Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Edwar's Big Night

Followers of baseball know that it is almost impossible to do something that no one else in the history of the game has done. The joke during the Yankees 1996-2001 dynasty always was that if something weird happened, Don Zimmer could tell you when it had happened before. I'm not nearly as old as Don Zimmer, but I do have Baseball-reference.com, whose Play Index is as close as I'm going to get, at least from 1957. You can search (with a subscription) for pretty much any event.

Last night, it was the ninth inning of the Yankees' game, and the good guys had an 8-0 lead. Lots of good things had happened in the game, such as Chein-Ming Wang having another strong outing, a home run from Robinson Cano, and some slick defensive plays. The only thing to look forward to in the top of the ninth was Edwar Ramirez. The 26-year old journeyman reliever re-invented himself a few years ago, adding what has been described as a "Bugs Bunny" changeup.

He didn't disappoint. While not an immaculate inning, Edwar struck out the side in his first inning of his major league debut, setting down pretty good hitters- Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, and Lew Ford. I turned to Baseball-Reference.com to ask: how many times has a pitcher thrown exactly one inning in his major league debut, and struck out the side?

The answer, since 1957, is now five. Surprisingly, all four have occurred in the last ten years (OK, not so surprising, since one inning appearances used to be pretty uncommon). Jordan De Jong of the Blue Jays did it this year; the only pitcher I recognize is, of course, Braden Looper. So that is a significant finding; here is a pretty rare event in baseball history.

Of course, not all pitchers throw only one inning in their major league debut. This was a little harder to account for, so I limited myself to Yankees pitchers since 1957. There have been 47 Yankees pitchers in 50 years to strike out at least three hitters in their major league debuts. Of these, only two whiffed three in their first major league inning. Al Leiter did it in the first inning of his first start in 1984- but he also allowed two hits and a run. The only pitcher, other than Edwar, to set down the side in order with strikeouts in his major league debut is Stan Bahnsen, who retired the Red Sox in order September 9, 1966. Bahnsen went on to strike out another 1,356 hitters over the course of his 16 year career.

Sure, no one else besides me will care about something like this. They'll focus on Edwar's filthy changeup, a palm-ball like pitch which dives down and in to right handed hitters at 78 mph, complimenting his accurate 91 mph fastball. And they'd be right to get excited about a pitcher who struck out 46 hitters in 26 innings in AA and AAA this year. But sometimes, it's all about the random stats.

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