

If you had any questions about why those Milwaukee Brewers were so amped up to blow out pretty much their entire farm system to trade for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, we can bring it all home for you with one word:

July.

After the kind of July their rotation had, it's amazing they didn't try to bring back Teddy Higuera, too. Here's what we mean:

• Any team can have a game here or there in which its starting pitcher gives up 10 runs. But those 2010 Brewers had one here, one there, one over there, and also one wayyyy over there. In a terrifying two-week stretch in July, they became the first team since Hod Lisenbee's 1936 Philadelphia A's to have four pitchers give up at least 10 runs in a game in the same month. We don't normally roll out box-score lines in these Strange But True columns, but these have to be seen to be comprehended:

Randy Wolf
Wolf

David Bush
Bush

Manny Parra
Parra

Chris Narveson
Narveson

• July 7: Chris Narveson vs. Giants: 3 1/3-9-10-9-2-3
• July 18: Manny Parra vs. Braves: 5 1/3-10-10-10-2-4
• July 20: David Bush vs. Pirates: 4-9-10-5-2-2
• July 21: Randy Wolf vs. Pirates: 5 2/3-13-12-12-2-4

• If you were paying attention, you'll notice this quadruple-double got so out of hand that, at one point, the Brewers had three starters give up double-figure runs in a span of four games. Last team to do that: Oral Hildebrand's 1937 St. Louis Browns.

• Felix Hernandez allowed 39 runs in his final 21 starts of the season combined. The Brewers allowed 42 runs just in these four starts.

• The Giants' starters gave up 24 earned runs in the whole postseason. Those three Brewers starters gave up 27 earned runs in four days.

• And Yankees starters have allowed 10 or more runs in a game four times in the past 13 seasons. Brewers starters did it four times in 13 games. Impossible!

Strangest But Truest Pitcher Of The Year

We're not sure any pitcher had ever had a season quite like Edwin Jackson's. He threw an eight-walk, 149-pitch no-hitter in June. He threw a 13-hitter in September. He gave up 11 hits and 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings in a game in April. But his Strangest But Truest specialty might have been his ability to torment his former teams. Take a look:

• Let's start with the good news. Until this guy got traded in July, he had three former teams on his page of the baseball encyclopedia. And in three consecutive starts June 19-July 2, he beat all three of them (Tigers, Rays, Dodgers). The only other pitcher in the live-ball era who beat three former teams in a row was Mike Morgan in 1999. Except he had 10 former teams to choose from, not three.

[+] EnlargeEdwin Jackson
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireEdwin Jackson had his ups and downs during the 2010 season.

• Now on to that no-hitter. Thanks to those pesky strike-throwing issues, Jackson faced as many hitters (36) in his no-hitter as the Twins' Nick Blackburn faced in a complete-game 11-hitter.

• In a related development, Jackson issued as many unintentional walks in his no-hitter (eight) as Mariano Rivera issued all season -- in 61 appearances.

• Jackson entered that no-hitter with a 5.05 ERA after his first 15 starts. So how many other pitchers with that high an ERA that deep into a season have ever thrown a no-hitter? None, says the Elias Sports Bureau -- not since the invention of earned runs, anyway.

• Think how hard it is to throw a no-hitter and have a game in which you give up 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings (which Jackson did April 27 against the Rockies). There have been seven other pitchers who gave up at least 10 runs in a game and spun a no-hitter in the same season. But here's what separated Jackson from the other seven: None of them gave up all those runs in 2 1/3 innings (or less).

• Finally, how many pitchers in the live-ball era do you think have found a way to pack a no-hitter, a 13-hitter and a 10-run clunker into the same season? Right you are. That would be precisely zero.

Strange But True Phenomhood Of The Year

Stephen Strasburg's rookie season didn't last long. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

• CC Sabathia, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee and Josh Beckett have never struck out 14 hitters in any game in their careers. Strasburg did it in the first game of his career.

