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So far, Phillies starting pitchers fit the bill

Posted by Andy on April 24, 2011

Through Friday, the Phillies led all of MLB with 5 team shutouts:

Tm G tmSHO
PHI 19 5
MIL 19 4
ATL 21 3
BAL 18 2
CLE 19 2
COL 19 2
FLA 18 2
OAK 20 2
SEA 21 2
STL 20 2
TEX 19 2
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2011.

Coming in 19 games, that projects to 42 shutouts in a full season.

That's never happened before:

Rk Tm Year #Matching
1 STL 1968 30
2 NYM 1969 28
3 LAA 1964 28
4 STL 1944 26
5 CLE 1948 26
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/23/2011.

And it's probably not going to happen this year. I believe shutouts tend to be a little bit more common in April than in later months.

24 Responses to “So far, Phillies starting pitchers fit the bill”

  1. Shazbot Says:

    This close to 6.

  2. John Autin Says:

    Wow -- that is a real eye-opener, Andy.

    Trying to put it into context, I checked for the most team shutouts in the first 20 games since 1969.

    The leader, with 6, was a team I doubt anyone would have guessed -- the 1981 Texas Rangers. That team, with a 5-man rotation of Danny Darwin, Doc Medich, Rick Honeycutt, Fergie Jenkins and Jon Matlack, finished 57-46 in the strike-interrupted season; they were 2nd in the AL in run prevention. They had a good first half, 33-22; but surprisingly, despite 6 shutouts in their first 20 games, they went just 11-9 in that span. They didn't throw another shutout for a month, but finished the year with 13, tied for 1st in the league. Doc Medich had 4 shutouts, tied for the league lead.

    The last teams with 5 shutouts in their first 20 games were less surprising:

    -- The 1993 Braves, who won 104 games behind Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz & Avery (probably the best recent comp for the current Philly rotation, with Pete Smith playing the role of Joe Blanton). They led the league with 16 shutouts and by far the best run prevention in baseball, almost half a run better than anyone else. Oddly, they, too, went just 11-9 in their first 20 games.

    -- The 1992 Pirates, who had a strong 6-man rotation of Doug Drabek, Randy Tomlin, Bob Walk (?!?), Tim Wakefield and Danny Jackson, each with an ERA+ of at least 101. They won 96 games, had 20 shutouts (2nd to Atlanta's 24!), and were 3rd in run prevention. They went 15-5 in their first 20 games.

    P.S. Four of the shutouts by the '81 Rangers were consecutive. There have been just 2 longer shutout streaks since 1963, both lasting 5 games. Surprisingly, both streaks were by AL teams in the DH era. Both were by the Orioles, in 1974 and 1995. (The '95 streak closed out the season and still left the O's 2 games below .500, but it did leave them 2nd in the league in run prevention.) Besides those O's and the '81 Rangers, no other AL team in the DH era has thrown 4 straight shutouts.

  3. SoFla Says:

    That would be really awesome if the Phillies can pull it off. It's always good to see history.

  4. John Autin Says:

    This is the first time since 1979 that the Phils have had more than 2 shutouts in their first 20 games.

    On the other hand, last year's club had just 2 shutouts in their first 20 games, yet finished with 21 -- tops in the majors.

  5. John Autin Says:

    Ironically, the Philly bullpen has so far been even stronger, relative to the league, than their rotation.

    SP ERA -- NL avg. 4.29, Phillies 3.47, 19% lower than league.
    RP ERA -- NL avg. 3.33, Phillies 2.25, 32% lower than league.

    The pitching has so far covered for a rather anemic offense. Although they're 6th in runs (thanks to a high BA with RISP), they're only 9th in OBP, 10th in HRs, and 12th in SLG and OPS.

  6. Neil L. Says:

    Well the Phillies starting rotation is the best that money can buy.

    Just a bit of Doc-envy here!

    Speaking of Doc, he did have his own personal umpire behind home plate today!

