Richard Chester is a regular contributor to the HHS blog and the HHS Twitter feed. Many of the unusual factoids he comes up with are gleaned from his own homegrown game log database (think of it as Play Index or Stathead on steroids). For your enjoyment, here are some statistical nuggets he has recently unearthed.
What’s In a Name
Jason Thompson was the first major league player with that given name when he debuted in 1976. Since then, another 83 Jasons have played in the major leagues.
Running Up the Score
Through the 2019 post-season, there had been 57 instances of one team scoring in four consecutive half-innings of a post-season game. But, game 4 of the 2020 World Series was the first post-season game in which one or more runs were scored in each of 8 consecutive half-innings (from the bottom of the 4th to the top of the 8th).
Pitchers did not bat at all in the 2020 post-season, and may not ever again, in part because most have become increasingly adept at meeting the expectation of providing absolutely no offensive value. But, one notable post-season batting accomplishment is shared by an old-time pitcher and a relatively modern one, with Marius Russo (Oct 10, 1943) and Orel Hershiser (Oct 16, 1988) the only pitchers to stroke a pair of doubles in a post-season contest.
If nothing is expected from pitchers at bat, historically the position with the next lowest offensive expectation would be at catcher. But, any major leaguer can have one big game, as evidenced by the 15 times a player has driven in 10 or more runs. Every defensive position (except pitcher) is represented among those 15 games, including Red catcher Walker Cooper‘s 10 RBI game against the Cubs on July 6, 1949 (and it was not at Wrigley).
Giving One Up for the Team
In the Phillies’ 1929 season-ending double-header against the Giants, Philly’s right-fielder Chuck Klein homered in the first game to move one up in the NL home run race over the Giants’ Mel Ott. In the second game, with the Phillies trailing by eight runs in the 9th, Ott received a bases-loaded intentional walk to preserve Klein’s advantage in the HR race (Ott was promptly picked off first base to end the inning, with the Giant slugger perhaps allowing himself to be put out to protest the Phillies’ machinations). Ott had one more chance to catch Klein with a make-up game the next day, but it was a tall order at cavernous Braves Field and Melvin managed only a pair of singles.
Size isn’t Everything
In the current era of max effort pitching, size is perceived as a big advantage for pitchers. But, it wasn’t always so, with a number of notable pitchers in bygone years of less than average height. The shortest combined height of two starting pitchers is only 131 inches, occurring on Apr 17, 1951 with Bobby Shantz (5′ 6″) and Connie Marrero (5′ 5″), and way back on Aug 5, 1904 with Ed McNichol (5′ 5″) and Jake Dunleavy (5′ 6″).
Scoring more than one run in an inning is commonly referred to as “putting up a crooked number”. Perhaps the most crooked of crooked numbers (in terms of the number of corners and curves) is number 5, a run total which has been matched or exceeded in a half-inning 239 times in post-season games through 2019. Two of those times occurred in the same inning of the same game, in the 2nd inning of game 2 of the 1956 WS between the Yankees and Dodgers (ironically, the Dodgers knocked out Yankee starter Don Larsen, the same Don Larsen who would whitewash the Bums three days later in what is still the only post-season perfect game).
The Dodgers won that game 2 with a comeback from 6 runs down, matching the A’s feat in game 4 of the 1929 WS against the Cubs. It’s also happened in the post-season on three other, more recent occasions: by the Yankees over the Braves in game 4 of the 1996 WS; by the Red Sox over the Rays in game 5 of the 2008 ALCS; and by the Cards over the Nats in the clinching game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.
On Sep 18th of last season, the Dodgers beat the Rockies 15-6, and the Braves downed the Mets 15-2. Both victors pounded out 17 hits, the first time two teams had recorded those run and hit totals on the same day.
Nine days earlier, Atlanta had taken the lumber to the Marlins in a 29-9 shellacking highlighted by 23 Brave hits. However, the greatest differential between runs and hits (when there are fewer of the latter) is 8, when the Giants scored 26 runs on 18 hits against the Dodgers on Apr 30, 1944, and on Sep 9, 1955 when the Dodgers plated 16 runs with only 8 hits (!) against the Cubs.
Home runs dominated the 2020 post-season, when out-homering your opponent seemed almost an essential ingredient to any win. But, that’s nothing new; in 113,304 games since 1901 (excepting the 1904 season for which complete data are presently unavailable) in which one team has out-homered the other, the team with more homers has posted a commanding .729 winning percentage.
Let’s go back to that matchup between the undersized Connie Marrero and Bobby Shantz. Couple of things caught my attention about that 1951 game.
First, it was an opening day game and the only OD start for Marrero, coming a week before his 40th birthday. So, who is the oldest pitcher to record a first opening day start? As a hint, the pitcher you’re looking for fills out this roster of pitchers with a certain late career accomplishment (yes, it’s two quizzes in one): Warren Spahn, Cy Young, Pete Alexander, Dazzy Vance, Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove, Rip Sewell and Ted Lyons.
Second, Marrero died in 2014 two days shy of his 103rd birthday. And, Shantz celebrated his 95th birthday a couple of months ago. So, what was the first game of the modern era (since 1901) in which the starting pitchers both reached 95 years of age?