Perfect 10 Streaks: Pitchers Who Owned an Opponent

On April 23rd this season, Clayton Kershaw pitched 6 innings for the win against the Mets. And, on June 14th, Jose Berrios went 7⅔ against the Orioles and also collected the W. What do these two games have in common? Find out after the jump.

Kershaw and Berrios both extended undefeated streaks as a starting pitcher against those two opponents. In both instances, the streaks remain intact since the start of these players’ careers. Kershaw’s win was his 11th in a streak of 17 undefeated starts in his regular season career against the Metropolitans*, while Berrios notched his 10th W in 13 unblemished career starts against Baltimore. These two streaks (call them “Perfect 10” streaks) are among only 33 since 1901 by pitchers beginning a career with 10 or more wins and nary a defeat, as a starter, against a particular opponent. That number might be even less without expansion, as Kershaw is one of five pitchers with such a streak against the Mets, but the only one of those 5 whose streak did not begin in the Mets’ 40-120 debut season in 1962. Similarly, the only streaks against the Padres (two) and Blue Jays (one) all began in those franchises’ debut seasons, as did one of two streaks against the Senators/Rangers.

*Kershaw has a win and a loss in two post-season starts against the Mets, in the 2015 NLDS.

If you guessed that five such streaks against the Mets is the most for any franchise, you’re right. Here’s that result:

  • 5 – Mets
  • 3 – Athletics, Browns/Orioles, Mariners
  • 2 – Cubs, Senators/Twins, Phillies, Padres, Senators/Rangers
  • 1 – Braves, Red Sox, White Sox, Reds, Tigers, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Expos/Nationals

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Here are the Perfect 10 streaks, ordered by number of wins.

Lest there be any confusion, the opponents are denoted by each franchise’s current city, which may be different from where that franchise was located when the streak occurred. Several of these pitchers are (or will be) in the Hall of Fame, and those that aren’t are mostly recognizable names. Indeed, every pitcher on the list, save for Larsen, has a winning record for his career, and every retired pitcher recorded 100+ wins, save for Larsen, Kaufmann and Coveleski (and Coveleski, not to be confused with his younger brother and HoFer Stan, enjoys the distinction of sharing the Tiger franchise record of three consecutive 20 win seasons). Some observations on these streaks:

  • Randy Johnson‘s streak against the Cubs, covering 21 seasons, was indeed his entire career. The other streaks (aside from active players) representing an entire career are those by Harry Coveleski against the A’s, Bill Gullickson against the Mariners, and Carl Mays against the Phillies. Mays evidently enjoyed pitching in Philadelphia, as he posted a record unbeaten streak against the Athletics (see below) before switching leagues and going unbeaten against the Phillies.
  • The streaks by Johnny Allen, Tony Kaufmann, Pedro Martinez, Jamie Moyer and Derek Lowe were all accomplished with a win in each start of the streak. The surprise among these five is that a majority are from the recent past, when decisions by a starter are no sure thing, as evidenced by a combined 2 CG in 32 streak starts by the last three mentioned. In contrast, Allen and Kaufmann combined for 20 CG in 23 starts in their streaks.
  • In addition to the five streaks just mentioned, there are seven others in which the pitcher’s team won every game in the streak, including those in which the pitcher didn’t record a decision. The longest of these 7 streaks is Dizzy Dean‘s 16 gamer, followed by Randy Johnson, Fergie Jenkins and Sandy Koufax, at 14 games.
  • Five pitchers recorded streaks with every win coming in a complete game, led by Juan Marichal (17), with Dizzy Dean (12), Lefty Gomez (11), Tony Kaufmann (10) and Johnny Morrison (10) following. Five others had only one CG or none, with all of these streaks coming (unsurprisingly) in the current century.
  • All 10 of the starts and wins in Jamie Moyer’s streak came aged 43 or older. Randy Johnson is the only other pitcher with any streak games (two, in Johnson’s case) aged 40 or older. At the other end of the spectrum is Tony Kaufmann, with his entire streak aged 23 or younger, with Gary Bell and Mudcat Grant close behind, aged 24 or younger.
  • As would be expected, the ERAs in these streaks are all impressive, with only two above 3.00 and those coming in high-offense eras. Perhaps the best is Pedro Martinez’s 1.26 ERA against the Mariners, coming at the peak of the steroids era and when Seattle was a contending team, led by, for part or all of the streak, such names as Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki.
  • Most, but not all, of these pitchers kept the ball in the yard, with four allowing more than one HR per 9 IP during their streaks, including Jose Berrios (1.39) and Jamie Moyer (1.38) and, more surprisingly, Fergie Jenkins (1.08) and Tom Seaver (1.04). Jenkins and Seaver made up for it by keeping runners off the bases, with 5.33 and 5.67 SO/W ratios, respectively, behind only Marichal’s 6.04 and (in Jenkins’ case) Pedro’s 5.39.

