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A.J. Burnett Sets A Wild Pitch Record

Posted by Steve Lombardi on September 7, 2011

A.J. Burnett had three wild pitches in today's Yankees game

Before today, no pitcher since 1919 had 8+ games in their career with 3+ WP.  Here is the list of those with 4+ such games in their career:

Rk Player #Matching   W L ERA GS CG IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP
1 Nolan Ryan 7 Ind. Games 0 6 5.25 7 1 48.0 42 28 2 35 50 1.60
2 Phil Niekro 7 Ind. Games 1 4 4.29 7 3 50.1 56 24 3 27 42 1.65
3 Tommy John 7 Ind. Games 1 3 5.57 7 2 42.0 58 26 2 16 18 1.76
4 A.J. Burnett 7 Ind. Games 2 2 5.48 7 0 42.2 45 26 7 26 37 1.66
5 Jim Maloney 6 Ind. Games 0 5 3.99 6 0 38.1 32 17 0 33 38 1.70
6 J.R. Richard 5 Ind. Games 3 1 2.16 5 3 41.2 18 10 1 21 41 0.94
7 Juan Guzman 5 Ind. Games 3 1 5.17 5 0 31.1 38 18 1 18 29 1.79
8 Tom Candiotti 5 Ind. Games 0 3 6.12 5 1 32.1 33 22 4 19 25 1.61
9 John Smoltz 4 Ind. Games 2 2 1.74 4 1 31.0 21 6 1 16 29 1.19
10 Joe Niekro 4 Ind. Games 3 1 5.97 4 1 28.2 31 19 2 10 15 1.43
11 Mike Moore 4 Ind. Games 1 3 8.72 4 0 21.2 31 21 5 15 12 2.12
12 John Lackey 4 Ind. Games 0 0 3.47 4 0 23.1 21 9 0 11 20 1.37
13 Orel Hershiser 4 Ind. Games 0 4 5.84 4 0 24.2 27 16 2 12 15 1.58
14 Ron Darling 4 Ind. Games 0 2 8.05 4 0 19.0 30 17 3 5 8 1.84
15 Tony Cloninger 4 Ind. Games 1 1 3.73 4 1 31.1 34 13 1 10 26 1.40
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/7/2011.

With today, Burnett now has 8 games with 3+ WP and stands alone at the top of this list.

23 Responses to “A.J. Burnett Sets A Wild Pitch Record”

  1. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Phil Niekro and J.R. Richard share the record for most wild pitches in a single game, with six. Both had their six-WP game in 1979 — Niekro in a complete-game loss to the Astros, Richard in a victory over the team that served as his personal chew toy, the Dodgers.

    Thanks for posting this entry, Steve.

  2. Roger_K Says:

    I can understand AJ with his curve and total lack of command.

    I can see Nolan Ryan, since he pitched forever and threw real hard and had a nasty curve.

    I am surprised to see Tommy John on that list. A lefty control pitcher. He did pitch, I think, longer than any other pitcher, so he had plenty of opportunities, yet still surprised.

  3. John Autin Says:

    A.J. has also made the short list of pitchers with at least 23 WP in a season, led by Red Ames with 30 back in 1905.

  4. Andy Patton Says:

    pretty surprised that long career knuckleballers Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough aren't on here, although they had personal catchers that may have helped with some damage control

  5. Joe Garrison Says:

    While a few long-time knuckle ballers are represented, it is strange not to see Hough. Perhaps it's because he spent much of his career as a relief pitcher. Wakefield has also spent some of career in the bullpen, but his work there is a smaller portion than Hough. Looking at the stats, it appears Wakefield was more likely to hit the batter than throw a wild pitch. The Niekros were the opposite. Their WPs exceeded their HBP.

    I find that a little interesting.... Wakefield was wilder inside than the others.
    Tom Candiotti threw fewer of each mistake, all things considered.

    And perhaps the reason why the Niekros are on the list is a lack of what we would call modern-day pitch counts.