  7. John Says:

    @6 If that was his own personal umpire then he's not paying him enough. There were several calls that could've gone either way that the umpire called balls. There were at least two pitches that were obvious strikes that got called balls as well.
    The Padres just suck. They had 4 guys starting today with BA's under .200, including Eric Patterson who is now hitting a whopping .053 after going 0-3 with 1K vs. Halladay today.

  8. John Autin Says:

    Random pitching observations:

    -- How much do the Phillies miss Brad Lidge? They have only one official blown save in 20 games, and that was in the 7th inning.

    -- With today's game, Josh Johnson has allowed 13 hits in 34 IP this year. He took a no-hitter into the 6th, finishing with 7 IP and 3 hits ... raising his opp. BA from .112 to .119.

    -- James Shields shut out the Blue Jays today for his 2nd straight CG. He is the first pitcher with 2 CG this year. Shields did not have a CG in his previous 2 seasons.

    -- Daisuke Matsuzaka recently became the first pitcher in almost 2 years with consecutive starts of at least 7 IP allowing 1 hit or less. The last to do that was Vicente Padilla in May 2009.

    -- Max Scherzer is 15-7 in 27 starts since a brief demotion last May, with a 2.58 ERA and 188 Ks in 184.2 IP.

  9. John Autin Says:

    @6, Neil L -- I didn't see the game; I assume you were referring to questionable ball-strike calls.

    I will note, however, that before today's game, Halladay had started 6 times with Mike DiMuro behind the plate, going 4-2, 2.37, with 37 Ks and 9 walks in 49.1 IP. There were 37 different home plate umps in front of whom Halladay had a higher K/BB ratio. There are 5 umps with whom Halladay has made at least 3 starts with a K/BB ratio of at least 15.

    That doesn't mean that he doesn't get some beneficial calls. But if there is any bias, it's spread out pretty well.

  10. John Autin Says:

    One more note about the Philly rotation:
    After 1993, only 2 teams have had 3 pitchers age 32 or older log 200 innings:
    -- The 2003 Yankees (Clemens, Mussina, Wells); and
    -- The 2001 Braves (Maddux, Glavine, Burkett).

    It's only been done 9 times in the last 60 years.

    On the other hand ... If I had to bet on 3 fairly old guys, I wouldn't mind making it these 3!

  11. Neil L. Says:

    @7 @9
    I think the home plate ump today called both his no-no's last year.

  12. Neil L. Says:

    Sorry, Mike DiMuro only called his regular-season no-no last year. Hirschbeck called the post-season one. DiMuro was the HP umpire again today.

    I only meant he would look favorably on Halladay's stuff.

  13. TheIronHorse Says:

    Very interesting. It appears that the top five teams for shutouts in a season, prove the old axiom that baseball is about 80% pitching.

    Only the 64 Angels didn't participate in the World Series. 3 of the other 4
    teams won the World Series, with the 68 Cardinals losing to Mickey Lolich
    and Detroit in seven games.

    The Angels appear to be the abberation. They finished 82-80. Benefitted
    greatly from Dean Chance. 11 shutouts, ERA+198 and a good old fashioned ERA of 1.65.

  14. Jimbo Says:

    At #2

    Wakefield would not have been part of that rotation, he was a mid season call up.

  15. John Autin Says:

    @14, Jimbo -- I didn't mean to say that the '92 Pirates had 6 pitchers taking turns in the rotation "1-2-3-4-5-6". I meant that there were 6 pitchers who had a prolonged stay in the rotation at some point in the season.

    Drabek and Tomlin were the only year-long mainstays, starting 34 and 33 games, respectively. Zane Smith made 22 starts, Bob Walk 19, Danny Jackson 15 and Tim Wakefield 13, with another 26 starts scattered among 5 pitchers.

    Why do you feel that Wakefield was not part of that rotation? His first start came on July 31, and he took every regular turn thereafter through the end of the season, including 2 CG wins in the NLCS.

  16. Dave Says:

    "I believe shutouts tend to be a little bit more common in April than in later months."
    This comment seems to me like it's been pulled out of thin there data to back this up?