A “perfect 10” streak from the start of career is, of course, just a subset of the same streaks coming at any point in a player’s career, of which there have been 278 since 1901, distributed as shown below:

Some observations on the perfect 10 streaks leaders:

  • Three of Walter Johnson’s five streaks were completely contemporaneous, with the Senators’ ace flummoxing the White Sox, Tigers and Highlanders/Yankees from 1912 to 1914.
  • Johnson’s achievement closely followed Christy Mathewson doing the same thing in the NL, besting the Reds, Braves and Superbas/Dodgers from 1908 to 1911. But, it wasn’t just Mathewson. Ed Reulbach’s three streaks came against those same three NL opponents and at much the same time, from 1907 to 1909. And, Mordecai Brown had streaks against two of those three (the Reds and Superbas) again at the same time, from 1906 to 1909 (Cincinnati, Boston and Brooklyn together posted exactly one season higher than 5th place from 1906 to 1911, including a last place finish by the Braves in 4 of those 6 years).
  • Only obliquely related to his perfect 10 streaks, but noticed that Joe McGinnity is the only pitcher since 1893 to win 20 games in each of his first 8 seasons. Never posted a losing record, and was more than 100 games over .500 for his career. But my favorite McGinnity stat is this one: he started both ends of a double-header three times in 1903, all in the month of August, posting a 6-0 record with 6 CG in those games, while allowing a total of 10 runs. McGinnity compiled 59 WAR in only 10 seasons (he didn’t play his first major league game until age 28, as he left organized ball for three years after marrying), yet was mentioned on only 1 of 37 ballots cast in his Circle of Greats election. What were we thinking?
  • Dean (Reds), Gooden (Cubs), Grimes (Phillies) and Haines (Phillies) are notable as the only pitchers with two separate streaks against the same opponent.
  • Cy Young’s three streaks all came, in their entirety, aged 35 and older, the only pitcher with that distinction.
  • Freddie Fitzsimmons’ third streak began at age 39, twelve seasons after the start of his second streak; the only larger gap was by Jamie Moyer, with the second of his two streaks beginning at age 43, seventeen years (almost to the day) after the start of his first streak.

The longest unbeaten streaks and most wins and complete games in such streaks are shown below, identifying the pitcher and his streak opponent:

Longest Unbeaten Streaks as StarterMost Pitcher WinsMost Complete GamesMost Consecutive Team Wins
26Russ Meyer (Cubs)24 – Carl Mays (Athletics)23 – Carl Mays (Athletics)25 – Carl Mays (Athletics)
25 – Carl Mays (Athletics)21 – Christy Mathewson (Cardinals), Wes Ferrell (Browns)21 – Christy Mathewson (Reds)24 – Wes Ferrell (Browns)
24Early Wynn (Browns/Orioles), Wes Ferrell (Browns)20 – Christy Mathewson (Reds), Pete Donohue (Phillies)20 – Pete Donohue (Phillies)22 – Christy Mathewson (Cardinals), Orval Overall (Cardinals)
22 – Christy Mathewson (Cardinals), Juan Marichal (Mets), Orval Overall (Cardinals), Pete Donohue (Phillies), Rick Reuschel (Braves)19Charles Bender (Browns), Early Wynn (Browns/Orioles), Orval Overall (Cardinals)19 – Orval Overall (Cardinals), Wes Ferrell (Browns)21 – Christy Mathewson (Reds)
21 – Christy Mathewson (Reds), Dave McNally (Senators/Rangers), Larry Jackson (Mets)18 – Larry Jackson (Mets), Lefty Grove (Tigers)18 – Charles Bender (Browns), Lefty Grove (Tigers)20 – Lefty Grove (Tigers)
20 – Jesse Haines (Phillies), Jim Hearn (Pirates), Jon Lester (Orioles), Lefty Grove (Tigers)17 – Christy Mathewson (Braves), Dave McNally (Senators/Rangers), Joe McGinnity (Braves), Juan Marichal (Mets), Russ Meyer (Cubs)17 – Juan Marichal (Mets)19 – Charles Bender (Browns), Ed Reulbach (Reds)