  6. DavidRF Says:

    Bill Gullickson also threw 6 WP in a game (and won).

  7. Jason Says:

    Burnett is exasperating for Yankees fans. He should have won today. Except every base runner was given third base by his ridiculously slow delivery and his wild pitches. Walk, stolen base, wild pitch, RBI grounder to second. Drives you crazy!

  8. josh blue Says:

    jesus...look at the records and whip's of those pitchers. now look at jr richard: he, unlike most on that list, seemingly did BETTER when he was wild

    (the only guy that comes close is smoltz)

  9. josh blue Says:

    #5: i believe the reason for the difference is that wakefield pitches in an era where batters (*cough*like youkilis*cough*) hang over the plate.

  10. Thomas Court Says:

    I heard somewhere that Tommy John has the record for committing 3 errors on a single play. Something like a ground ball back to the mound that he dropped for error one. He still attempted a throw to first which resulted in error number two. He then received the relay throw and attempted another throw which resulted in error number 3. If this is true, I am sure it is not a record anyone wants to break.

  11. nightfly Says:

    @$4 - a lot of times, knucklers avoid WPs because their catchers are hit up with a lot of passed balls. In 1987, for example, Hough's catchers rolled up 65 passed balls in his 40 starts; and 321 for his career. Wakefield's never had such an awful single season, but there are plenty of 15+ years, and he's at 245 now.

    Other prominent pitchers:
    Phil Niekro - 294 pb, 226 wp
    Joe Niekro - 187 pb, 172 wp (slacker)
    Hoyt Wilhelm - 268 pb, 90 wp
    Tom Candiotti - 125 pb, 120 wp
    Eddie Fisher - 88 pb, 53 wp
    Nolan Ryan - 53 pb, 277 wp (the most post-19th century)
    Jack Morris - 36 pb, 206 wp
    Uncle Aalbert - 38 pb, 114 wp*
    Steve Carlton - 33 pb, 183 wp
    Bob Gibson - 78 pb, 108 wp
    Randy Johnson - 50 pb, 109 wp
    Roger Clemens - 35 pb, 143 wp

    AJ Burnett - 16 pb, 119 wp (and counting)

    So the tricky folks rack up the passed balls, and the erratic power pitchers tend to the reverse. (Gibson's high PB totals notwithstanding - those can be largely attributed to the catching in his case. Tim McCarver had 86 of them, plus 195 wild pitches, as the Cards' primary catcher from 1963-1969. Ted Simmons took over and from '70-'75, was in that sense even worse: 115 passed balls and 254 wild pitches. Each led the NL twice in those stretches.)

    *The only Halsey I could find, Brad, hasn't thrown a MLB game in five years... hardly Admiral material. So much for that joke.

    You can find passed ball information for pitchers by clicking "More Stats" next to "Standard Pitching" in either the individual or team pages; and then scrolling down to "Baserunning and Situational Stats". I don't know of any way to actually search the database for career leaders or anything like that, and in any case a lot of the older pitchers I wanted to check, fireballers like Bob Feller and Walter Johnson, had no such information.

  12. Jason Says:

    I'm too young to have seen him pitch, but if the reputation is earned, a lot of Bob Gibson's passed balls might have been the batter diving out of the way of a heater intended for his noggin.

  13. DanF Says:

    That Tommy John error spree is included in the video tape "Super Duper Baseball Bloopers." If you haven't seen that one, it's worth trying to find.

  14. TheGoof Says:

    This quantifies easily why Yankees and Sox fans joke about automatic losses when A.J. or Lackey pitch, particularly against the other team. Man, if they face in a playoff game it could make Ankiel's debacle look like nothing...

  15. John Says:

    @11: Yeah, regarding Hough and his ridiculous knuckler in the mid-80's, some of us Red Sox fans remember Rich Gedman's attempt to ... ahem... "catch" Hough during the 1986 All-Star Game. It's been suggested that Gedman came down with a crisis of confidence after that sorry performance on the national stage, and never recovered.

