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Nearly-perfect rookies

Posted by John Autin on September 6, 2011

Zach Stewart tossed a near-perfect game Monday in his 10th career game, allowing 1 hit and no other baserunners in 9 innings.

Since 1919, here are the 11 pitchers with a start of at least 9 innings allowing no more than 1 baserunner, within their first 20 games:

Rk Gcar 5 Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB BR SO HR Pit Str GSc BF AB 2B 3B IBB HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS PO BK WP ERA WPA RE24 aLI
1 1 Jimmy Jones 22.154 1986-09-21 SDP HOU W 5-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 5 0     90 28 28 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.257 4.036 .414
2 3 Travis Wood 23.154 2010-07-10 CIN PHI L 0-1 GS-9 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 8 0 109 74 93 28 28 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.681 4.430 1.228
3 5 Charlie Robertson 26.089 1922-04-30 CHW DET W 2-0 SHO9 ,W  9.0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0     93 27 27 0 0   0 0             0 0 0.00      
4 9 Von McDaniel 18.101 1957-07-28 (1) STL PIT W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 4 0     89 28 28 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.468 4.440 .706
5 10 Zach Stewart 24.342 2011-09-05 (2) CHW MIN W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 9 0 114 75 94 28 28 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.440 4.389 .692
6 16 Hiroki Kuroda 33.148 2008-07-07 LAD ATL W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 6 0 91 61 91 28 28 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.449 4.500 .733
7 16 Vida Blue 21.055 1970-09-21 OAK MIN W 6-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 0 0 0 1 1 9 0     95 28 27 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.563 4.046 .856
8 17 Woodie Fryman 26.077 1966-07-01 PIT NYM W 12-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 8 0     93 27 27 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.00 0.285 3.976 .471
9 17 Mat Latos 22.155 2010-05-13 SDP SFG W 1-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 6 0 106 67 91 28 28 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.819 4.430 1.341
10 18 Jonathon Niese 23.226 2010-06-10 (2) NYM SDP W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 6 0 108 76 91 28 28 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.399 4.258 .685
11 19 Hipolito Pichardo 22.334 1992-07-21 KCR BOS W 8-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 1 4 0 104 69 89 28 28 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.280 4.430 .400
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2011.

A few notes:

-- See also Raphy's 2010 post, "A Game Score of 90 Early in a Career." Stewart's 94 Game Score would have ranked 6th in that group.

-- Stewart's most notable game before this was when he fanned 5 out of 6 batters in a relief stint (including 4 in a row swinging), making him 1 of 6 pitchers this year with 5 Ks while facing no more than 6 batters.

-- Charlie Robertson's 1922 perfect game is one of 18 in the modern era. He beat a Detroit team that hit .306 for the year; the lineup that day included Ty Cobb (.401), Harry Heilmann (.356), Bobby Veach (.327), Lu Blue (.300) and Topper Rigney (.300). It was the 4th start of his career; in his previous outing, he'd allowed 12 hits and 4 walks in a CG win. The perfect game was easily the high point of Robertson's 8-year career; he had a losing record every season, and finished with a record of 49-80 with a 90 ERA+. He also had a losing record in the minors.

-- Jimmy Jones is the only one to do it in his debut game. The only baserunner was a 3rd-inning triple by opposing pitcher Bob Knepper, a career .137 hitter. Jones was the 3rd overall pick in the 1982 draft, but never lived up to that billing in an injury-plagued career, finishing 43-39 with an 82 ERA+.

-- Von McDaniel was the brother of Lindy McDaniel, who pitched 21 years in the majors. The two were teammates on St. Louis in 1957, when Lindy completed his first full year in the  rotation with a 15-9 record and 114 ERA+. On May 16, Lindy threw his 1st shutout, a 4-hitter against the Phillies. Five weeks later, little brother Von -- 2 months past his 18th birthday, and on the roster mainly because of the "bonus baby" rule -- blanked Brooklyn on 2 hits in his first MLB start, giving him 17 straight scoreless innings to start his career. And 5 weeks after that, Von tossed the 1-hitter listed above; Gene Baker spoiled the chance at history with a double in the 2nd inning. That was the last shutout Von McDaniel ever threw; he developed arm trouble, and his MLB career ended the following year. Lindy McDaniel, who was also a bonus baby, also threw just 1 more shutout after 1957; he converted to relief 2 years later, and had a long and successful career.