Randy Johnson’s streak span of 21 seasons against the Cubs remains, unsurprisingly, the longest of all 278 streaks, with Clayton Kershaw’s 16 seasons (and counting) against the Mets tied for second with Nolan Ryan‘s mastery of the Pirates from 1971 to 1986 (in half of those seasons Ryan was in the AL, with no opportunity to face the Bucs). Jamie Moyer is next with 15 seasons against the Orioles, followed by Andy Pettitte and Adam Wainwright, each with 14 seasons (and counting for Wainwright), against the Royals and Rockies, respectively. Nine more pitchers have streaks spanning at least 10 seasons.

All 30 franchises have endured at least one such streak, ranging from 25 against the Phillies, to one against the Brewers, Blue Jays and Diamondbacks. The most streaks against an expansion franchise are six, against the Mets and Senators/Rangers. The fewest against an original franchise are five, against the Giants and Yankees. Here’s the full list.

  • 25 – Phillies
  • 24 – Browns/Orioles
  • 23 – Athletics, Braves
  • 22 – Reds
  • 18 – Pirates
  • 17 – Tigers
  • 15 – Senators/Twins
  • 13 – Cardinals
  • 11 – Dodgers
  • 10 – Red Sox
  • 7 – Cubs, White Sox
  • 6 – Mets, Guardians, Senators/Rangers
  • 5 – Expos/Nationals, Giants, Mariners, Yankees
  • 4 – Angels, Astros, Padres, Royals
  • 2 – Marlins, Rays, Rockies
  • 1 – Blue Jays, Brewers, Diamondbacks

Those interested can find all 287 perfect 10 streaks here. To close, here are superlatives from these streaks, with currently active streaks denoted by an asterisk. Here are the streaks against AL opponents.

And, for the NL opponents.

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Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
11 months ago

Good work, Doug! This was fun to read. Besides being among the youngest on this list, Mudcat Grant and Gary Bell’s streaks ran concurrently for 2-1/2 seasons (the duration of Grant’s streak) as teammates against the same opponent (Senators – Bell’s streak remained active through the 1961 season against the Twins). After Grant’s 12th consecutive win against the Senators, he was still only 14-20 against the rest of the league. He then went 8-6 against Washington/Minnesota the next few years before being traded to the Twins in 1964. Likewise, Bell started 10-0 against the Senators/Twins and just 39-46 against the… Read more »

Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Good observation Scary, The Indians were rebuilding their pitching staff in the late ’50s/early ’60s after the Lemon/Feller/Wynn/Garcia years (Garcia was the last to depart, after the ’59 season, in which Cleveland surprised by hanging around in the pennant hunt until late in the season). The ’62 team had a rotation including Grant, Jim Perry and 19 year-old Sam McDowell (Bell was now in the pen), with Tommy John making his debut the next year. That would have been a formidable foursome had the Indians held onto them, but only McDowell (now joined by Luis Tiant) remained by 1965, the… Read more »

Tom
Tom
11 months ago

Apart from his streak against his former team, Larsen went 69-91 for the rest of his career.

Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Tom

When he played for the Orioles, Larsen almost couldn’t win, with a 4-23 record. When he played against them, he almost couldn’t lose, with a 13-3 record. With no Orioles anywhere on the field, Larsen was a .500 pitcher, at 64-65.

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
At the risk of being “that guy”, I believe that’s “David” Fletcher. I have no idea what he was doing in the the minors “proving” himself with a .383 BA while Rengifo took AB’s in Anaheim at a 65 OPS+ clip. As for Moniak, he is ‘unconscious” at this point considering he didn’t get on base or hit with power in the minors while the Phillies watched him fail….coaching must make a difference, no? Good for him….hopefully it lasts

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
11 months ago

A bit off-topic here. I cannot say for sure that I am the only commenter on his site to attend 2 perfect games but for certain I am the only one to see 2 such games nearly 67 years apart. I saw Don Larsen’s perfecto in 1956 and Domingo German’s gem last night in Oakland. I enjoyed the Larsen game more, it was in the WS, Mickey Mantle was playing, it was quite a bit warmer and it was a heck of a lot cheaper.

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

Since the post title begins with “Perfect”, I think your comment fits nicely.

