Matt Garza made 42 pitches during Saturday night’s start against the Washington Nationals. 28 pitches were for strikes. Yet, when Ron Roenicke made his way to the mound to remove Garza from the game, there was still only one out in the first inning. Across eight batters, Garza had allowed five hits, two walks, and one strike out. Eventually, five earned runs would land on Garza’s ledger.
Garza’s short start got me thinking about the quickest hooks for starting pitchers in Brewers’ history. So I visited the Baseball-Reference Play Index and began my search. I decided to dig into the stories behind two different kinds of short starts. Starts that were short in innings pitched, like Garza’s, and starts with the fewest pitches thrown. Let’s look at that second category first.
Now, Baseball-Reference’s Play Index only carries data on numbers of pitches thrown going back to the 1988 season. So with Saturday’s showing, Matt Garza became the 64th Brewers’ pitcher to start a game and throw 42 pitches or fewer since 1988. Here are the top ten starts by Brewers pitchers ranked by the fewest pitches thrown –
These ten starts fall into one of three categories – The Injured, The Interesting, and The Ineffectual. It should come as no surprise that the majority of the starting pitchers on this list were removed from the game due to injury. Here’s a quick breakdown of the seven that fall into that category –
Jamie McAndrew (August 28, 1995) was pulled after four pitches due to a knee strain. He wouldn’t pitch again that season and missed all of 1996 due to knee surgery. McAndrew returned to throw 19.1 innings of ineffectual ball in 1997 before fading into baseball history.
Teddy Higuera was pulled from his June 13, 1990, start after only seven pitches and one out. A groin strain sent him to the bench and, the following day, the 15-Day DL. Higuera was also yanked from his May 23, 1988, start against the Blue Jays after a home run in an eight-pitch first inning. This time the injury wasn’t serious as Higuera made his next start, which was also against the Blue Jays. In that second start, Higuera lasted 7.0 IP and earned the win.
Like Higuera, Ben Sheets also had two starts cut short due to injury. The first time was August 19, 2003, versus the Phillies. A rotator cuff concern limited Sheets to 10 pitches and an inning of work. The injury wasn’t deemed serious as he made his next start. The second time for Sheets wasn’t as lucky. He was pulled due to hamstring tightness after a 12-pitch, first inning against the Astros on September 18, 2007. The Brewers would go on to win that Sheets short start, which tied them with the Cubs for first place. Though the injury didn’t land him on the DL, Sheets didn’t make another start that season.
Marco Estrada notched two strikeouts in an effective 10-pitch inning versus the Giants on May 23, 2012. The Brewers hung six runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. During the offensive outburst, Estrada strained his quad while running out a two-run double. Estrada would land on the DL and miss a total of 29 games.
Finally, Jimmy Haynes was spotted five runs but could only survive one inning and 11 pitches during his August 23, 2001, start. “I must have lost my rabbit’s foot”, he said after the game before landing on the DL with a left abdomen strain and missing 24 starts.
Zack Greinke had allowed two hits and one run on four pitches when he was ejected from his July 7, 2012, start against the Astros. Greinke spiked the ball into the infield dirt after failing to cover first in time. The first base umpire took offense and sent Greinke to an early shower.
This truncated appearance did lead to baseball history though. Greinke’s low pitch count allowed him to start the next day’s game, which happened to be just before the All-Star break. Greinke then started the first game after the All-Star game. That made Zack Greinke the last pitcher since Red Faber, in 1917, to start three consecutive games.
It took Jamey Wright 11 pitches to make it through the first inning on June 15, 2001, but the newly opened Miller Park couldn’t go any further. A large bank of lights refused to turn on, which led to the game being suspended until the following day.
Finally, Bill Wegman appears to be the only Brewers pitcher in this top ten to be pulled purely for performance issues. On May 11, 1995, he failed to record an out over 12 pitches, though he did allow five hits and four runs, three being earned. Wegman made one more start for the Crew before being moved into the bullpen. At 32 years old, Wegman didn’t pitch in the big leagues after that season.
Now, let’s look at short starts by Brewer SP not by number of pitches but by outs recorded. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, in franchise history, 15 pitchers have started a game but never recorded an out. Again, Baseball Reference doesn’t have reliable data on how many pitches were thrown prior the 1988 season. So to help access each pitcher’s performance, I’ve included the Bill James metric Game Score (GSc), which is used by Baseball Reference. With Game Score, a pitcher starts the game at 50. That number goes up or down based on his performance. It’s rare to see GSc over 100, great, or below 0, awful.
Here are the 15 pitchers in franchise history who started a game but couldn’t record an out.
