Pitching to contact: Aaron Cook in uncharted waters

Monday in Boston, Aaron Cook tossed 7 innings of 1-run ball, with neither walk nor whiff. It was his 2nd start this year of 5+ IP with zeroes in both those columns. He’s just the 5th pitcher since 2000 with 2 such starts in a season; the high is 3 by Paul Byrd in 2008.

In 5 starts and 29.2 IP for the BoSox, Cook has faced 119 batters and totaled 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. Both Ks came in a span of 6 batters during his 3rd outing, a 2-hit, 81-pitch shutout.

Among all pitchers who faced at least 100 batters, Cook’s ratio of 1 walk per 59.5 batters faced has been bested 13 times since 1901, and currently by Mets rookie Jeremy Hefner. But none of them can match Cook’s ratio of BF/SO, also 59.5. The closest was Ed Kusel of the 1909 Browns, who had 1 walk and 2 SO out of 113 batters.

Turning the test around, there are 10 seasons with 100+ BF and a lower SO rate than Cook’s, including two who had no strikeouts. But none of their walk rates was even half as low as Cook’s. The closest was Marv Gudat of the 1925 Reds, 4 walks and no SO in 111 batters.

Among qualified seasons, the lowest SO rate was 1 per 40.9 batters by Ernie Wingard of the 1924 Browns; he walked 1 per 11.1 batters. The lowest BB rate was 1 per 83.2 batters by Carlos Silva of the 2005 Twins; he fanned 1 per 10.5 batters. The lowest combination probably was by Slim Sallee of the World Champion 1919 Reds, with 20 walks and 24 SO in 227.2 IP and 893 batters — 44.7 batters per walk and 37.2 per strikeout.

P.S. Cook got 15 of his 21 outs on the ground Monday — 3 by Adam Dunn! (just his 3rd game this year with neither SO nor BB) — with 5 flyouts and 1 lineout. He didn’t get the win in Boston’s 5-1 triumph over Kevin Youkilis (3 hits, 2 doubles) and the other Sox (2 singles), due in part to an unearned run in the opening frame on an error by Adrian Gonzalez. The first baseman atoned twice over, with the tying RBI in that inning, and a tiebreaking 3-run HR in the 8th, his first HR since June 24 and 7th this year, and his first 4-RBI game of the season. Pedro Ciriaco had 3 hits, a level he’s reached in 4 of his 7 games played.

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38 Comments on "Pitching to contact: Aaron Cook in uncharted waters"

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Doug
Editor

Proof of Sallee’s prowess in not striking anyone out was that even the Black Sox fanned only twice in 59 BF (both in game 2 when the fix was still in). That 1919 season is the only one (min. 162 IP) with BB/9 and SO/9 rates both under 1.

Slim’s 21-7 record that year at age 34 was his only 20-win season. Sallee is one of only twenty pitchers (out of 227) to record a single 20-win season at age 34 or older (Mike Mussina and David Wells are the two oldest pitchers to do this, excl. Federal League).

brp
Guest

His career rates are pretty crazy low for K/9 as well… 3.8 only. That’s got to be pretty low for any starter in the past 30 years as the K rates have skyrocketed.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Derek Lowe this year has 3.3 K/9, the lowest for any MLB pitcher qualifying for the ERA title. But Cook’s rate of 0.6 K/9 so far this year is just crazy-low, even for less than 30 IP.

MikeD
Guest

Henderson Alvarez also has a very low strikeout rate, yet remains in the Blue Jays’ rotation. As offense decreases, I wonder if we’ll see an increase in pitchers who are successful on some level with lower K rates, as we saw back in the 1970s and 80s. Are these pitchers signaling a trend that it’s now at least possible to survive as a MLB pitcher with lower K rates? Yet overall strikeout rates continue to be at historic levels even as offense has ticked back to pre-1994 levels.

In other words, I’m confused.

Hub Kid
Guest
John’s post (aside from making this Red Sox fan’s week), got me thinking about K/9 and BB/9 career rates. As brp said @2, Cook’s career K/9 is 3.8, which appears very low for the current era. Cy Young’s K/9 was 3.4 (w/career BB/9 of 1.5), obviously saying a bit about his era of pitching. Cook’s career BB/9 is 2.7, which is not particularly low. Here are some career rates, mostly cherry-picked (“manually”) to try and find “contact” pitchers. I don’t really have any idea what makes a good contact pitcher, and am pretty sure that Walter Johnson wasn’t that type… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

Eddie Lopat was a true contact pitcher. His BB/9: 2.40 (in a high BB era) and 3.16 for SO/9. A kind of junk-ball pitcher whom nobody could look at without wondering how he did it, lobbing the ball up there as it he were pitching batting practice.