I wonder if you’re the only person to witness two perfectos separated by so much time. Possibly, someone attended the gems by Charlie Robertson and Dennis Martinez (69 years) or Kenny Rogers (72 years), or Addie Joss and Len Barker (73 years). But, the possibilities are pretty limited.

Glad you had the chance to witness history before the A’s leave town.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

A close friend of mine was also at both of those games.

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago

Richard,
Fantastic! But what is ANYONE doing in the Oakland Coliseum during baseball season? Strangely enough, if you peruse the list of ML perfect games, more than half (?) were pitched against contending teams. Closest I ever came to a watching live a perfect game was Rick Wise retiring 32 in a row after surrendering some early runs versus the 1971 Cubs.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI197109180.shtml

that was a young Phillies team and an aging Cubs squad

Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

A 12 inning CG for Wise, plus 3 for 6 at the plate, including the walk-off RBI single. Phillies’ manager Frank Lucchesi used only two subs in the game, so there were lots of bats on the bench when Wise came up: — in the 7th, 1 out, bases empty, Phillies trailing by one (strikeout) — in the 9th, 1 out, bases empty (double) — leading off the 11th (strikeout) — in the 12th, 1 out, bases full But, Wise was a good hitter, especially in 1971, with .464 SLG (incl. 6 HR!!!) and 102 OPS+. So, I suppose he… Read more »

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

Watching the outs from the game, looks like the defensive hero was Anthony Rizzo. Nice diving play on a ball headed down the line into right in the 5th, and a graceful play in the 8th stepping across the baseline to snag an errant throw tailing into the runner. German’s 96 game score is the highest by a Yankee since Mike Mussina’s 98 in 2001 on a 1-hit shutout of the Red Sox with 13 K’s and no walks. One surprising note is that the Oakland Coliseum and old Yankee Stadium are now tied for hosting the most perfectos, at… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Richard Chester
Richard Chester
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Mussina 1 out away from a perfect game.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
11 months ago

Make that “was 1 out away….”

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

Jarren Duran of the Red Sox went 5 for 5 on Sunday, including a record-tying 4 doubles. It was the 50th 4-double game since 1901 by 48 players, with Billy Werber and Albert Belle the only two to do it twice.

Another Red Sox player has earned a more dubious distinction. Catcher Caleb Hamilton has played 26 games in his career and is still looking for his second hit. I believe he is the first non-pitcher with a single home run and no other hits in 20+ AB over his first 25 career games.

Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Re Caleb H., with a .211 BA in the minors and .223 in college, who would have guessed that major league pitching might have presented a challenge? Maybe he frames pitches well, calls a good game…?

Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Looks like Hamilton is all alone with this particular “feat”. Only 16 pitchers have homered with no other hits over their first 25 games, and none of them reached 20 AB over that stretch. Closest was Larry Christensen who reached 20 AB in his 26th game, and got his second hit in game 27. Jeremy Hefner also reach 20 AB in his 26th game, and got his second hit in that same contest. The first four hits of Christensen’s career were HR, double, triple, single, in that order. After finally getting his first single in game 35, he stroked three… Read more »

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

For some reason, I got to musing about career spans (the period covered by the careers of players that a particular player has played with or against). In the case of Julio Franco, his career span covers my entire life, since Franco batted against Jim Kaat and Adam Wainwright. Kaat debuted two months before I was born and Wainwright, of course, is still active. A span like Franco’s of 65+ seasons is quite rare. Another example is the 66 season span of Willie McCovey, who played against Enos Slaughter and Jesse Orosco. Would be fun to try to figure out… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

By going through my WORD document in which I saved many of my HHS posts I see that I have already gone through that exercise. The most I found was 64 years for Maranville-Cavaretta-Killebrew (1912-1975) and for Cavaretta-Killebrew-Eckersley (1935-1998).

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

I found one of 74 seasons, with a little fudging of the rules. — Tommy John was a teammate of Early Wynn in 1963. They did not play in the same game together, but they did play in the same series, twice. So, no doubt they were legitimate teammates during the month of September that year, when John was called up. — At the other end of the span is John’s final career start for the Yankees on May 25, 1989. That start was at home, and the Yankees were still on that homestand when they faced the Mariners on… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Tom
Tom
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

There are two 66 year streaks with Satchel Paige, if you exclude his 1965 stint with the A’s. He started with the 1927 Birmingham Black Barons. He was a teammate of Bob Turley’s on the 1953 Browns, who was also on the 1963 Red Sox with Carl Yastrzemski. Don Larsen was on the 1953 Browns and the 1967 Cubs with Ferguson Jenkins. Both Fergie and Yaz retired in 1983. If you include Satchel’s 1965 game: Yaz faced Satchel in that 1965 game. Dennis Eckersley was on the 83 Sox with Yaz. Eck retired in 1998. That’s a 71 year HoF… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Tom
Doug
Doug
11 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Nice ones, Tom.