  17. Whiz Says:

    @16, using the team pitching game finder, I checked 2000 to 2010 and in the first 27 games of the season, teams had 469 shut-outs (42.6 per year), and 2853 overall (259.4 per year). Not surprisingly, last year was high for the period (52 in the first 27 games, 329 for the year).

    Projecting the 42.6 to a full season gives 255.8, so it appears that shut-outs are not more common in April (or at least the first 1/6th of the season) in the last 11 years; they're not less common either (within statistical error).

  18. Doug Says:

    @16. @17.

    Same conclusion as Whiz going back to 1991 (I omitted 1994 and 1995).

    I used first 20 games, and applied ratio of 20/162 to actual team shut-outs for each season to derive projected early-season shutouts.

    For these 18 years, I got 561 team shutouts in first 20 games of season, and "projected" early season team shutouts of 554. Essentially, no difference. In eleven of the 18 seasons, difference in actual vs projected early season shutouts was less than 3.

    What's probably more interesting is that 2008 to 2010 easily had the most full-year team shutouts (873) in any 3-year period in the past 20 years (next highest was 1991 to 1993 at 790). And 2010 was easily the highest single-season total (329) of the period, 10% higher than the next highest year (1992).

    2011 looks to be starting out the same way as 2010. There are already 37 team shutouts this year (and not every team has played 20 games yet). Except for 47 early shutouts in 1991, the highest total for first 20 games since then is 38 in 1993, 2003 and 2010. Dawn of the new pitchers' era?

  19. Andy Says:

    Not sure why I thought SHO were more common in April--must be related to the notion that pitchers are a bit more ahead in the early going / colder weather, but I agree the data do not support such a conclusion.

  20. John Autin Says:

    Those streaking Phils have won 5 straight games while scoring 4 runs or less each time.

    -- The last team to do that was the Padres in 2009, May 17-23 (6 games). No other team has done it after 2003.

    -- It's a new Philly franchise record for the live-ball era. The last time they had even 4 such wins in a row was 1991. The last time they had 3 in a row was 2003.

  21. John Autin Says:

    @19, Andy -- Even though I'm always suspicious of conventional wisdom, I would have thought you were right that shutouts were more common in April.

    But I just looked at the monthly splits for the last few years:

    -- In 2010, the April ERA (4.20) and OPS allowed (.738) were the highest of any month in the season.
    -- In 2009, the April ERA (4.58) was the highest of any month.
    -- In 2008, the April ERA (4.16) was of a piece with May (4.14) and June (4.18), though all were lower than the summer months.
    -- In 1980, the April ERA (3.92) was the highest of any month.
    -- In 1979, the April ERA (4.01) was the 2nd-lowest of the 6 months, though 5 of the 6 months were very close.
    -- In 1978, April was the 3rd-highest of the 6 months.

    To put my observations in general terms, there reallly isn't much of a consistent pattern of difference among the months. I certainly didn't see anything that supports the conventional wisdom.

  22. Jimbo Says:


    Well, you were discussing the teams that had 5 shutouts in their first 20 games. Wakefield wasn't relevant to those 20 games.

  23. John Autin Says:

    @22, Jimbo -- OK, fair point.

    But you may notice that I never named any pitcher who was involved in the "first 20 games" shutouts, for any of those teams. I was looking at the early shutouts from the angle of: what did they portend for that team's season as a whole?

  24. John Autin Says:

    This is from way out in left field, but anyway....

    Kosuke Fukudome went 5 for 5 Monday and is now hitting .478 (22 for 46).
    He has 1 double, and 21 singles. He is slugging an even .500, giving him an isolated power of .022.
    He also has 10 walks, giving him 32 times on base.
    He has scored 4 runs. He has 2 RBI.

    Just for laughs, I looked up the lowest isolated power in a .400 season.
    In 1896, Hughie Jennings (yep, old Ee-yah himself) hit .401 with .086 isolated power (209 hits, 27 doubles, 9 triples, 0 HRs).
    Since 1901, the lowest is .164 by Ty Cobb in 1922.