Hub Kid
Guest
Are junk-ball and pitching to contact pretty much the same thing? I got a 2.77 for Eddie Lopat’s “non-contact number”, using John’s formula 1. John, thanks for actually adapting (inventing!) these two ways way of measuring a comparable statistic. May I suggest, without having your grasp of stats (or language) Non-Contact +/- for the second number? For this kind of thing, pitchers can be pretty good at either end of the scale, although I am not sure I would want Ollie Perez on my favorite team, with an idea of his star-crossed Mets career.
Hartvig
Guest

“Are junk-ball and pitching to contact pretty much the same thing?”

I would say not necessarily, in part at least because “junk-ball” is such an I’ll defined term.

In my day, Mike Cuellar had a reputation as a junk-ball pitcher because the threw a screw-ball and a lot of change ups but he struck out over 200 in one season and at least 175 in 3 others. Some even considered Luis Tiant a junk-baller and he struck out over 2400 batters in his career.

Chad
Guest
I grew up watching the Tigers in the 80’s, and my definition of a junkballer at that time was Frank Tanana. I knew he used to be a flamethrower in his younger days, then had arm troubles, but managed to hold on and have a lengthy career. Through his first 5 years, he averaged 7.79 k/9, and over the last 16 years just 5.31 k/9, which is still pretty good compared to some of those names thrown out above. Had he not gotten injured, his career could have turned out spectacularly – he accumulated 66 wins and 27 WAR through… Read more »
Larry
Guest

Off topic but interesting. Astros radio guys said that research is being done to see if the Astros @Padres game last night (7/16) played in ?3:20? might be the longest 2-0 nine inning game EVER played. The Astros scored both runs on sacrifice flies. The Padres outhit the Astros something like 6 to 4 but gave up 9 walks. Very few patrons were on hand at the end. That could very well go down as the most boring game in the history of major league baseball.

Jim Bouldin
Guest

Those two teams should play more often!

Richard Chester
Guest

I did some browsing and found a 2-0 9 inning game that lasted 3:30. It occurred on 7-28-46 when the Indians defeated the Senators with Bob Feller besting Bobo Newsom. I am suspicious of the recorded time in the box score because only 65 batters came to the plate and there were only 5 walks.

Mike L
Guest

Richard @13, I checked that date. That was the first game of a double header between the two, and I wonder if it’s just a misprint. The second game, which was 7-4, only took 1:58. So maybe B-Ref added the two together accidentally, or maybe they counted the time between the games. baseball almanac has a time for the second game, but none for the first

Richard Chester
Guest

Mike L: Thanks for the follow-up.

I also found that on 9-12-2005 the A’s defeated the Indians 2-0 in a 9-inning game in 3:18. There were 73 players who came to the plate and there were 10 walks. Also there were 8 pitching changes, making the length of the game believable.

Mike L
Guest

John A? It will be ok. I’m older than you and have more “you stinks” hurled at tv screens. Your stepdaughter appreciates you.

Jim Bouldin
Guest

Surely the guy who famously shot his TV with a shotgun was a baseball fan.

tag
Guest
I didn’t watch the game but caught the condensed version of it on MLB.com the next morning. I couldn’t fathom why Ramon Ramirez was pulled in favor of Edgin; thanks for the explanation. Those condensed games go by breezily and you don’t catch too many of the nuances. Your explanation of the usual over-managing puts it into perspective. I have to say: I thought of you while I was watching it and figured you had been suffering through it. But, man, watching Bryce Harper step up there and lace that triple was something. Yes, the Mets lose in that instance,… Read more »
tag
Guest

Sorry, Jim, the above was meant to be posted in answer to John’s comment above.

Didn’t Elvis regularly shoot his TV? Though only with a pistol. I’m pretty sure he shot his cars – the Ferrari at least, when it wouldn’t start. And he wasn’t even a baseball fan. Probably just more fun ‘n’ games down in the Jungle Room.

Jim Bouldin
Guest

No problem tag, just wanted to make John aware of the fact that he’s only one shotgun shell away from a solution to his Mets pain.

Might also provide some comfort here to note that some of us have to try to figure out the decision making processes of Jim Leyland on a regular basis.

Mike L
Guest

I think, from the string John A has started, we can all agree that we are “compilers” when it comes to agony.

Ed
Guest

Since there’s no where else to put this, I wanted to point out that Jose Lopez of the Indians did something quite rare a few days ago, perhaps the first time in MLB history. He was part of 3 different types of DPs – in the third inning he lined into a DP, in the 5th he grounded into one, in the 7th he was the strikeout part of a strike-em out, throw-em out double play. Doubt that’s searchable in the play index but it’s gotta be rare.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TBA/TBA201207160.shtml

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Guest

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