You know your Negro League players!

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
11 months ago

In the Blue Jays – White Sox first game today, through ten innings both teams combined to hit 3 for 63. In the 11th, they went 9 for 14.

no statistician but
no statistician but
11 months ago

Once more out of retirement, I guess. Here’s a question for discussion raised by the recent injuries to Aaron Judge and Mike Trout: Why are there so many more serious injuries to position players now than in the past, given that current players are presumed to be much better trained and generally fitter than their ancient counterparts?  In his seventh season as a big-league regular, Judge has played in just three so far without injuries serious enough to keep him from qualifying for the batting title, and the fourth is definitely in doubt. After a good start, Trout has now… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago

Guaranteed contracts (hahahaha). I think the Bellinger injury was kind if freakish but, these are getting contracts that won’t age well. Pujols didn;t get hurt at all but wasn;t much of a contributor on a WAR basis shortly after the LAA gave him that contract. Maybe the culprit is resistance exercise/weight training putting extreme stress on tendons and ligaments? If you watch the “Ryne Sandberg game” (Cards/Cubs 6/23/1984), you’ll see a bunch of 6′- 6’3″ 175 – 210# guys of ‘average’ build. All these muscles, nowadays, just can’t be good for baseball playin’. Like, does Trout (bad back) really need… Read more »

no statistician but
no statistician but
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

It’s amazing how many of the prominent teams I spot-checked from the past had line-ups consisting mainly of guys 5’10” to 6’1″ or so and weights from 180 to 205 or so. Now the heights are generally 6’1″ to 6’5″ on all teams and the weights 210-240+. (The 1998 Yankees had some taller guys, but they were all lean). So—the players are taller and they’re carrying more beef, a lot more on average. Was it John Kruk who said, “Lady, I’m not an athlete; I’m a ballplayer”? So these guys are maybe training to be athletes, spending more time in… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
11 months ago

NSB,
A more recent free-agent era phenomenon is the “beyond expectations” walk-season peak performance. Over the last 40 years, a ton of guys have hit the ball extremely well or pitched lights-out in career season 6 with no prior performance that approached that level.
Charlie Finley used to say they all should be free agents every year and play on 1-year contracts. That certainly would create “hot stove” interest and player agents would certainly earn their money

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
11 months ago

After today’s (July 8) Yankee game Josh Donaldson has 10 HR and 15 RBI, a differential of 5. The smallest such seasonal differential for a player with at least 10 HR is 7 by Randy Ruiz in 2009, Zach Walters in 2014 and Wayne Gross in 1985.

Doug
Doug
11 months ago

Alas, despite the long ball, Donaldson is hitting just .146, albeit with an ISO over .300.

According to Stathead, Donaldson is the first player to have two-thirds of his hits be home runs, over a player’s first 30 games of a season (not sure whether I believe that, since Stathead didn’t find anyone, not even Donaldson).

Having ISO more than double your BA is a seasonal feat mostly reserved for pitchers. The most PA in such a season by a non-pitcher is only 48, by Mickey Tettleton in 1997.

Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
11 months ago

Elly De La Cruz running wild in Saturday’s Reds’ win over the Brewers marks the second time since 1961 (according to Elias) that a player has stolen three bases in the same trip around the diamond. De La Cruz was alone on the bases when he swiped three in as many pitches. The other time that happened since 1961 was in this game, by Rod Carew, who also made all three steals in the same plate appearance. But, unlike De La Cruz, Carew had Cesar Tovar on base in front of him, with Tovar stealing 3rd and home ahead of… Read more »

Tom
Tom
11 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Here’s a list of the players who stole second, third and home in the same inning https://www.baseball-almanac.com/feats/stealing_second_third_home.shtml

Seeing what Elly did, stealing third and home on the same play, brings to mind the stories of Ty Cobb’s baserunning.

What an athlete De la Cruz is. 6’5″, the fastest man in baseball, a switch hitting infielder who set the Reds exit velocity record in his first week in the majors, who can throw a ball over 97 MPH, and has a high baseball IQ.

Last edited 11 months ago by Tom