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Hershiser’s scoreless innings streak

Posted by Andy on November 29, 2007

Readers, I ask for some help with this one.

Reader jackfish and I have been having a conversation about Orel Hershiser's record 59-inning scoreless streak, and neither of us can come up with the answer.

First, over on my comments page, Jack posted the following:

"I have been having a hard time following this & thought maybe you could help me. I have recently been reading about Orel Hershier & his 59 game streak of pitching scoreless baseball. I have read a number of books and web articles stating that the record stands at 59 consecutive scoreless innings. A number of sources all agree on this. No matter how I add it up I get 60 consecutive innings not 59. The last time he gave up a run was on 8-30. It was in the bottom of the 5th with two men out (which starts him off with 4 1/3 innings). Then he pitched five consecutive nine inning shutouts & finally ten innings of scoreless ball on 9-28. Thats 4 1/3 + 45 + 10 = 59 1/3. Then on April 5, 1989, he got two men out before giving up a run in the first inning to the Reds. Thats another 2/3 of an inning. shouldn’t his streak stand at 60 innings & not 59? Is this something that has been overlooked for nearly 20 years or is my math incorrect?"

Let me point PI subscribers to Hershiser's Game Logs for 1988. The streak started on August 30th. Also, let me remind you that Hershiser pitched some scoreless innings in the 1988 postseason that don't count for this streak.

Now, also posted on my comments page, here is my answer for Jack:

"It took some effort, but I figured it out. Hershiser’s streak is, for some reason, counted by full innings only. In other words, he is credit with 4 innings (not 4.1) in the Aug 30 1988 game, then 55 more innings in 1988. Then, his 1989 debut game gets credited as 0 innings since he gave up a run in the first.

Given that, I don’t know why Drysdale’s streak included partial innings. I don’t know if baseball made a new ruling about it or what.

To me, none of the streaks should include partial innings, given that outs in those innings may have contributed to run-scoring by advancing runners or even scoring runners."

I am of course making reference to Don Drysdale's streak, which was the previous record. In most places, I see it credited as 58 2/3 innings, which is why I wondered above about the distinction of partial innings vs. full innings. However, I have seen one or two places that say Drysdale's streak was 58 innings which, if the official record prior to Hershiser's streak, I think would give a consistent explanation.

Today Jack came back at me with this:

"I have been researching the Orel Hershiser streak for the last few days and I still can not find any rule change that would suggest partial innings pitched not being counted towards the streak."

To me, this is one of the problems with the internet. If you search about Hershiser's streak or Drysdale's streak, you can find lots of information. Little of it, however, is necessarily correct in view of MLB rules for scoreless streaks.

Somebody out there must know, though, the official MLB rules, what the official streak numbers are for Hershiser and Drysdale, and whether there was ever a rule change. Let's hear it.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2007 at 9:03 pm and is filed under Gamelogs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Hershiser’s scoreless innings streak”

  1. OscarAzocar Says:

    Drysdale's official total should be 58. Any outs in an inning in which a pitcher allows a run don't count. This is according to Elias in the 1988 LA times quoted here:

  2. I do remember this change in the rule going into effect, and if you think about it, it makes some sense. Consider the scenario where a team has a runner on third with less than two outs and the batter drives home the runner with a groundout. Under the old rule (Drysdale era), it would matter as to whether the run scored before the batter was retired or after. And who wants to make that call?

    I believe this change happened around the same time as the removal from the books of several less-than-nine-inning no-hitters, but I may be wrong.

  3. I remember during Hershiser's streak there was a lot of talk about an controversial incident (maybe involving an official scorer's decision) in Drysdale's during an certain inning in the streak - and then lo-and-behold when Hershiser got to the same inning in the streak, he had his own controversial incident (maybe involving an official scorer's decision).

    I was actually working at Elias in 1988, but I was not involved in this event.

  4. The Drysdale controversy occurred in a game against the Giants where Giants catcher Dick Dietz was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, but the umpire invoked rule 6.08(b)(2) which states (not verbatim) that a batter shall not be awarded first base upon being hit by a pitch if, in the opinion of the umpire, the batter made no attempt to avoid being hit by the pitch. Dietz was called back to the plate, subsequently retired, and no runs scored that inning.

    The official scorer has no say in whether or not a run has scored.

    I'm not sure what the Hershiser controversy is that you refer to, but I do recall that he had to pitch 10 innings in his last game of the season to set the record, and that there was some speculation that the Dodgers may not have been making much of an effort to score runs, just so the game would go that long.

    Corrections to my memory are welcome.

  5. AMusingFool Says:

    This seems like merely a semantic issue, which I could certainly see going either way (though that explanation for only counting full innings makes a lot of sense; of course, on the flip side, what about relievers who come in in the middle of an inning? or pitchers that leave in the middle of an inning?).

    In any event, what rather blows my mind here is that MLB would have rules for streaks. Seriously, it has no effect on the play of the game, so why does MLB have any say in the matter whatsoever? What happens if, for instance, they try to "officially" redefine OPS+ (say, to make it not park-adjusted)?

  6. Yeah, seems like the only time it would matter is when two pitchers had the same number of scoreless innings and in the exact "less than two out" situation, a groundout scored a run. Then you'd have the situation is determing whether to count the out or the run first. But we're really only talking about a third of an inning.

    So I'd say that the records are 58 2/3 and 60.

    Now watch, someone will have 60 scoreless innings and then with one out a groundout will score a run and we debate it for the rest of time.

  7. Well even if someone gets, say, a 63-inning streak, it will be debated due to the fact that Hershiser had 8+ scoreless innings in game 1 of the NLCS. Adding those to his 59 regular-season gives a streak of 67 innings.

  8. yes but there's a long standing history of not counting post-season games in streaks and towards stats.

    Plus, it's moot as long as you calculate them all in the same fashion. You wouldn't count Hershiser as 60 but Drysdale at 58. It's either 58 and 59 or 58 2/3 and 60.

  9. Just going from memory, but I seem to recall the Hershiser "controversy" being in a game vs. the Giants also. There were runners on 1st and 3rd with one out when an infield grounder retired the runner at second base for the 2nd out and the batter was safe at first, apparently scoring a run. The second base umpire, however, also ruled the batter out, saying the runner going into second slid away from the base too far in trying to take out whichever middle infielder was trying to make the relay throw to first. Thus, a double play and no run scored. That's the way I remember it anyway. I'll see if I can find out for sure.

  10. Found the details:

    During the third inning of a Sept. 23 game, Hershiser watched as umpire Paul Runge ruled that Brett Butler obstructed Dodgers shortstop Alfredo Griffin as he attempted to complete a double play. Even though Jose Uribe crossed the plate, the run didn't count. Hershiser's streak extended to 49 consecutive shutout innings.

  11. scoreless Says:

    The record should be Drysdale's because the call that extended Orel's streak was purely a joke, just like his Nickname(Bulldog) but they knew by the year 2009 most people would not remember that