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Sergio Romo’s streak of 9 perfect innings

Posted by John Autin on August 3, 2011

In his last 12 games covering exactly 9 IP, SFG reliever Sergio Romo has retired 27 straight batters.

It's the 5th relief game streak of at least 9 perfect innings* since 1919, all coming since 1995:

Rk   Strk Start End Games W L CG SHO GF SV IP 6 H R ER BB SO HR ERA HBP WP BK Tm
1 Bobby Jenks 2007-07-19 2007-08-12 13 1 0 0 0 12 8 13.0 0 0 0 0 11 0 0.00 0 0 0 CHW
2 Jason Motte 2010-05-15 2010-06-05 9 1 0 0 0 2 0 9.2 0 0 0 0 11 0 0.00 0 0 0 STL
3 Sergio Romo 2011-07-06 2011-08-01 12 0 0 0 0 2 1 9.0 0 0 0 0 13 0 0.00 0 0 0 SFG
4 John Wetteland 1995-09-14 1996-04-09 9 0 0 0 0 9 7 9.0 0 0 0 0 14 0 0.00 0 0 0 NYY
5 Jeff Montgomery 1997-07-19 1997-08-06 8 1 0 0 0 8 4 9.0 0 0 0 0 7 0 0.00 0 0 0 KCR
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/3/2011.

Streak notes:

  • It's no big surprise that there were no such streaks before '95. Prior to the '90s, relievers often pitched more than 1 inning at a time, especially if they didn't encounter any trouble.
  • The 5 pitchers on this list also stranded all 13 runners they inherited: 5 by Motte, 4 by Romo, 2 each by Jenks and Wetteland. Montgomery inherited no runners.
  • The streaks by Jenks and Montgomery both started on July 19, 10 years apart.

Romo notes:

  • WHIP: Romo's season WHIP of 0.645 in 35.2 IP (through Tuesday 8/2) would be the 4th-best WHIP ever with at least 30 IP. His career WHIP of 0.893 in 166 IP would be the best ever by a pitcher with at least 100 IP.
  • SO/BB: His season SO/BB ratio of 12.75 (51 SO, 4 BB) would also be the 4th-best ever. His career mark of 5.27 would be the 3rd-best ever by a pitcher with 100+ IP.
  • OPS: His career OPS allowed of .545 is (again) the 4th-best by a pitcher with 100+ IP. (OPS data available back to 1919.)
  • Strike %: Romo's 71% strike percentage this year is the best in the NL for any pitcher with more than 2 IP. (Tops in the AL? Hint: He's over 40, and he's not a knuckleballer.)


* Note that this refers only to game streaks of no baserunners, and the total innings in such streaks. The Play Index cannot parse out additional perfect innings that may have occurred in imperfect games. It seems likely that there have been a few streaks of 27 straight batters retired other than those listed above.


87 Responses to “Sergio Romo’s streak of 9 perfect innings”

  1. James Says:

    Great stuff. Aroldis Chapman has a similar streak going right now. Over his last eight appearances: 9.2IP, 0H, 0R, 1BB, 15K. Retired 29 of 30. The one walk was to Jose Reyes.

  2. John Autin Says:

    @1, James -- Thanks. I was actually drafting a post on Chapman when I came across the Romo streak, and bumped him to the top of the list.

  3. James Says:

    Glad you did. A good friend is a Giants fan and he hasn't said a word to me about this. What a friend he is.

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Odd. I remember Jenks getting some pub when he did this. I have no recollection of any of the others, including Romo's. Wetteland was pitching for my team but I don't remember hearing about the streak, maybe because it was over two seasons.

    Has Chuck been MIA lately because of Chapman's good pitching?

  5. Pandoval Says:

    Good to see Romo getting some love. He and the rest of the Giants relievers have been incredible this season, just like last year. While we're on the topic, Guillermo Mota just pitched two innings and got six strikeouts.

  6. Gerry Says:

    If you let starting pitchers in, Jim Barr retired 41 consecutive batters over two games on 23 and 29 August 1972. It comes to "only" 12 consecutive perfect innings, same as Harvey Haddix.

  7. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    I don't see the big deal in 9 perfect innings, since relievers always come in fresh and the batters haven't seen them previously in the game, as opposed to starters who have to go through the SAME batting rotation three times.
    This is the same kind of relief pitching "record" that leads to nonsense like Mariano Rivera being elected to the Hall of Fame, which is already being taken for granted.
    Or take the closer who is used only for the final out in 27 consecutive games.
    Contrast this with Smokey Burgess getting 56 straight pinch-hit singles.
    Let's say Mr. Romo duplicates this feat six more times. Is he the reincarnation of Nolan Ryan?
    I'm putting Smokey up alongside Joltin' Joe, because hitting a 98-mile per hour pitch is a lot tougher than throwing it past guys.
    The pitcher has the entire strike zone to work with.
    The hitter has a target that's only, what three inches wide, and he has to hit it with a bat that's barely larger?

  8. mccombe35 Says:


    Jenks streak was part of his (then) ML record (Tied Barr I think) for most consecutive batters retired.

    Buehrle would break the record.

  9. Kyle Says:

    @6 - didn't Buehrle break Barr's record a couple years back?

  10. Anon Says:

    @6 - Phil - Really, you "don't see the big deal" in retiring 27 consecutive major league hitters? Really? Even though only 6 relievers (plus the 18 starters that have officially done it) have done it in the entire searchable era covering some 70-80 years? Really???? I'm not saying it's as impressive as a starter doing it but it isn't exactly like every reliever is coming in and throwing 8,9,10 perfect outings in a row. Give the guy some props. . . .