-- Vida Blue, the 2nd-youngest on the list, threw a 1-hit shutout in his 6th career start (no-no broken up with 2 out in the 8th). He followed that 10 days later with the no-hitter shown above, against the top batting team in the AL, in his 8th start, allowing only a walk to Harmon Killebrew. Blue blazed to a 16-2, 1.37 start in 1971, with 6 shutouts in 19 games, and cruised to the AL Cy Young and MVP Awards (sorry, Wilbur). He never had another season close to that, but he did pitch effectively through age 36, winning 209 games with a 108 ERA+ in over 3,000 IP.

-- Woodie Fryman was a 26-year-old rookie in 1966 when he reeled off one of the most dominant 3-game runs in history -- 3 straight shutouts allowing a total of 7 hits and 1 walk, with the game shown above as the centerpiece. (A .138 career hitter, he also went 5 for 14 in those 3 games.) Fryman was 25 before he ever signed a pro contract, then made just 12 minor-league appearances before making the '66 Pirates out of spring training. He threw four 1-hitters in his career -- the last a 1-0 win over Vida Blue in 1978 -- but never landed the big one. In the game above, Ron Hunt singled to start the 1st but was thrown out trying to steal, and Fryman retired the next 26 hitters. Woody never had a big year as a SP, though he had a big finish in '72 after Detroit picked him up on waivers from Philadelphia, going 10-3, 2.06, helping the Tigers win the division by a half-game. He also turned in some fine relief seasons with Montreal at the end of his career, and pitched through age 43.

-- Mat Latos tossed his 2010 gem against Jonathan Sanchez, who threw his own no-hitter against the Padres 10 months before. The only baserunner off Latos came on an infield single by catcher Eli Whiteside; Latos also drove in the game's only run with a 2-out single in the 5th, giving him a combined WPA of 0.932 for the game. Latos was among the ERA leaders last year, his first full season; his rate stats this year are off just a bit, but his results are off a good bit more.

-- Travis Wood's perfect game ended on a double by Carlos Ruiz leading off the 9th. In the top of the 10th, the Reds failed to get a runner home from 3rd with 1 out, which cost Wood a chance at the win; he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in that inning and wound up with no decision.

 -- Hipolito Pichardo never threw another shutout.

[Note: It's possible that some pitchers on this list were not capital-R "Rookies" at the time of their feat -- as in, eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award. Since I'm not talking about award eligibility, I feel OK calling someone with less than 20 games in the majors a small-r "rookie." Anyone who sends in a "correction" on this count gets one demerit for not reading the whole post.]

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 at 1:31 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

33 Responses to “Nearly-perfect rookies”

  1. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    I hadn't known that Charlie Robertson threw his perfect game in his fourth career major-league start.

  2. @2

    Tony Clark reached on an E4, I assume that's the answer.

  3. @2, David G. -- Good point. Two-part answer:

    1. I specified "no more than 1 baserunner," and Halladay's game had 2 baserunners, 1 of which was an error.

    2. Although I would have preferred to select games in which the pitcher was responsible for only 1 baserunner, there is no such option in the Play Index / Pitching Game Finder; the definition of "baserunner" there includes "reached on error." The Batting Game Finder lets you differentiate between "times on base" with or without reached on error, but the Pitching Finder does not.

  4. i was surprised kerry wood wasn't on there... i looked him up, and didn't realize he also HBP a batter (along with the damn E-5, errr, infield single...)

  5. I wonder if there's a pitcher with a shutout and fewer career IP than Stewart...

  6. Detroit Michael Says:

    It's surprisingly not a very distinguished group in my opinion. The whole "signature statistic" theory didn't work here.

  7. Juan Marichal threw a 1 hit, 1 walk, 12 K shutout in his major league debut, the first time in his life he had ever seen an MLB game.

  8. @6 Mosc:

    Wilson Alvarez threw a no-hit shutout in his 2nd career start.

  9. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    no-hit shutout

    Only on this blog is "no-hitter" an ambiguous term. (-;þ

  10. Crap!
    Jeff Karstens and his near perfecto in 1998 was a 2 hitter...

  11. What was the bonus baby rule?

  12. @12
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Rule

    If you signed with a large bonus in the 50s, you had to go straight to the MLB roster and couldn't play in the minors for two years. Not every 18-year-old kid can go straight to the majors. Harmon Killebrew was one of the most famous players "hurt" by it, but he recovered spectacularly.

