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Bloops: Cliff Lee’s amazing streak of IP and walks

Posted by Neil Paine on July 29, 2010

B-R Blog reader David sent us this link to some research he did for the Freedom Card Board, regarding an ongoing Cliff Lee streak:

"Since 1920, there have only been 4 pitchers who have tossed at least 8 innings, while walking one or none, for 8 straight games:

Fergie Jenkins in 1974
Mort Cooper in 1942
Red Lucas in 1932

Here is Lee's current streak: ... 04-211-sum

Jon Matlack did it for 8 straight STARTS in 1978, but had two relief appearances tucked in: ... 20,222,sum
Similarly, Robin Roberts did it for 8 straight STARTS in 1952, but had one relief appearance during the streak: ... 76,177,sum
And again, Wilbur Cooper had an 8 START streak in 1924 that was interrupted by a relief appearance: ... 60,461,sum

Mort Cooper's streak was actually 10 straight starts, but like Matlack, Roberts, and Wilbur Cooper, he had a relief appearance (between the 2nd and 3rd starts)."

Good work!

15 Responses to “Bloops: Cliff Lee’s amazing streak of IP and walks”

  1. Basmati Says:

    I'm amazed at Lee's current numbers - the combination of very low walk rate and quite a high strikeout rate means his SO/BB is off the charts. The all time season record is 11, and 10 has only been done on one other occasion - Lee is currently over 16!

    I was shocked to find Lee doesn't lead the league in IP but I think he missed a few starts in April? Lee has 139 IP in 17 starts which averages more than 8 IP per start! He has 6 complete games in that run. Man I wish the Angels had signed him instead of letting him go to Texas...

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    Very true, look how ridiculous his K/BB is this year:

    Rk Player SO/BB Year Age
    1 Cliff Lee 16.29 2010 31
    2 Bret Saberhagen 11.00 1994 30
    3 Curt Schilling 9.58 2002 35
    4 Pedro Martinez 8.88 2000 28
    5 Greg Maddux 8.85 1997 31
    6 Pedro Martinez 8.46 1999 27
    7 Ben Sheets 8.25 2004 25
    8 Carlos Silva 7.89 2005 26
    9 Greg Maddux 7.87 1995 29
    10 Curt Schilling 7.51 2001 34
    Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 7/29/2010.
  3. Mark Says:

    The other night the Rangers announcers mentioned that, had the Texas offense been more timely with their hitting, Cliff Lee would have as many complete games this season as he does walks. If his two 9IP no-decisions in his past 3 starts had had an extra run apiece of run support, he would have 8 complete games and 7 (unintentional) walks. I don't think that's happened in 70 years.

    Basically the point is Cliff Lee is having an unbelievable season.

  4. Josh Says:

    Neil, it is interesting all of the top-10 seasons of K/BB occurred since 1994.

  5. Max Says:

    He is something else. If I wanted a pitcher for a one game series, it would be either him or Halladay. Check out leave comments ask qs and tell me what you think.

  6. Phil Says:

    Lee's performance this year has been truly unreal and I don't think enough is being made of it.

    He leads major league starters in:

    1. Average innings per start
    2. Pitches per inning
    3. K/BB
    4. WHIP
    5. OBA

    And he leads the AL in ERA / ERA +

  7. Rioraton Says:

    As a lifelong Cubs fan, I need to point out that in 1974 Fergie also has a six game streak with the same numbers (and had three games either side of that streak with at least 8 IP and 1 or 2 walks). Of course, he did this for the Rangers...

  8. Gerry Says:

    #4, not so - several of the top-10 seasons were in the 1880s, see

    People often discuss records that will never be broken. It's rarer to discuss records that stood for a long time, but eventually were broken. Grasshopper Jim Whitney's record of 10 strikeouts per walk, set in 1884, lasted 110 years. During those years, the closest anyone came was Ferguson Jenkins, 7.1 in 1971, only the 18th best all-time (not counting the as-yet-uncompleted 2010 season).

  9. Neil Paine Says:

    Yes, the list I posted was in the expansion era, 1961-2010. A lot of guys put up crazy numbers in bygone eras, but I was focusing on how remarkable Lee's performance has been for a modern pitcher.

  10. BSK Says:

    The weirder thing is how much of an aberration this is for Lee. His highest K/BB was 7.5 last year and in most other years was nothing particularly outstanding. This year he apparently turned into SuperMan.

  11. dukeofflatbush Says:

    I didn't have time to read the whole thread, but if noone has mentioned it, brett (bleach water gun) saberhaegen is the only pitcher with W>BB

  12. John Autin Says:

    Josh (#4) -- The main reason that all the top K/BB seasons have occurred since 1994 (excluding the 19th century) is that the overall K rate has been climbing steadily for about 30 years. Individual records usually occur in a conducive environment. The MLB average in 1992 was 5.6 K/9 IP. By 1994, it was 6.2; it was 6.5 in '96; and by last year it was up to 7.0 K/9 -- roughly a 25% increase over the past 30 years or so. I'm pretty sure that MLB K rates and K/BB ratios have never been higher than they are right now; even in the low-scoring '60s, the overall K rate never topped 6.0 K/9, and the highest K/BB ratio was 2.09. This year's MLB K/BB ratio is 2.11. Just for the sake of context, the other end of the spectrum is represented by the years 1947-50, when walk rates were at historic levels and the K/BB ratio was less than 1 every year; many of the worst individual K/BB ratios were set during this brief period.

  13. Basmati Says:

    @10 I wouldn't say this is a complete aberration. If you look at Lee's stats he has been improving both his BB/9 and SO/9 the last 3-4 years, and therefore by definition he has improved his SO/BB markedly but consistently.

    Since 2006 Lee has improved his SO/9 from 5.8 to 6.1 to 6.9 to 7.0 to 7.4.
    Since 2008 he's improved his BB/9 from 1.4 to 1.7 (1.1 after moving to PHI) to 0.5.

    It goes without saying that if you improve your SO/9 and BB/9 you improve your SO/BB significantly.

  14. Rich Says:

    @ 8

    It was certainly less impressive for a pitcher to have very few walks in the 1880s given that a walk took as many as 7 pitches at one time.

  15. dukeofflatbush Says:

    In Lee's 4 Ls & 4 ND, he has averaged 8+ IP and a 2.49 ERA