    As to the thread, I recall an article not too long ago about "hidden" no-hitters (& by extension, hidden perfect games) looking at streaks where pitchers had retired 27 hitters without allowing a hit. It's surprisingly more common than you would think - guy gives up a 1st inning single then pitches 7 more hitless that game and 2 to start the next game. I would imagine it's true also of "hidden" perfect games.

  11. NoChanceforPettitte Says:


    This is quite honestly the craziest post I have ever seen on here (and I have even contributed a few)...

    1. I fail to see how a guy can be 'fresh' when he pitches in 45% of his team's games (like Romo has done this year)...
    2-106. I'm not sure there's a point in even adding points 2 through 106...

  12. James S Says:

    I seem to remember Goose Gossage doing this in the early 80's. The Yankee announcers (Rizzuto) making a big deal about it.

  13. Johnny Twisto Says:

    James, you are correct. In 1980, Gossage pitched 6 perfect innings over 6 games. In the game before that, he finished with a perfect inning, after allowing a hit in the previous inning. In the game after, he entered and got the final out of an inning, then had a perfect inning, then got two outs in the next inning before allowing a walk. So in total, I believe he retired 28 batters in a row. This was 8/26 through 9/10. As JA noted, this streak does not appear above because the search can only find appearances which were completely clean. I still think Phil/7 is being too harsh, but this probably has been done a few more times than immediately apparent.

  14. JoeThunder Says:

    Didn't Ton Gordon do this for the Yanks in 2005? I believe he hit 27 IP vs. the Red Sox on the Sunday after the all-star game. Al Leiter started and won that game on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Yanks won that game and the division.

  15. John Autin Says:

    Phil Haberkorn, I don't understand the vehemence of your reply.

    1. The gist of your point was implicit in my first bullet point.

    2. Nevertheless, the fact that in the 16+ seasons since it was first accomplished, there have been just 5 perfect relief streaks amounting to 9+ IP, does make it noteworthy, especially since there are far more relief appearances in this era than in any prior one.

    3. You are the only one who referred to a "record" or drew any comparisons to Nolan Ryan. This is called "attacking a straw man."

    4. If you don't think Mariano Rivera is worthy of the Hall of Fame, I think your judgment must be clouded by resentment of modern pitcher usage patterns, or by something else. It is a fallacy to argue that, because a particular job is not terribly difficult to do reasonably well, no person who does that job extraordinarily well for an extraordinarily long time can be a great performer.

  16. Timmy P Says:

    Off subject a little, but Alex Rodriguez has proven himself once again to be a person of below average character. No HoF for him.

  17. NoChanceforPettitte Says:

    1. Romo is now at 9.1 perfect innings.
    2. Thanks for posting this, John.

    Here's a question: Is it easier as a pitcher to throw 9 perfect innings facing 9-11 (assuming pinch hitters) unique hitters over one game or 9 perfect innings facing 24-27 (assuming you'll possibly face a couple guys twice over a series) unique hitters over multiple games?

    That there are only 5 relief pitchers on this list has to be some evidence that the feat is rather impressive.

  18. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Alex Rodriguez has proven himself once again to be a person of below average character.

    For being present where a poker game took place? OK, Captain Renault.

  19. Timmy P Says:

    @18 WRONG! He was asked by MLB if he attended and he said no. He lied. He lied because it was an illegal game, defined as one run with a "house" and a rake. MLB standard contract does address illeagal gambling.

  20. Timmy P Says:

    Also ARod has cheated on his wife. Any man that will cheat on his wife will cheat you. Also ARod took steroids and HGH in violation of US law, state law. Although they did not test at the time, it was against MLB rules to take PEDs. I think?

  21. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I figure most people will cheat you in some way, period. And I figure most major leaguers have cheated on their wives.

  22. Timmy P Says:

    @21 Do you have the stats to back that up? 😉

  23. Naveed Says:

    Ty Cobb wasn't a good person, and he got the most votes in the first Hall of Fame election. The Hall would be a much worse place without him. Baseball talent should be the only benchmark for induction as a player.

    That said, this post is about how good Sergio Romo is (that is to say, incredibly good). I talked to him back in 2007 when he was in the California League, and he was very pleasant. His success is well-deserved, and he might well be the best reliever in the National League. If only Bruce Bochy would use him more...

  24. Timmy P Says:

    @23 I think that any player that is caught or admits to using PED's should not get in the HoF. Taking PED's goes to the integrety of the game. The HoF is full of imperfect people, but those that cheat the game don't deserve to be in.

  25. Nate Says:

    @17, I think the competing effects are: It's easier for relievers in that they never face the same batter multiple times per game and get platoon advantage more often than starters do. (This second reason is especially relevant to Romo as Bochy has been splitting the 8th between him and Lopez a lot this year, and you can see that only Romo has < 1.0 IP/G during the streak of the guys on this list.)
    The opposite effect is that a starter only has to be "on" (have a great feel for his stuff) in a single game and/or face a ****ty opponent, while the reliever is maintaining this over a number of days and different opponents.

    My gut says that the factors benefitting the reliever are probably stronger, again, especially the platoon advantage for Romo, but regardless, it's still a very impressive feat.

    Romo was not aware of this until being informed today that he had accomplished it. So we'll see how it goes from here, espcially with next 4 games vs Phillies. He'll get to face Rollins/Victorino or Pence/Ibanez, but not have to face Utley/Howard.

