Quiz – Precocious Pitchers (solved)

The players in this quiz share a particular pitching accomplishment that no others have achieved since 1914. What is it?

  1. Don Sutton
  2. Gary Nolan
  3. Lowell Palmer
  4. Bert Blyleven
  5. Lynn McGlothen
  6. John Candelaria
  7. Al Leiter
  8. Bill Pulsipher
  9. Dontrelle Willis
  10. Noah Syndergaard

Congratulations to Dr. Doom! He identified that only these pitchers started each of the first 7 games of their careers before their 23rd birthdays while pitching 40 innings with 40 hits allowed and 40 strikeouts. More on the 40/40/40 group after the jump.

Noah Syndergaard is the most recent addition to this group, pitching his 7th big league game this past Monday when the Mets snapped Toronto’s 11-game win streak. Here are the career starts of our group.

Rk Player #Matching GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO ▾ WHIP Tm
1 Gary Nolan 7 Ind. Games 7 2 1 49.2 40 13 4 11 53 1.03 CIN
2 Al Leiter 7 Ind. Games 7 0 0 42.2 40 22 5 21 51 1.43 NYY
3 Noah Syndergaard 7 Ind. Games 7 0 0 40.2 43 17 4 8 45 1.25 NYM
4 John Candelaria 7 Ind. Games 7 3 1 49.1 42 17 3 12 45 1.09 PIT
5 Don Sutton 7 Ind. Games 7 2 1 54.0 46 14 4 8 44 1.00 LAD
6 Dontrelle Willis 7 Ind. Games 7 0 0 42.2 44 15 3 16 43 1.41 FLA
7 Bert Blyleven 7 Ind. Games 7 1 0 45.1 40 12 4 10 43 1.10 MIN
8 Lowell Palmer 7 Ind. Games 7 1 1 45.2 53 28 4 19 42 1.58 PHI
9 Bill Pulsipher 7 Ind. Games 7 0 0 49.0 52 23 5 25 42 1.57 NYM
10 Lynn McGlothen 7 Ind. Games 7 2 1 54.1 47 16 1 10 42 1.05 BOS
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/17/2015.

Since strikeouts have been steadily rising over the past 20 years, it is perhaps surprising that so many of the pitchers on the list are from the 1960s and 1970s. That is because those earlier pitchers tended to have longer starts than their more recent brethren and more IP (especially for pitchers this young), a trend illustrated above in that three of the four pitchers to do this since the 1980s all had fewer than 45 IP and the earlier pitchers all had more. Also, the more recent pitchers who do reach 40 IP over their first 7 starts tend to be the dominating types who are not allowing close to a hit every inning.

Career projection based on a player’s first 7 games is, of course, silly. That said, it’s perhaps encouraging for Noah Syndergaard that only two of his nine predecessors were washouts. Those two (Palmer and Pulsipher), though, like Syndergaard, both allowed more hits than IP, a ratio Syndergaard will likely need to improve for a successful career.

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Well at least we know it can’t be something that takes that long to do with Snydergaard on the list.

A little early for a hint but do I have to know anything about Rookie eligibility to answer this question?


My other thought is it has something to do with this game:

which his lines look like:
7.1IP 6H 0BB 6K 0R
3PA 3H 1HR

or another variation on his batting slash line:
.333/.333/.583/.917 in 14 PA


Given Syndergard’s inclusion, I am guessing that it has something to do with an accomplish that is something like, “only pitchers to do X in their first Y games.”

Voomo Zanzibar

They all debuted before age 23.
And they all had a start with no more than 1 earned run in their first 4 games.

Voomo Zanzibar

Of course,, Dwight Gooden, Kerry Wood, and a few others meet those criteria…

Kahuna Tuna

I thought maybe it was starting pitchers who, in one of their first 7 games, had a start where they gave up two or fewer hits and struck out 11 or more. I didn’t get the right results. But I was really tickled by one of the starters on that list.

Mariano Rivera.


This is a tough one. Does the accomplishment require pitching in seven games in a starting rotation?

Dr. Doom

Here’s my guess:

1. Rookie eligibility
2. Age-23 season (or younger)
3. At least 42 K in first 7 starts
4. At least 40 IP in first 7 starts
5. Allowed at least 40 H in first 7 starts

(Those last two criteria are because I was trying to figure out why Doc Gooden didn’t qualify for the list; I’m hoping I’m on the right track and it’s one or both of those!)


minor protest but Fernando had the following stats from his first 7 starts all in his age 20 rookie year:
63IP, 40H, 61K

He had just made 10 relief appearances and no starts the previous year but were not enough IP (17.2) to change his rookie status.

Even when I do the work I get caught up in these things. Waaa. I did ask about rookie status!