Quiz – How do you spell relief?

Relief pitching as a specialization has become increasingly refined in the past 50 years. Today we have closers, setup men, long relievers, middle relievers, loogies and possibly other sub-specialties.

However, in the live ball era since 1920, these are the only relief pitchers to accomplish two related feats.

What are those two related feats that no other relievers have accomplished since 1920?

Congratulations to John Autin and Brandon who jointly identified the feats that only these eight pitchers have accomplished since 1920. These are the only pitchers with seasons of 30 or more relief appearances and no starts that include one of more seasons averaging less than one inning per appearance and also one or more seasons averaging two or more innings per appearance.

25 thoughts on “Quiz – How do you spell relief?

  1. 1
    Neil L. says:

    Doug , I don’t know if we are limited to twenty questions or not, but I’ll kick things off.

    Are both of the “feats” things they would be proud of?

    • 2
      Doug says:

      The feats are not related to performance quality – either could be achieved in a good or bad season. The feats are statistics visible on a every pitcher’s B-R main player page.

  2. 3
    John Autin says:

    Doug — Is “zero starts in the season” one of the requirements for this feat?

  3. 5
    John Autin says:

    Is part of it averaging 2+ IP in 30+ games with no starts?

  4. 6
    Doug says:

    John has the first part right.

  5. 7
    Brandon says:

    At least one season with two innings per game (no starts) plus having another season with more games than innings pitvhed.

  6. 8
    bstar says:

    Is the other part a feat accomplished as a starter?

  7. 9
    Doug says:

    Brandon’s lmost got the second part. Just need to be more precise about the season requirements.

  8. 10
    Doug says:

    Bstar, both parts are about relieving.

  9. 11
    e pluribus munu says:

    It wouldn’t be fair to jump in after Brandon got so close – and even if it were, I’ve already closed down all the windows I opened in my own fruitless attempt to figure this out – but I’ve been waiting for Doug to declare a winner before adding a tangential observation and query, and it’s midnight as I send this; if I wait till morning I’ll have lost track, so . . .

    I’ve never looked at Alan Mills’ record before – isn’t his unearned run total extraordinarily low: unearned runs less than 5% of total runs (only 7 unearned runs of the last 211 allowed)? I don’t know of a way to search for unearned run percentages, but I usually take 10% to be a low rate.

  10. 12
    Richard Chester says:

    There are 26 pitchers with at least 500 IP with unearned runs totaling no more than 5% of their total runs. Lowest percentage is Gabe White at 2.4%.

    • 15
      e pluribus munu says:

      Thanks, Richard. I’m surprised there are so many. May I ask how you were able to determine that?

      • 19
        Richard Chester says:

        Go to the baseball-reference play index.
        Select season finders–player pitching
        Select totals for combined seasons.
        Select minimum IP = 500. You can select any number of innings but I wanted to ensure that Mills would appear on the list.
        Sort by IP. (You can sort by any parameter.)

        Under Choose a Stat enter ER>.95*R.
        Click on Get Report and a list of 26 players who meet the criteria will appear. Then calculate each player’s ratio of ER/R and subtract from 1. This can be done most quickly by entering all the data onto an Excel spreadsheet.

        By using a method that’s cumbersome to describe non-subscribers to PI can also extract the results.

        Looking at the results sheet shows only 1 player who played prior to 1981.

        • 24
          e pluribus munu says:

          Thanks again, Richard. As a non-subscriber I can’t get there, but perhaps it’s time for me to consider changing my status. I appreciate your following up on the R/ER question – unearned run rates are a statistic I’ve always found of interest.

  11. 13
    Doug says:

    I’ve been waiting for Brandon to clarify his answer but, since he hasn’t, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    The quiz answer is that these are the only pitchers since 1920 with seasons of 30 or more relief appearances and no starts that include one of more seasons averaging less than one inning per appearance and also one or more seasons averaging two or more innings per appearance.

    Congratulations to John Autin and Brandon – especially to John for zeroing in on this straight away – you’ll have to tell us how that came to you, John.

  12. 14
    Brandon says:

    Sorry, didn’t mean to hold you up last night. I took a stab at the answer and went to bed. I figured I probably needed another qualifier in there.
    Thanks for the quiz Doug, keep ’em coming.

  13. 16
    John Autin says:

    Doug, good quiz!

  14. 17
    John Autin says:

    How did I crack the “2 IP per game” enigma? Two steps, as I recall:

    1) I started off focused on whether they all had seasons as pure relievers (no starts). I recalled Hassler as a swing-man from my Strat-O-Matic days, and didn’t realize he’d gone pure relief in his later years. His first such year was 1980, with 94.1 IP in 47 games as the Angels’ co-closer. I knew that was a high average even for that era (although some closers then did average over 2 IP, like Quis).

    2) The next guy I looked at was Bill Henry, whom I knew little about. The one bold-face item on his player page is a league-leading 65 games in 1959, with 134 IP and no starts.

    I knew about Gossage’s ’75 season (as Bill James wrote, “142 innings of butt-kicking relief,” so of course the Sox turned him into a SP). From there, it was just a matter of checking the other 5 guys; finding that they all had such a season, I figured that had to be part of the answer.

    But I never did get a line on the other half. Based on when they played, I never would have thought that Bill Henry or Moe Drabowsky had a season with more games than IP. Henry was the first ever to do it with 30+ games (and the first with 2 such years); Drabowsky had the 8th such year.

    • 18
      Neil L. says:

      Man, it seems like a childhood spent with Strat-O-Matic is a prerequisite for baseball trivia expertise as an adult. 🙂

      I was clueless on this one. Nice work Brandond and John.

    • 21
      Doug says:

      Ryan Franklin is the one I found most interesting. The two seasons that put him on this list are separated by eight years, during which time he was a long man, swingman, starter and short man.

    • 22
      Doug says:

      Bill Henry may have been the original LOOGY. In 1966 with San Francisco, he had just 22 IP in 35 appearances. He faced just one batter in 8 of 9 games from Jul 16 to Aug 4 and retired him 6 times. But, in the last of those 9 games, he surrendered a walk-off 3-run HR to Ron Swoboda and the Mets.

      • 23
        Richard Chester says:

        A PI search shows that Bill Henry became the LOOGY leader in game appearances in 1962 when he surpassed Al Brazle with 32. He was the first one to surpass 30. He was the all-time leader until 1979 when he was surpassed by Darold Knowles. Now Henry has dropped to #52 on the all-time list. Times have really changed.

        • 25
          JDV says:

          Seeing the name Darold Knowles brought back some baseball card memories. I remembered him first as a Senator, but just found that he appeared as a “Rookie Star” for the Orioles for three consecutive years (’64-’66) before getting his first individual card in ’67… and that was after pitching in a team-leading 66 games as a real rookie for the Phillies, for whom he never had a card. (Thanks to ‘checkoutmycards.com’ for the images.)

  15. 20
    Brent says:

    As a Royals fan, I would suggest the answer and the question are in the caption of the post (yes, that is a Dan Quisenberry joke)

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