  26. KJ Says:

    Romo is, without a doubt, the best pitcher in the Giant's pen. His weapon of choice is a no-dot slider. (He spins the slider in a way that doesn't not show a red dot. The spin of everyone else's slider creates a red dot in the center of the oncoming pitch, created by the seams of the spinning baseball.) Without the dot, hitters are unable to identify it as a slider, and it messes their timing up. He throws this slider with a great deal of precisions. And, as far as I know, he's the only pitcher who throws this pitch.

  27. Kool Says:

    @26 (KJ): That is very interesting. Could you post some links or something regarding sliders and Romo's in particular? I'd love to read about that.

  28. KJ Says:


    My source on that is actually watching a LOT of Giants games, and listening to color man (and former pitcher) Mike Krukow.

    For just the basic slider info, check Wikipedia. It will give you an idea of the spin, the dot, and how pitchers are throwing the slider. In a nutshell, the better the slider, the lower on the ball the dot gets.

    I believe (though I'm not sure about this) it's Romo's arm slot that eliminates the dot completely.

    But if you're able, watch Romo pitch. He throws the slider a LOT. Probably 40-45% of the time. It's break is more sideways and less downward than traditional sliders. You wouldn't recognize as a slider from the action of the ball. What amazes me about it, is that he will throw the slider up in the zone, for strikes. (Most pitchers use the slider as an out-of-zone swing-and-miss pitch.) And it doesn't matter. Hitters can get at it. It's worth watching.

  29. KJ Says:

    Hitters CAN'T get at it, that is.

  30. Dave Says:

    @7...I don't know how to respond to the fact that you don't think Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer.

  31. Dave Says:

    @21..."And I figure most major leaguers have cheated on their wives."
    This is almost as absurd a statement as Phil Haberkorn (#7) saying Mariano Rivera isn't a HoFer. Can't believe you typed something so stupid.

  32. Dave Says:

    "Ty Cobb wasn't a good person"
    Understatement of the year.

  33. Dave Says:

    If I'm not mistaken all breaking pitches (spin pitches) result in a "red dot" that batters focus on, not just sliders.

  34. John Autin Says:

    @23, Naveed: Romo "might well be the best reliever in the National League."

    I can see a case for that ... now that Mike Adams is in Texas. 🙂

  35. Neil L. Says:

    I think that I side with Nate at #25. There are offsetting factors for a reliever when comparing him to a starter accomplishing the same thing. Just not the same degree of attention attached when 27 consecutive batters are retired over multiple games.

    KJ, I've never heard of a "no-dot" slider either. If what you say is accurate, Romo can't be the only pitcher in baseball history to throw it from a certain release point, which is what I assume you mean by "arm slot" in #28.

    What about pitchers who threw wicked sliders like Dave Steib or Steve Carleton? Were those "red-dot" or "no-dot" sliders?

    I do agree with you in #28, though, that most pitchers throw the slider in the very bottom of the strike zone.

  36. Sean Says:

    Totally unfair that Mike Timlin does not get included in this list, I am guessing because it spanned the post season, which is actually more impressive given the circumstances, added pressure, intensity, etc. he retired 28 straight beginning 9/22/2003

  37. Johnny Twisto Says:

    KJ, your description of Romo's pitch makes it sound like a cutter. Has it ever been called one? I know I've seen him pitch but I just can't remember what his pitch looks like. I'll have to try watching him again soon.

  38. Whiz Says:

    @4,6,8,9: Looking at Jenks, he actually retired 3 batters at the end of his previous appearance (2007-07-17, after giving up a single and HR to start the inning). In his first appearance after the streak (2007-08-12) he started off by allowing a single, so he actually retired 42 batters in row, one more than Barr.

    If I did the math right, Buehrle had 45 in a row stretched out over 3 games; in an odd coincidence, Jenks relieved in Buehrle's first game of the three (not very well; he gave up two runs and still got a cheap save).

  39. Doug B Says:

    in a 4 game stretch this season Chapman walked 12 men in 1.1 innings. An average of 81 walks per 9 innings.

    If you remove that 4-game stretch here are his stats this season:

    30 IP
    7 Hits
    3 earned runs
    13 walks
    44 strikeouts
    0.67 WHIP
    1.20 ERA

    for all of 2011 here are his batting averages against:

    lefties hit .065 against him and righties hit .106 against him. Lefties have 2 hits and 17 strikeouts against him.

  40. John Autin Says:

    Doug B -- Hush, now -- you're killing my next post! 🙂

  41. Doug B Says:

    @ 7

    "nonsense like Mariano Rivera being elected to the Hall of Fame"

    this made me simply decide to ignore the rest of your post. I value a good #3 starter over your average closer the same as many on this board. But Rivera is not your average closer. Every sane person has to agree Rivera has provided the Yankees at least 20 more wins in his career than your typical closer. (probably more like 30) And that's comparing him to an average closer... who should be one of the best relievers on other teams. When you add to that his terrific post-season run I think voting for Rivera is far from "nonsense".

  42. Neil L. Says:

    @2 @40
    JA, oooooo , a sneak preview of an upcoming blog. Yes!

  43. Doug B Says:

    @ 7 continued...

    if you want to hate on the closer position pick just about anyone and you'll have a good argument they should not be in the hall. anyone but Rivera that is.

    I hate the Yankees as much as anyone. But Rivera is SOOOO much better than even guys like Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith that you just cannot justify saying he's not worthy of the hall.

    I've got your back if you want to argue Rollie Fingers never should have been put in the hall. And I'm a Brewers fan. But Rivera is simply the 1 reliever who stands out as clearly the best.