• Scott Kazmir, who once led the American League in strikeouts, didn't have a game with more than seven strikeouts all season. In the first big league game of his life, Strasburg ran off seven strikeouts in a row.

• Before his elbow went kaboom, Strasburg piled up 92 strikeouts in only 12 starts. His team's Opening Day starter, John Lannan, has racked up 93 strikeouts in his past 33 starts.

• Finally, my favorite Elias Sports Bureau tidbit on Strasburg was this one: Nolan Ryan had one game in his entire career with at least 14 strikeouts and zero walks -- and it came in his 698th start! And Strasburg had a game like that in his first start. Beautiful.

Great Moments In Strange But True Symmetry

Is there anything stranger than box-score entries that get this symmetrical?

On Aug. 18, five Yankees relievers -- Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Kerry Wood, Chad Gaudin and Mariano Rivera -- threw exactly 12 pitches apiece. First game in the pitch-count era in which five teammates threw an identical number of pitches.

In an April 15 game in Toronto, the White Sox used five pitchers -- and every one of them whiffed precisely three hitters each. So how rare was that? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first nine-inning game in modern history (1900-present) in which five pitchers for one team rolled up at least three strikeouts apiece -- let alone exactly three.

But maybe it's the Blue Jays who inspire this stuff. Two days later, in an April 17 game against Texas, they faced five Rangers pitchers. Guess how many hits each of those five pitchers allowed? Exactly one apiece. Of course, it wasn't as impressive as it sounded. The starter, Rich Harden, lasted only 3 2/3 innings, and the Rangers wound up losing, 7-4.

In Other Strange But True News …

• The pitcher who ran off the first double-figure strikeout game of 2010 was, of course, a guy who had no double-figure strikeout games in 2009 -- Dallas (No-Hit) Braden.

• What did Jamie Moyer do in his 686th trip to the mound (June 11, in Fenway Park) that he had never done in the first 685? He gave up twice as many doubles (six) as he got outs (three). If it makes him feel better, nobody else in the past half-century has done it, either, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

• In an April 12 game in San Diego, the Braves did the seemingly impossible: Their starting pitcher (Jair Jurrjens) gave up eight runs -- then the pitcher who relieved him (Jo-Jo Reyes) gave up more runs (i.e., nine).

[+] EnlargeJames Shields
AP Photo/Kathy WillensJames Shields allowed an American League-high 34 home runs in 2010.

• On the way to becoming the first AL pitcher in the past 90 years to give up nine extra-base hits in a game but no singles, James Shields served up six homers to the Blue Jays on Aug. 7. We counted 15 pitchers who faced at least 300 hitters and didn't give up that many bombs all season.

• Mark Buehrle threw a 95-pitch complete game -- and a game in which it took him 95 pitches to get through three innings.

• Josh Johnson had six quality starts in May. Scott Kazmir had six quality starts all season -- in 28 starts. That's the fewest by any pitcher who made that many starts since Sid Hudson of the 1948 Senators did it about four decades before the invention of the quality start.

• In September, CC Sabathia set the Yankees records for most consecutive wins at home (16) and most consecutive home starts without a loss (21). Nothing strange about that -- except for one thing: He lost a home game in the middle of both those streaks. It just came in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, so baseball doesn't count it.

• Dan Haren gave up four home runs at Coors Field in one start (May 27) -- while facing 29 hitters. Ubaldo Jimenez gave up four home runs at Coors all season -- while facing 416 hitters. And what did the last 238 hitters Ubaldo faced at Coors have in common? None of them got to work on his home run trot.

• This isn't quite a pitching note, but what the heck … at least it involves a pitcher. Sweet-swinging Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda became the first pitcher since 1972 to kick off a season by going 0-for-45. Then he broke that streak Aug. 30 -- with a single off Roy Halladay.