    I tend to doubt it, but he never regained a starting job again, after his 1986 All-Star season. (Bill James blamed Walt Hriniak, as I recall.)

  16. AJ Burnett and Wild Pitches | Says:

    [...] finally, there’s this from, AJ is now the only pitcher since 1919 to have had at least eight games in his career with at least [...]

  17. Fourfriends1679 Says:

    @15 - Walt Hriniak RUINED Gedman, and didn't do Mike Greenwell any favors either. He had the Red Sox swinging like women's tennis players. (And I don;t mean the Williams sisters!) No power, all opposite-field garbage. Boggs ate it up, but then... He was WADE BOGGS. (Kind of hard to ruin that!) I was never so happy to see a coach go. (And then he ruined Cory Snyder for good over in Chicago.) Terrible, TERRIBLE hittng coach.

  18. Jim Dunne Says:



    Mike Greenwell was a superstar under Hriniak, and did very little after Walt was fired. Rich Gedman co-authored Hriniak's book! Dwight Evans credited him with giving him a more consistent approach and other lesser hitters like Jody Reed really developed under him.

    I know some hitters had problems with him (Brady Anderson specifically), but lots of hitters directly gave Walt a lot of credit for their improvement. I'd never even heard of the Greenwell one:

    Greenwell career under Hriniak (through age 24): .326/.403/.547
    Greenwell after Hriniak left (age 25-32): .296/.357/.438

    In 1988, Greenwell's last season with Hriniak, he had his career highs in batting average, OBP, SLG, HR, 2B, RBI, BB, 3B... if he was swinging "like a girl" he should've kept it up. He ended up with a 7.2 WAR that year, at age 24, and 12.0 WAR the rest of his career.

  19. nightfly Says:

    If I recall correctly, Gedman's problem wasn't Walt Hriniak, it was contract disputes and injuries. Look at these raw numbers:

    212 h, 43 db, 19 hr, 87 r, 94 rbi, 86 bb

    This would be a fine season from Timmy P's favored son, Michael Young: based on his 162-game averages of 719 pa and 660 ab, you'd have a 321/414/473 batter. Unfortunately, the above is not Young, as you've guessed - it's Gedman's entire career, post-1986, over 377 games. Resulting slash line: 206/267/304, ops+ of 57, and including his defense, that puts him three wins *below* replacement level. He also struck out 16.3% of his plate appearances, compared with 13.9% through 1986.

    He was never the same after leading the AL with 14 passed balls in 1986. =P

  20. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @3/ John Autin Says: "A.J. has also made the short list of pitchers with at least 23 WP in a season..."

    #11 Tim Leary shouldn't have taken so much LSD:
    Tim Leary/ 23 Wild Pitches/ 1990/ age32/ NYY AL/ 31 Games/ 31 GS/ 6 CG

    He's no Dock Ellis, that's for sure.

    @11/ Nightdly - I'll spare you any comment on Eddie Fisher...

  21. Pepper: Marlins’ new home could bring makeover | Time News Says:

    [...] Real life ‘Wild Thing:’ If you like baseball and don’t love Charlie Sheen’s character — Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn — in “Major League,” well, you might have as many screws loose as Sheen. In the movie, Vaughn earned the nickname after loading the bases with walks on 12 straight pitches and then later set a record for wild pitches in an inning. Embattled Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett didn’t do it in an inning, but he has now joined rare company with his wild pitches. With three Wednesday, he became the first pitcher since 1919 to have eight games with at least three wild pitches (Baseball-Reference blog). [...]

  22. Frank N. Says:

    I've seen 1919 mentioned twice, but only mentioned. Do you mean to say that "Burnett now has 8 games with 3+ WP and stands alone at the top of this list of players after 1919"?

  23. Mike Says:

    J.R. Richard was such a stud. Wild pitches obviously didn't bother him because nobody else would be on base and he'd just strike the batters out. I wish we'd been able to see him finish out his career normally....