  44. Neil L. Says:

    Sean, thank you for bringing up Mike Timlin. Yes, I think the PI breaks all batting and pitching events up into regular season or post-season without regard to them possibly being consecutive. Can someone else confirm?

    As I recall, Mike Timlin was an extreme ground-ball pitcher. I reminisce, with fondness, about an early-1990's Toronto bullpen that boasted Tom Henke, Duane Ward and Mike Timlin.

    Interesting that the 1991 Jays had Henke with 32 saves and Duane Ward with 23. There is no such thing nowadays as co-closers, barring a mid-season injury to one.

  45. Johnny Twisto Says:

    What would happen if Adam Dunn faced Aroldis Chapman? Could he actually put up a negative batting average? Could the Reds score runs while in the field?

  46. kingcrab Says:

    nochance, he stays fresh by facing only 1 batter in 35% of his appearances and throwing less than 10 pitches in 61% of his appearances.

    in this current streak, romo has 7 one-batter appearances. not so impressive next to jenks' 12 one-inning pitched streak.

  47. Whiz Says:

    I got to looking at other pitching streaks since 2000, and came across a one of 84.0 IP (252 outs) with no BB by Bill Fischer in 1962.

    Greg Maddux had a streak of 73.0 IP in 2001 with no BB (no surprise there). And it was broken by an IBB! (He had two IBB in the same inning.) Not counting the IBBs, the streak would have been 85.0 IP (255 outs), longer than Fischer's, so his was the longest NIBB streak I could find.

    The longest streaks without a BB by a reliever were Dennis Eckersley in 1989-1990 and Tom Morgan in 1958, both with 51.2 IP with no BB. Koji Uehara had a 38.1 IP streak with no BB end earlier this year (carried over from 2010), and Sergio Romo has the longest current streak for a reliever at 16.1 IP.

    These were found by looking at game streaks of no BB, both for starters and for either starter/reliever. If a pitcher mixed starting and relieving as part of a streak, it may have been missed. (Fischer had one relief stint during his streak, but the other appearances were starts.) And of course it was limited to 1919 or later. Finally, for games before 1950, with no play-by-play, the games just before and after the streak can't be examined to see if the streak was actually a little longer. Pete Alexander had 72.2 IP with no BB, but it might have been longer -- looking at the box scores, it must have been at least 74.2 IP, and could have been 85.1 IP, but the exact number can't be determined without play-by-play.

  48. Splash Hits: Sergio Romo, Jake Dunning, Ron Fairly | Giants Nirvana | SF Giants Blog Says:

    [...] Sergio Romo’s streak of 9 perfect innings » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive Romo is just…incredible. [...]

  49. KJ Says:

    Johnny T.,

    The Giants announcers have never called it a cutter. And Romo refers to it as a slider as well. When you see it, you won't think of it as a cutter. And, without all this talk, I'm not sure you'd identify it as a slider either. It doesn't really dig in and drop. It really seems to me to be a pretty unique movement. On a cutter, I can pretty much track the movement. With Romo's slider, I can't really track it. It just seems to take a last second, slight dart to the left. There is some downward movement too.

    Because the movement is so (relatively) slifht, from my living room via the center field camera, it looks very hittable when he's throwing it for strikes. But, obviously, it's not. The fun (especially as a Giants fan) is watching the hitters reaction to not being able to hit it.

  50. KJ Says:

    (relatively) slight

  51. Neil L. Says:

    KJ and Johnny T, don't the same pitches get named differently in different eras?

    My point is that old-time pitchers threw the same pitches as today but there just wasn't a lot of fancy analysis to try and name the pitch ...... cutter, screwball, slider, off-speed breaking ball, frisbee pitch, efus, ..............

    But whatever gets in a batter's head ...........

  52. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Thanks, KJ. I'll try to get a look at it. Your description of the break sounds something like a cutter (at least a mega-cutter like Mo Rivera's), but if you say it's different I'll take your word for it. And a cutter is sort of a hybrid between a fastball and slider which (I think) doesn't show that spinning dot.

    Neil, I think that's true to an extent. Christy Mathewson was famous for his "fadeaway," which people later said was like a screwball, but I think may have just been a circle change. I think there has been some development of new pitches (like sliders and splitters), but a lot of times it's just new grips getting the same effect. There's only so many directions a ball can move while we're trapped by the laws of physics.

  53. Johnny Twisto Says:

    KJ, how fast does Romo's mystery slider go, and how does that compare to his fastball?

  54. John Autin Says:

    @51-52 -- There's a funny passage in Posnanski's Buck O'Neill book, The Soul of Baseball, in which O'Neill and Tony Oliva claim that there's no such thing as a split-finger fastball -- that it's just a euphemism for the good ol' spitball.

    BTW, I'd love to see a revival of the eephus pitch, or Satchel Paige's hesitation pitch. I hear that Kevin Correia is working on a Coriolis Force-ball....

  55. John Autin Says:

    JT -- Seeing how well the motivation of "you're pitching for your spot in the rotation" is working for Hughes and Nova, is it time they tried it on A.J.?

  56. Johnny Twisto Says:

    El Duque threw some near-eephuses during his time. Didn't Satchel try his hesitation pitch in the majors and get called for a balk?

    I don't really understand the spitball/splitter comparison.

    Was that book good? I leafed through it and thought it seemed interesting, and heard very good things.

  57. John Autin Says:

    JT -- Yeah, I really liked the book. I love Pos, and, well, everyone loved Buck.

    FYI, though -- it's not primarily about Buck's time in the Negro Leagues or as a coach with the Cubs. There are stories and snippets from those times, yes; but the book is mainly true to its subtitle: A Road Trip through Buck O'Neill's America.