• OK, make that two sweet-swinging pitcher notes. In the first at-bat of his career, on Aug. 9, Braves pitcher Mike Minor lined what he thought was a single to right -- except he got thrown out at first, 9-3 (Hunter Pence to Brett Wallace).

• All right, better make it three. Dan Haren had a game April 20 you might never see again. He went 4-for-4 at the plate -- but gave up seven runs on the mound. Last pitcher to get four hits and allow at least seven runs in the same game? Mickey McDermott, for the 1953 Red Sox.

• Pirates reliever Sean Gallagher did something Aug. 23 that's nearly impossible: He gave up a three-run homer to the first hitter he faced (Albert Pujols) with the first pitch he threw -- and before his team had recorded an out in the first inning. He owes it all to starter Ross Ohlendorf, who strained a muscle in his shoulder while he was busy letting the first two hitters of the game reach base.

• Carl Pavano threw one of those rarefied 15-hitters Aug. 19 -- and needed just 31 batters to do it.

• Too bad Johan Santana and Jaime Garcia don't get paid by the hour. They got matched up in two starts this year -- and the two games lasted a combined 11½ hours. The first one was a 6-hour, 53-minute 20-inning game. The second turned into a 4-hour, 32-minute 13-inning game. Uncle!

• In a July series against the Red Sox, Matt Garza started one game and saved another. According to Elias, he was the first pitcher to do that with just a day of rest in between since Jon Lieber did so for the 1998 Pirates.

• In his last start before getting traded by the Angels in July, Sean O'Sullivan pitched against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. So where was his first start for the Royals after the trade? In Yankee Stadium. Where else?

• Name Game Dept.: In a July 20 Cardinals-Phillies game, the winning pitcher was named Carpenter (Chris) and the losing pitcher was named Carpenter (Andrew). According to Elias, it was the first time the winning and losing pitcher in any game were unrelated pitchers with the same last name since James Shields beat Scot Shields in a Rays-Angels game on Aug. 19, 2008.

• We're still trying to figure out our favorite Strange But True Carlos Marmol feat of the year. Here's one: He piled up more strikeouts in relief (138) this past season than 63 starting pitchers who made at least 20 starts.

• And here's another one: Marmol faced 332 hitters this past season. Only 134 of them figured out a way to have the ball leave the batter's box. Everybody else (all 198 of them) either walked, got hit by a pitch or whiffed. No kidding.

• Dontrelle Willis made two starts this past season in which he erupted for six walks in a span of 12 hitters. Meanwhile, in a not-so-parallel universe, Cliff Lee issued six walks to the 442 hitters he faced before the All-Star break.

• How 'bout these two starts, back-to-back? On April 17, the Nationals' starting pitcher, Livan Hernandez, twirled a complete-game shutout. The next day, the Nationals' starting pitcher, Jason Marquis, got no outs, and his team gave up 10 runs in the first inning.

• Eight years after he was picked first in the 2002 draft, Royals pitcher Bryan Bullington found himself with a lifetime big league record of (gulp) 0-7. So what team did he then beat for the first win of his career? The Yankees -- with eight two-hit shutout innings on Aug. 15. Last pitcher to start his career 0-7 or worse and then beat the Yankees? Bob Savage, on July 7, 1946.

• How strange is this? Cliff Lee against the Royals and Orioles: 1-2, 6.41 ERA, 37 hits and 8 HR in 26 2/3 IP. Cliff Lee against the Yankees and Red Sox: 3-0, 2.23 ERA, 26 hits and 2 HR in 40 1/3 IP.

• Finally, Aroldis Chapman spent only a month in the big leagues, but that was enough time for him to launch 75 regular-season pitches clocked at 100 mph or swifter, according to Pitch f/x. All the other left-handed pitchers in the big leagues threw four triple-digit pitches combined. And friends, it doesn't get any stranger -- or truer -- than that.

Coming Thursday: Strangest-But-Truest hitting feats of 2010.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com