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A couple days ago, Justin Berg of the Cubs had a nightmarish outing. He faced 3 batters, and walked all 3 of them. What’s more, he did it on 12 pitches–no strikes. How common is it to face at least 2 batters and not throw a strike?

Since 1950, which is the earliest that Baseball-Reference has any pitch data, I found 46 relief appearances (see the full list here

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) of at least 2 batters in which the pitcher did not throw a strike. Of these, Berg’s was only the 5th appearance of 3 or more batters. Here are those 5:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP BB Pit Str BF ▾ IBB HBP WP
1 Miguel Asencio
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2002-04-06
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KCR
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CHW
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L 0-14 0.0 4 16 0 4 0 0 1
2 Justin Berg
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2011-05-25
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CHC
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NYM
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L 4-7 0.0 3 12 0 3 0 0 0
3 Sergio Mitre
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2006-08-10
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FLA
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WSN
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W 9-6 0.0 2 12 0 3 0 1 0
4 Andy Pratt
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2004-04-12
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CHC
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PIT
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L 2-13 0.0 2 9 0 3 0 1 0
5 Sean Lowe
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2001-04-10
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CHW
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CLE
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W 8-7 0.0 3 12 0 3 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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: View Play Index Tool Used
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Generated 5/27/2011.

Since Pratt and Mitre both hit a batter in their appearances, Berg is only the third player to face at least 3 batters and walk them all (although Mitre’s HBP came on the 4th ball of the PA, so that would have been a walk anyway). Still, perhaps Berg can take some comfort in knowing that his appearance was far from the most disastrous. Miguel Asencio in 2002 faced 4 batters, walking all of them on 4 pitches, and threw a wild pitch. The game Asencio was in was a blowout, but one has to wonder what his manager was thinking in letting him face that 4th hitter.

Of the other 41 matching appearances, three (Joe Beimel

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in 2008
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, Mike Hartley
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in 1993
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, and Danny Leon
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in 1992
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) featured one walk and one hit-by-pitch. Interestingly, the hit batsmen all came on the first pitch, so each of those guys threw 5 pitches. The rest of the games were two-walk, 8-pitch appearances. In 7 of the games (counting Asencio’s), the pitcher also added a wild pitch for good measure.

Only 6 of the matching games occurred before 1990, and none of them were between 1962 and 1988. I’d guess that this was due largely to different bullpen usage; relievers in that era were generally used for more than a few batters. Even if they started badly, with 2 walks on 8 pitches, I suppose they were required to stay in the game, and eventually threw strikes.

The weirdest game on the list is Moe Drabowsky

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‘s from 1961
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. He came into the game, intentionally walked two hitters, and then left the game. It’s even weirder when you hear the context. The starters in that game were Warren Spahn (for Drabowski’s Milwaukee Braves) and Stan Williams (for the L.A. Dodgers). Both pitched 10 innings of 1-run baseball, but when Spahn started the 11th by giving up a leadoff triple to Frank Howard, he was taken out in favor of Drabowsky, who intentionally walked both batters (presumably to set up the “force at every base” scenario). Then, in a flurry of moves, the next batter was pinch-hit for, prompting the Braves’ manager to take out Drabowksy (for the platoon advantage). The new pitcher, Seth Morehead, struck out the pinch-hitter, but then walked the next batter to force in the winning run*. What a crazy game.

* Shrimp!

My favorite game on the list, though, is Armando Almanza

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‘s from 2001
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. He didn’t throw a strike in walking two batters, and even added a wild pitch, but he still got an out (on a caught stealing) and was awarded with a Hold. Without throwing a strike. His team, the Marlins, went on to beat the Braves, 3-2.

Almanza’s game made me wonder just how many other pitchers recorded an out without throwing a strike, thanks to caught stealings, pickoffs, and the like. But that will have to wait for another post.

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3 Responses to Appearances Without Throwing A Strike

  1. Appearances with Outs But No Strikes | JunkStats
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    says:

    [...] Appearances Without Throwing A Strike [...]

    Reply
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  2. Resolution says:

    Since it was only relief pitchers, it makes sense, but Doc Ellis’ start in 1974 should get an honorable mention. True it was intentional but the first 4 batters he faced was 3 hit by pitches and a walk. Awesome.

    Reply
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    • J
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      says:

      Haha, wow. That is awesome. Nice catch.

      Reply
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