  58. Neil L. Says:

    "I hear that Kevin Correia is working on a Coriolis Force-ball...."
    JA, you're asking for trouble. 🙂

    JA, I'm disappointed in you. You didn't pick up on the word "zugzwag" posted by Mike L. in #28 in the Edwin Jackson blog! 🙂 Being the wordsmith you are, a very nice use of the word.

  59. John Autin Says:

    {mit ein schmerzhaft Gesichtsausdruck} I can't believe I missed that one!

    BTW, though, I think it's "zugzwang"....

  60. Naveed Says:

    @John (34):

    Forgot that Adams had been traded. In that case, it seems pretty clear. Romo is amazing.

  61. KJ Says:

    Johnny T.,

    He's throwing the FB 90-92. (He throws a 4 & 2-seamer) He takes a lot off the slider. Maybe it runs around 82-83.

    Normal sliders are, what 4-6 MPH off?


    I agree with you and Johnny T., that the same pitches from different eras have different names. But, I don't really know what Romo's slider would equate to. It seems to me to be unique.

  62. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    I'd never heard "zugzwang" before. A very useful term under the right circumstances, no doubt.

    Now, as Mark Twain makes clear in his invaluable essay on the German language, the native English speaker should fall back as often as possible on either of the supple, ubiquitous German nouns Zug and Schlag. Thanks to John's link in #59, we know what a zugzwang is; what would a Schlagzwang be?

    I really think this word can be applied to baseball. Since the noun "Schlag" means "blow," "strike," "hit," "impact," and the noun "Zwang" means "force," "coercion," "obligation," "constraint," a Schlagzwang would seem to be a "compulsory hit" — not a base hit necessarily, but a requirement of hitting a pitch lest something disastrous happen. This describes the task of a batter who has been asked to lay down a squeeze bunt, or, more broadly, to hit the ball to protect a runner who has broken for the next base. A batter in this situation must swing, and he must not miss. He must make some kind of contact, for he is under Schlagzwang.

  63. KJ Says:

    There is a FanGraphs article (8/4) on the Giants bullpen that spends some time talking about Romo.

  64. Neil L. Says:

    Kahuna, thanks for the Mark Twain link. I clicked on it and the article is hilarious.

    So let me refine my understanding of the fine meaning of "zugzwang". Zwang means bludgeoned or compelled according to and zug means pull or tug, according to Twain's article.

    In English, what phrase would approximate zugzwang? Caught in a tug-of-war? Dragged kicking and screaming?

  65. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Neil, near the bottom of the page from John's link is this definition of "zugzwang":

    • As a noun, “a position in which one player can move only with loss or severe disadvantage.” (Mostly a chess term.)

    • As a verb, “to maneuver (one's opponent) into a zugzwang.”

    In English, what phrase would approximate zugzwang?

    The smart aleck in me wants to say, "There's no exact English equivalent — that's why we use the German term!" I think a phrase approximating the verb might be "catch in the net," "box/hem in," "close the ring" (nod to Winston Churchill) or "tighten the noose."

  66. Neil L. Says:

    Kahuna, thanks. I did use JA's link now that you pointed it out. Zugzwang actually means something a little different than I thought.

    So Mike L.'s, use of the word to describe the Yankees' management at the trade deadline is even more apt than I thought. They were semi-checkmated into accepting their current rotation.

  67. John Autin Says:

    Re: "schlag" --

    At the German steakhouse* where my friends and I have our annual Birthday Bash, "schlag" means the whipped cream that is served from a giant bowl with the dessert. A simple baseball application could be the shaving-cream schmutzing that A.J. Burnett administers to post-game interviewees ... or what the White Sox did to A.J. this week in raking him for a career-high 13 hits. "Stick a fork in him ... he's schlagged!"

    * That's Peter Luger's in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Do try the thick-sliced bacon....

  68. Neil L. Says:

    JA, a German steakhouse? Seriously, in the large metropolitan, multi-ethnic area that I live in I can't say that I've heard of one. Fusion of German and American cuisines? 🙂

    Restaurant reviews, vocabulary lessons, baseball trivia all on one website....

  69. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    OK, alright already, so maybe I go a little overboard with the Mariano Rivera HOF commentary.

    Mr. Romo's feat should not be placed in a category of "equivalent to a perfect game." That refers to the guy who relieved Babe Ruth who walked the leadoff batter and got ejected, then the reliever retired 27 in a row. It also refers to any starter who accomplishes the feat within a game, like Harvey Haddix. They didn't get to sit down after one inning and wait until the next game before they pitched again, and they had to go through the batting order at least three times, while relievers and closers frequently avoid facing the best hitters and get to close out a game by facing the 7-8-9 hitters. No contest, no comparison.

    A notable achievement, yes. But how rare it is, does not indicate how significant it is. Since relievers were used a lot less often years ago, there were fewer opportunities for something like this to happen. I predict you'll see this list start growing more quickly in the coming years, as more and more pitchers specialize in short appearances.

    Let's see Rivera work 2 or 3 innings per game like the Phil Regans and Bruce Kisons and Ron Perranoskis and Lee Smiths had to. Rivera benefits from a system in which he never has to pitch much longer than it takes to break a sweat. He is not dominant, he is simply lucky that he doesn't have a fulltime job. OK, so he has a great pitch that's hard to hit. So did Bruce Sutter, and he had to wait years to get into the HOF. Why? Because he wasn't ALWAYS at his best because managers hadn't figured out yet that they should save him until ONLY the 9th inning and ONLY when the team is leading.

