Leaving A Mark

Jeff Sullivan · September 22, 2013 at 7:25 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I thought it was eye-opening when, some months ago, or years ago?, Sam Miller wrote about unique pitching game lines for starters. That is, lines that had happened once, or hadn’t yet happened at all. Think about it. Each year, there are about 2,430 regular-season games, meaning there are about 4,860 regular-season starts. Baseball’s been around for more than a hundred years, and if you do the math, accounting for expansion and for the postseason, that means that there have been more than seven trillion starts we have a record of. And still, there can be pitching-line firsts. It’s a crazy game, we are all passionate about tolerate.

This afternoon against the Angels, Felix did the following in his return from minor injury:

  • 4.0 IP
  • 1 H
  • 1 R
  • 4 BB
  • 10 K

He was on a pitch count, which is why he stopped when he did. All those strikeouts meant a lot of deep counts, and you get to deep counts by throwing lots of pitches. What you’re looking at is the first of that pitching line in baseball history. Regular season or postseason, starter or reliever. As a matter of fact, Felix was the first ever to do this:

  • 4 innings or less
  • 10+ strikeouts

Which is surprising to me, because I thought that was every single start by Rich Harden. Now, we can make some sense of this. If you’re recording a bunch of strikeouts, you’re probably effective, and effective pitchers are seldom yanked after four innings. It’s just plain hard to get ten strikeouts in four innings. If you come out that early, you’ve probably been struggling, or you’re on a lower pitch count, or so on and so on. This isn’t just a sign of dominance from Felix — it’s dominance and a short start at the same time, and though pitchers have come close to this, no one has equaled it.

Previously, the most strikeouts ever in an appearance of no more than four innings was nine. Danny Salazar actually just did that a week and a half ago. Ethan Martin did it two weeks before that. Gio Gonzalez did it in April. Roy Halladay also did it in April. Previously, the shortest appearance with at least ten strikeouts was 4.1 innings, which Bill Caudill did as a starter in 1979, and which Norm Charlton did as a reliever in 1989. Now, taking some of the air out of this arbitrary balloon, this past May Alex Cobb struck out 13 Padres in 4.2 innings. That’s weirder than Felix’s game. Last September, Zack Greinke struck out 13 Mariners in 5.0 innings. That’s weirder than Felix’s game. But, we get to draw our lines where we want, and double-digits makes for an acceptable line. I don’t know if Felix was the quickest to ten whiffs, but he was removed having put at least ten whiffs into the shortest game. In this way, the Mariners won a solid Felix start without actually awarding him a W. Old habits.

What does it mean? Not a lot, except that Felix got a lot of strikeouts, and he still isn’t quite up to 200 innings on the year. But, at last, the baseball history books will have a reason to remember Felix Hernandez.


6 Responses to “Leaving A Mark”

  1. Alex on September 23rd, 2013 12:50 pm

    “That means that there have been more than seven trillion starts we have a record of.”

    Provided that your hyberbole coefficient is set to a factor of 10 million.

  2. don52656 on September 23rd, 2013 2:13 pm

    Since Cobb had 13 in 4.2 innings, he had to have at least 10 in 3.2 innings. Felix reached his 10th K to end the 4th, so he was most definitely not the quickest to 10 Ks.

    However, dominance is dominance, and I wouldn’t dream of trading Felix for Alex Cobb, or anyone else for that matter (well, maybe I’d think about Kershaw).

    This isn’t an egregious example, but the way our current manager manages his personnel makes me scratch my head (and yell bad words) more than any other manager I know of….

    And now that I think of it, maybe Felix was the fastest to 10…because not every K results in an out!

  3. Westside guy on September 23rd, 2013 3:22 pm

    I believe Jeff’s point was he was the first to be taken out after four innings, having struck out ten batters.

  4. vj on September 23rd, 2013 3:26 pm

    “But, at last, the baseball history books will have a reason to remember Felix Hernandez.”

    Especially those baseball history books that do not list perfect games.

  5. Jeff Sullivan on September 23rd, 2013 4:13 pm

    yes, good job

  6. Jeff Sullivan on September 23rd, 2013 4:21 pm

    Indeed, Felix was not the quickest to ten, because through four innings, Cobb had 11. Felix struck out ten of 19 batters. Cobb struck out ten of his first 15.

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