  13. I was thinking the same thing about Kerry Wood. I don't recall the HBP. I was thinking the "infield single" was the only baserunner.

  14. Wood had a 4-game stretch with
    29 IP
    13 H
    2 R
    50 K

  15. @ # 6
    Nick Willhite pitched a complete game shutout for the Dodgers against the Cubs in the second game of a doubleheader on June 16th, 1963. I know because I was there. It was the first complete game shutout I attended. Willhite allowed five hits, walked one, and had six strikeouts for a game score of 82.

  16. And Dave, I don't want to say that you are wrong, only that the Jeff Karstens you are talking about must exist in a parallel universe.

  17. I also had to look hard at Kerry Woods May 6, 1998 outing....one questionable basehit, but also one HBP which put a second runner on...
    His Gamescore of 105 however, tops the list that you put together...as I game I listened to on the radio (at work, unfortunately couldn't watch), it was a fantastic performance...since then with Kerry Wood, it is a "What if" of a career.

  18. There are 40 pitchers with fewer career innings than Stewart who pitched a shutout. Don Loun threw a five-hit shutout in his first start in 1964 and then gave up four runs in four innings in his second start and never made another appearance.

  19. Tacks Neuer threw three shutouts in his 54 career innings. Stewart is two outs away from 54 innings.

  20. What I remember about Vida Blue's 1971 season is him making a magazine cover. Not for a sports magazine, but in Time magazine.

    http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19710823,00.html

    Not bad for a rookie.

  21. Nice to see a few Chicago sportswriters, eat thier words, claiming Kenny Williams "gave away" Edwin Jackson.

  22. @19.

    In addition to Don Loun, Don Fisher of the '45 Giants appears to be the only other pitcher with a shutout being his only complete game in a 2 game or less career.

    After a 5-inning relief apperance in his debut, Fisher got his shutout in style, going 13 innings on the final day of the season to beat the Braves 1-0 on 10 hits and 3 walks (but only 2 strikeouts). If that's your final major league game, not a bad way to do it.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BSN/BSN194509301.shtml

  23. @23, Doug -- Interesting note about Don Fisher there.

    Curious that the only record of him playing pro ball before the 1945 season is a no-stats mention in the 1938 Northern League. After his brief stint with the Giants, he pitched one more year in the top minors classification, and that was it for his career. And B-R Bullpen has nothing on him.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=fisher001don

  24. Here's the link to an archived SABR article mentioning Don Fisher and other pitchers who tossed shutouts in their final big-league games.

    http://research.sabr.org/journals/shutouts-final-year-final-game

  25. Kahuna comes through again!

  26. I think the end of Von McDaniel`s career was more an early case of Steve Blass Disease than arm trouble. He's actually quite comparable to Rick Ankiel, to the point that he even tried to make it back to the majors as an everyday player (though in his case he just missed, making it to AAA with the Colt .45s).

  27. @27, Paul -- Do you have a source for Von McDaniel's case of "Steve Blass"? I'm not seeing it in his stats. After his MLB debut, in his next 2 years in the minors, he walked 48 in 179 IP -- no sign of control trouble there.

  28. @24, @25.

    In addition to Don Fisher, Luis Aloma (1951), Larry Anderson (1975) and Frank Williams (1984) are the only other pitchers to record a shutout in their only career start.

    Nobody has recorded two or more shutouts in the same number of career starts.

  29. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Cab, obviously the umpires are incompetent and being drawn and quartered is too good for them. But do you think they are actually against perfect games being thrown? Why would this be? And how would any ever have been thrown? It wouldn't be hard to screw them all up, if that was the intent.

  30. Since the fun of seeing Cabriael make a complete ass of himself is losing its novelty, I'm going to delete his comment advocating violence against umpires.

    Cabriael, don't post any more comments like that on my threads, ever. Or you will be banned. This is absolutely the only warning you will ever get from me.

  31. Brendan Burke Says:

    Let me guess, it was an anti-Jim Joyce comment.

  32. Brendan Burke Says:

    Yep, it probably was. The first Google result for "Cabriael" is the original thread about Jim Joyce's call.