    My point was, for a guy who frequently doesn't face the opposition in a clutch situation, why is a HOF placque already reserved for him but not the great pinch-hitters of all time, whose job was to come in at crucial situations probably far more often. Those guys were challenged to try to drive in the tying or go-ahead/winning runs on a regular basis, while Mariano is just a pinch-pitcher, but since he gets to walk off the field after a victory, he gets high-fives for making sure the tying run never got into the on-deck circle. What challenge is that?

    And now we have DH's entering the Hall, more part-time workers.

    I say let's enshrine the janitorial staff at the Hall of Fame, with their placques right next to Mariano's, because they all have the same job he does, just basically mop-up duty.

  70. John Autin Says:

    @69, Phil -- I hear you. However....

    "Let's see Rivera work 2 or 3 innings per game...."

    -- But we have seen that. In 1996, his first full year as a reliever, Mariano worked setup for closer John Wetteland. He worked 3+ IP 8 times, and 2+ IP in 35 of his 61 games. And he was great: 107.2 innings, 2.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 10.9 SO/9 (career best), 2nd in the league in WPA, and placed 3rd in the Cy Young Award voting.

    Since '96, Rivera has only worked 2+ innings 55 times in the regular season. In those games combined, he has a 1.85 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP.

    And of course, we see it often in the postseason. He went 2+ IP in 33 of 94 postseason games. In those games, he has a 0.52 ERA (4 runs in 69.1 IP), with a 0.63 WHIP.

    I grant that Rivera probably would not have the best ERA+ in history if given a heavier workload. But I'm satisfied that he would still be very good.


  71. John Autin Says:

    continued from #70

    As to the pinch-hitter analogy: OK, if you want to call Mariano Rivera a pinch-hitter, then find me a guy who pinch-hits 180 to 240 times a year, for 15 years, and hits like Babe Ruth, every single year.

    If you find him, I'll lead the campaign to get that guy into the Hall of Fame.

    Good luck with the search.

  72. John Autin Says:

    Lastly, consider the Wins Above Replacement method of evaluating a player's contribution. No one could claim that WAR is generous to short relievers; only 5 pitchers who were primarily relievers have ever accumulated even 30 WAR:

    -- Lee Smith, 30.3;
    -- Trevor Hoffman, 30.8;
    -- Goose Gossage, 40.0;
    -- Hoyt Wilhelm, 41.3; and
    -- Mariano Rivera, 55.0 and going strong.

    And how does 55 Wins Above Replacement compare with other pitchers? There are 28 HOF-eligible pitchers with between 50 and 60 WAR acquired at the modern pitching distance; 16 of them are in the HOF, 12 are not. But of the 12 who aren't in, not one of them is even close to Rivera's postseason and championship resume.

    If you think that doing a modern closer's job reasonably well is fundamentally not all that hard, I'm with you all the way.

    What you're missing, though, is that Rivera has done that job so extraordinarily well that he transcends the normal bounds of a closer's value. The difference between a good closer and a great one may be only a couple of wins a year; but Mariano has contributed those couple of wins every year for 15 years. How is that not as valuable as the difference between a good position player and a great one?

  73. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'll come to the belated defense of Phil and say that I absolutely understand the argument that relievers should not be inducted to the HOF. If one is a small-hall type, and looks at things from a pure value perspective, I think it's legitimate to argue no reliever could do enough to be worthy. I'm not that far from that opinion myself, but I suppose one could find room for the only absolute cream of the crop and let in Wilhelm and Rivera. The actual HOF has been slightly more inviting, but not much. Hoffman will probably make it. Wagner, who was dominant for a long time, feels like he won't make it, at least not soon.

    I think JA's last 3 posts are right on target. Yes, it is an easier job than pitching 250 IP, but it's an important one, and Rivera has done it on a level far above everyone else. To paraphrase the fictional Mark Zuckerberg, if you can be Rivera, then go be Rivera. Some saves are "cheap," but a lot of them ain't. I just watched the last inning of the Yankee-Red Sox game. Two teams tied for first, 1-run lead. Carl Crawford reaches base (on an infield single, not really Rivera's fault) with one out. Given the entire environment, both inside and outside the game on the field, that is one huge, pressure-packed appearance. Bing, bang, Rivera gets out of it. Sure, tons of guys will finish that game out. Rivera's done it almost every time for 15 years. Don't let his role blind you. He transcends his role.

    (and in looking back at JA's last post, I now see that I inadvertently bit his "transcend" remark. Meh, I'll leave it be.)

  74. Neil L. Says:

    @7 @69
    Phil, I appreciate the thought you put into your second post. Your arguments are well-marshalled, I think.

    I think people took your original post to be an anti-Rivera rant when it was really an anti-specialized-use-closer-for-HOF argument and Rivera was the most convenient example of your thinking.

  75. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    "Stick a fork in him ... he's schlagged!"

    You might be able to make a serious case that the baseball idiom "slagging (wearing out) a pitcher['s arm]" is derived etymologically from the German verb schlagen. (Wonder whether Steven Pinker has researched this.) "Aww, he's pitching like whipped cream out there!"

  76. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    Exactly my point.
    Doesn't anybody else here have a sense of humor?
    I mention Mariano Rivera, and people have been piling on ever since.
    But hey, it's been fun.

