Looking for a bright spot in the loss to the hated and gratefully-seemingly-cursed New York Mets, I found it in Gaby Sanchez’s at bats against Johan Santana.
As a Dodger fan long ago, I remember reading in Bill James 1985 Abstract about Orel Hershiser. Although he didn’t make it to the majors until he was 25, in his 2nd year he had a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 34 in 1984. Easy to see now that it was a predictor of things to come, with Hershiser setting the MLB record for consecutive scoreless innings of 58 in his glorious year of 1988.
But in the spring of 1985, Hershiser had his doubters. In the type of analysis which would make Bill James … Bill James, he warned [I paraphrase as I could not find my 1985 BJBA, no doubt pilfered by close friend and book hog / wanna-be E-bay vendor, J. Garcia] those doubters that the list of pitchers who had tossed more than 30 shutout innings in the history of MLB was very short indeed. In effect, average players rarely accomplish things which are rare in MLB history. The James style was to state that if Hershiser turned out to be an average pitcher, that would be unusual.
While Gaby Sanchez — pride of Miami Brito, a fine school, but no Christopher Columbus] — did nothing rare in yesterday’s game, but he did do something unusually good for a young player given the circumstances.
Playing in the season opener in New York, in front of a big crowd and facing one of the best pitchers in MLB in his first 2 at bats, Sanchez had the following results:
- 3rd inning vs Santana, 11 pitch at bat with six foul balls and ended by hitting a sharp single up the middle.
- 5th inning vs Santana, 8 pitch at bat with three foul balls and ended by hitting a fly ball to right.
- 7th inning vs Nieves, doubled to left on the 3rd pitch of the at bat.
- 9th inning vs Rodriguez, 5 pitch at bat with 1 foul ball and lining out out to center.
The at bat in the 7th is also interesting because it came after the Marlins defensively disastrous bottom of the 6th, in which Sanchez was also charged with an error. So after showing great patience and plate discipline with Santana, Sanchez showed that he could be aggressive if the situation allowed and that he did not allow his fielding miscue to affect his at bat.
My point is not that yesterday’s game means that Sanchez will be a good MLB hitter, it is to say that players who are not good MLB hitters rarely have the type of hitting game Gaby Sanchez had yesterday.
By the way, speaking of short lists. The list of MLB pitchers with 40 or more consecutive scoreless innings have the following characteristics [see list below]:
- Streak has been accomplished 19 times in MLB history
- Streak has been accomplished only 7 times since 1967
- Streak has been accomplished only 3 times since 1969 [did MLB hitters wear black armbands as a protest in 1968?]. Those pitchers are:
- Orel Hershiser in 1988
- Brandon Webb in 2007
- Luis Tiant in 1972
- Number of pitchers to appear on the list twice: Two
- Walter Johnson
- Luis Clemente (Vega) Tiant
If you haven’t seen it, please check out the Farrelly brothers documentary about Tiant
The Lost Son of Havana