* Second game of a double-header
** First game of a double-header
What happened to Jamie McAndrew, Zack Greinke, and Bill Wegman is above. The rest I’ve grouped in these handy categories –Ineffectual, Injured, Circling the Drain, Down the Drain, and Unexpected. Here are the cliff notes to each player in these groups –
Bruce Ruffin couldn’t record an out on July 12, 1992. Five batters notched three hits and two walks before he got the hook. Following this performance, Ruffin was sent to AAA Denver and didn’t pitch again for the Crew until the second game of a double-header on August 8th.
Moose Haas was only 21 years old when the Angels ran him off the field before recording an out on June 19, 1977. He’d go on to pitch 197.2 IP for the Crew that season.
As a rookie pitcher for the Brewers, in 1971, Bill Parsons came in second in Rookie of the Year balloting. The winner was Cleveland first baseman Chris Chambliss, even though Parsons racked up 3.1 bWAR to Chambliss’s 0.4 bWAR. Two season later, in 1973, Parsons had failed to live up to his rookie hype. He started two games in 1973 where he didn’t record an out. In those games, he walked five out of the seven batters he faced. Parsons’ lack of control would be his undoing. In 1973, he walked 67 batters while only striking out 30 across 59.2 IP.
Steve Barber is the only Seattle Pilot to make this list. Jim Bouton mentions this game in his famous book Ball Four –
“… (Barber) was in trouble again yesterday, loading up the bases with none out in the first. He said he couldn’t get loose on the sidelines, and the only time his arm bothers him is when he’s loosening up. He says once he gets into the game he’s fine. Oh.”
Barber was 31 in 1969. Bouton believed that Barber was hurt and refusing to admit it so he wouldn’t lose his rotation spot. That means Barber could also be considered part of the next group –
Bob McClure was pulled from his May 9, 1982, start after lead-off hitter Ron Washington lined a single off McClure’s pitching arm.
Circling the Drain
Len Barker joins Bill Parsons as the only player to twice start a game for the Brewers and not record an out. An accomplishment that stands in stark contrast with Barker’s most memorable feat – baseball’s 10th official perfect game, which he pitched on May 15, 1981. Barker was a 31, in 1987, when the Brewers gave him one last shot. He had pitched the 1986 season in the Expos’ minor league system and his turn with the Crew didn’t win him any new supporters. Len Barker retired from professional baseball following the 1987 season.
Chris Short was another accomplished arm holding on with the Brewers when on June 5, 1973, he didn’t record an out. Though Short’s performance may be forgotten, this day would become huge in Brewers’ history. It was the day Robin Yount was drafted by the Brewers with the third overall pick. At 35, 1973 would end up being Short’s last MLB season. He retired with a career 3.43 ERA / 3.27 FIP, and, in his most memorable game, threw 15 shutout innings, striking out 18 Mets, on October 2, 1965.
Down the Drain
Ben Hendrickson has the lowest game score ( 15 GSc) of any pitcher on this list. Though he would float between minor league systems for a few years, this appearance on May 20, 2006, would be his last at the big league level.
Ray Peters was the first player drafted in franchise history. Seattle selected the RHP from Harvard with the 22nd overall pick of the 1969 draft. A year later, Peters would be pitching for the MLB team, moved to Milwaukee by Bud Selig and renamed the Brewers. Peters would start two games for the Brewers and allow 7 ER over 2.0 IP. His second start (June 9, 1970) would end before he got an out. He would never pitch at the major league level again.
And, finally, what I think is the most interesting short start in Brewers’ history –
Tom Hausman was a 22-year old rookie starting only his second major league game on July 6, 1975. It was the first game of a double-header against the Detroit Tigers and Hausman couldn’t record an out. He was pulled after allowing three hits to the first four batters.
Amazingly, Hausman would return to pitch in the second game of the double-header. The Brewers fell behind 8-1 with no outs in the second inning. So manager Del Crandall decided to give the kid another crack at it. Hausman came on with runners on first and second and would end up pitching the rest of the game. Hausman’s final line for game two of the double-header was – 7.0 IP / 7 H / 3 ER / 3 BB / 4 K / 30 BF.
In conclusion, Matt Garza’s game on Satuday wasn’t pretty but it did make him the 26th starting pitcher in franchise history to only record 0.1 IP in a start. For reference, out of the 0.1 IP group, Garza’s 20 GSc is the sixth worst. The worst game score for a Brewers starting pitcher with only 0.1 IP?
That award goes to good ol’ Dave Bush with a 9 GSc versus the Twins on May 21 2010. Bush’s final line for that game — 0.1 IP / 6 H / 7 ER / 2 BB / 36 P / 10 BF and one balk for good measure.