    The all-time saves record seems to be the barometer for assuming relievers into the HOF.
    Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman.
    OK, fair is fair, so what about the guy whose records they broke?
    Lee Smith pitched multiple innings, not just with 9th-inning leads, and he's still waiting for the HOF?
    At least the voters finally wised up with Bruce Sutter.
    What I'm saying is, if managers in the 60s had used closers the way they do now - save your BEST to close out a victory in the final inning - then Phil Regan would have made the hall. I saw him pitch, he was the best at what he did.
    But he "only" pitched two or three innings, and ONLY after his team already had the lead, and he got to feast on the dead carcass of the opposition's lineup, and they started razzing him by calling him "The Vulture."
    Nobody crowding around high-fiving him as he walks off the field after the victory.
    Nobody wanted to interview him in the post-game press conference.
    Nobody thought it was that big a deal, the guy is paid to protect the lead,
    Nobody elected him to the Hall of Fame, because the voters there are the same nitwite sportswriters who hung that Vulture nickname on him in the first place.
    He's just doing his job.
    Mopping up.
    And now the nitwit sportswriters are plugging him for the Hall of Fame, the same nitwit sportswriters who continue to ignore Lee Smith.










    Oh, OK, I forgot, this isn't about Mariano Rivera. . . . . .

  77. John Autin Says:

    Phil, it seems to me that now you're trying to play it both ways. You said what you said, and people (including me) reacted with reasoned arguments. What's the big deal about THAT?

    I don't apologize for taking down flawed arguments.

    Your latest post contains another faulty premise:

    Lee Smith did pitch about half his career in the "old-style," more-than-one-inning mode. But in the 2nd half, he was every bit the "9th-inning-only" closer that had become predominant.

    From 1989-95, Lee Smith pitched 447 innings in 421 games, or 1.06 IP/game. (Mariano, BTW, has averaged 1.17 IP/game for his career.) During those 7 seasons, Smith racked up 262 saves, or 55% of his career total. I think there's a strong case to be made that, without several years in that style, he never would have gotten the saves record.

    As for Phil Regan, he was indeed an outstanding reliever -- in exactly 2 seasons (1966 and '68). The rest of his career, he was Joe Average; his career ERA as a reliever (ignoring his crummy years as a starter) was 3.30. His ERA+ for his prime 4-year period was 130.

    Do you know how many pitchers have had 2 great relief seasons? Seriously.

  78. NoChanceforPettitte Says:

    You may want to spend some time looking at Rivera's page. If the consistency (and the consistent greatness) doesn't stand out then you're bringing a personal bias (whatever it is: love of Lee Smith, hatred of Panamanians, etc.) that is irrelevant to the discussion.

    The big deal about Mariano Rivera is simple:
    1. Incredible pitcher, pitching for...
    2. ...the best team (by wins, championships, etc) of his time who...
    3. ...contemporary players, managers, writers and executives acknowledge as the best closer year in and year out who's...
    4. ...legacy is overwhelmingly backed up by his statistics

    You have not put out a cogent argument that the overwhelming evidence for Rivera being an HOFer. I would suggest trying the following:

    "Mariano Rivera is over-rated because..." and then systematically break down contemporary viewpoints, statistical back up, and team performance. Maybe you'll end up with something worthwhile and end up working for Billy Bean someday.

  79. NoChanceforPettitte Says:

    Previous post should've read @76.

  80. Neil L. Says:

    @76 @78
    NoChanceforPettitte, let's try to leave some of the emotion and the personal attack aspect out of the discussion.

    At risk of putting words in someone's mouth, there is a grain of validity in Phil's position. In a nutshell, I think he's saying modern closer usage puts them in a position to succeed and magnifies their accomplishments in our minds because they get to make the last outs of the game. So our view of their greatness, whether we are HOF voters or common fans, is out of proportion to their actual statistics.

    I think Johnny T., if I'm reading him correctly in #73, is hinting at that. Point taken by all parties.

    Phil, what you may be undervaluing, is the difficulty of accomplishing what Rivera has done, year in and year out, for such a sustained peiod of time and with such consistency. For every closer close to Rivera or Lee Smith in value, there must a hundred BJ Ryan's. Point taken by all.

    The only other thought I have to add is that it may be a number of years into the future before we see comparable closers similar enough to Rivera with which to compare HOF credentials, assuming current closer usage continues.

  81. Neil L. Says:

    To try and clarify what I meant by my last paragraph, what closer do we currently see in the game as Mariano's successor, particularly in terms of career saves?

  82. NoChanceforPettitte Says:

    There's definitely no personal attack here. Assuming there is a grain of validity, it has to be proven out because in this case it flies in the face of nearly all accepted thought.

    Derek Jeter's fielding is an example of when this works. A whole group of people suggested that his gold gloves, highlight reel defense were not truly indicative of his fielding prowess. With this in mind, cogent arguments were created that 3 of the 4 points in my post above were deemed incorrect. This took movement and essentially reversed convention.

    Bert Blyleven is another example of convention being over-turned.

    Felix Hernandez's Cy Young is another such example (that Wins do not make the best pitcher in the league).

    If you state something that seems absurd, you either back it up or expect and accept that you will be met with sarcasm or rebuke. If Phil were to reverse conventional opinion and prove or closely prove his statements to be true, then who's to say that he wouldn't fulfill his lifelong dream to chart pitches for Dave Duncan?

    If you remove 'saves' from the equation, is Rivera still a great pitcher? Is he still worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame?

    If Mike Adams (as an example) continues to excel in the role of set up man, putting together the insanely good numbers he has over the past few seasons, would the role and importance of the set up man be redefined? And if it was, there would be a half hundred people saying, "How can a guy that doesn't start AND doesn't close be considered great?" And that argument would render the argument that closers aren't valuable moot.

  83. Neil L. Says:

    NoChanceforPettitte, I think I followed everything you posted, and agreed with it, down to the last paragraph.

    Are you saying our current appreciation of hold/setup men is where our appreciation of closers was 30 years ago, pre-Rivera, or that if we reverse position on the value of hold/setup men in the future then we are just blowing smoke now about whether one-inning closers are worth their salt?

    (Did I really write that confusing a question? Sorry.)

  84. NoChanceforPettitte Says:

    I'm saying that our current appreciation of setup men MAY be where our appreciation of closers was 30 years ago. As of now there really hasn't been a pure setup man who has excelled for 15+ seasons.

    Right now, clubs groom pitchers as relievers (some of those pitchers have immense/insane talent)... They do this because relievers have become a critical cog in a team's success. Clubs are not grooming pinch hitters as an FYI (hopefully ending the apples to oranges points from before). With this, past conceptions no longer hold true: that a reliever was the 9th or 10th best pitcher on a team.

    Mariano Rivera is not a closer because he was a failed starter (he was a successful minor league starter). He was a closer because he was a great pitcher and great pitchers stay in the big leagues a long time.

    Mike Adams (over the past few years) and Aroldis Chapman (over the past several weeks) are not setup men because they are failed starters or failed closers, they are setup men (and two who are performing exceptionally) because they are great pitchers and every team wants great pitchers.

    When and if a bona fide setup man pitches extraordinarily consistent over an extended period of time (and yes, pressure situation, IRS, etc. will be rightly combed through) then closers will, too, be looked at differently. Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman will be seen as pitchers who independent of saves excelled for a very long time and are deserved of a place in the HOF. Just as Blyleven was looked at as an exceptional pitcher independent of his wins and on and on and on.

    Pitchers like John Franco and Lee Smith will still be seen as having good save totals, but not being really exceptional pitchers over a long period of time. If Adams puts together another 10+ years of seasons like he has the past 3 (which will be difficult given his age), then the good, but not HOF careers of Smith, Franco, et al. will be cemented further.

    Rivera will still be seen, and correctly seen as an incredible and extraordinary pitcher who happened to be a closer.

    This whole thing started with Sergio Romo's streak.

    Is it as impressive as throwing a perfect game against the '61 Yankees? Definitely no.

    Is it as impressive as throwing a perfect game against the '62 Mets or '03 Tigers?
    Some would say no, but neither of those teams had players the ilk of Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun (twice), Jay Bruce and Justin Upton (all of whom Romo had to retire in his streak of 9.2+ perfect innings).

  85. Johnny Twisto Says:

    The all-time saves record seems to be the barometer for assuming relievers into the HOF.

    As you said, Smith hasn't made it, so perhaps there's more to it than that. Reardon held it briefly, and he didn't get a sniff.

    FWIW, Smith had 169 multi-inning saves and Rivera has had 116. A sizable difference, and even bigger when compared to total saves, but they're not in completely different ballparks.

    During his prime closing seasons (1982-1995), Lee Smith had 167 multi-inning saves. Next best was 140, three others had more than 100. During Rivera's closing seasons (1997-now), he has had 113 multi-inning saves, more than twice as many as anyone else.

  86. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    It's time to close out this exchange about Mariano Rivera.
    Most people are just missing my point.
    The Phil Regan comparison wasn't the best to select, I admit, but I still stand by my argument.
    This thread is about something Mr. Romo did, not what Mr. Rivera did.
    Sportswriters disdained relievers for a long time, because they "only" pitched part-time. Phil Regan was taken for granted. Hall of Fame was not a consideration, because relief pitchers weren't even on the radar in the minds of the sportswriters when it came to voting for HOF.
    Sportswriters now worship the specialist closer, the one-inning type of guy, and those guys are now breaking records that were set by guys who were at least as deserving, if not more so, than the record-setters we're watching now. Mariano Rivera is idolized, and it's taken for granted that he'll make the Hall of Fame.
    The way the managers use their relievers now is a lot different, you can't blame Mariano Rivera for that.

    Phil Regan wasn't a dominant relief pitcher his entire career, but neither was Dennis Eckersley. The sportswriters just fell in love with Eck's relief work, and bingo - Hall of Fame!
    The sportswriters only made fun of Phil Regan - "The Vulture."
    Dennis Eckersley wasn't even a dominant starter, it was his relief work that got him elected to the HOF.
    Phil Regan, same thing, except he was dominant for a much shorter period of time, but he did it long enough that under today's mentalities, he would have received the Dennis Eckersley treatment.
    Lee Smith WAS a dominant relief pitcher throughout his career, whether working multiple innings or just closing out the 9th.
    Sandy Koufax was not a great pitcher except for the last 5-6 years of his career.
    Lee Smith was a great pitcher from start to finish of his career.

    Back to Mr. Romo's streak. An accomplishment of note, yes. My objection is equating it with a "perfect game," because the two are completely different achievements. And Mr. Romo still has a long way to go to catch Jim Barr, Bobby Jenks, and Mark Buehrle, whether they're starters or relievers, more than 40 consecutive batters retired is more appropriately compared to Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak than a perfect game.

  87. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    Me Culpa.
    You're all right, I got it all wrong.
    I have just had a revelation, an epiphany.
    Mr. Romo and the others on the list posted above have accomplished something far BEYOND a perfect game.
    They had to face challenges a starting pitcher never has to face.
    They ONLY get to pitch one inning at a time.
    Then they have to leave the ballpark and go home.
    Maybe take a nap.
    Eat a full dinner.
    Go out to a movie.
    Get a full night's rest.
    Eat a full breakfast.
    AND they have to be at the ballpark IN TIME FOR THE NEXT GAME.