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Yesterday, Josh Tomlin beat the Yankees with 7 solid innings. He actually held them hitless for the first 6 innings, but that isn’t what I found interesting. What impressed me was that he only walked one batter against that tough lineup, which continues a remarkable streak for him.

Tomlin actually walked the second batter he faced but only had one more 3-ball count the rest of the way (a full-count strikeout of Nick Swisher to lead off the 2nd inning). Against a Yankee lineup that loves to work the count, that is seriously impressive.

Tomlin’s 1-walk performance marked the 15th straight start in which he had given up either 0 or 1 walk. That is–by far–the longest streak of the 2011 season (Dan Haren and Jeff Karstens are 2nd with 7-game streaks). What’s more, it is one of the 20 longest such streaks in all of baseball history. Here are the only 19 streaks (since 1919) that are longer than Tomlin’s current 15-gamer:

Rk Player Strk Start End Games IP BB SO HR ERA Tm
1 Carlos Silva
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2004-10-02 2005-09-11 28
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194.1 10 73 27 3.52 MIN
2 Jon Lieber
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2002-05-29 2004-07-23 27
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175.0 12 103 22 4.53 CHC-NYY
3 Bob Tewksbury
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1992-09-24 1993-07-22 22
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149.2 8 76 10 3.37 STL
4 Bret Saberhagen
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1994-05-05 1995-04-28 20
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144.0 9 122 11 2.81 NYM
5 David Wells
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2002-09-06 2003-06-27 19
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139.0 4 75 14 3.04 NYY
6 Brad Radke
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2003-07-24 2004-04-26 18
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115.2 8 65 14 3.66 MIN
7 Scott McGregor
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1979-06-23 1979-09-26 18
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126.2 11 68 13 3.13 BAL
8 Bill Fischer
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1962-07-14 1963-07-28 18
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117.1 6 33 16 4.07 KCA
9 Paul Derringer
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1936-05-03 1936-07-17 18
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129.1 8 58 6 3.76 CIN
10 Greg Maddux
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1996-08-13 1997-05-12 17
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108.2 9 75 4 1.90 ATL
11 Lary Sorensen
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1978-09-01 1979-05-22 17
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125.2 11 31 9 3.01 MIL
12 Lew Burdette
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1961-06-26 1961-09-11 17
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127.0 9 40 11 3.97 MLN
13 Babe Adams
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1922-07-01 1923-05-07 17
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129.2 4 33 1 3.05 PIT
14 Jesse Barnes
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1921-08-07 1922-05-12 17
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127.0 11 38 9 3.33 NYG
15 Kevin Slowey
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2010-05-11 2010-08-05 16
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91.0 11 64 11 4.75 MIN
16 CC Sabathia
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2007-04-20 2007-07-05 16
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112.1 12 100 13 3.85 CLE
17 Rick Reuschel
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1987-07-03 1987-09-23 16
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104.1 8 47 6 3.28 PIT-SFG
18 John Buzhardt
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1963-06-12 1964-06-02 16
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103.0 9 58 7 2.53 CHW
19 Larry Benton
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1932-05-13 1932-09-04 16
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102.0 8 19 7 4.06 CIN
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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Generated 7/5/2011.

The immortal Carlos Silva strikes again. As impressive as Tomlin’s 15-game streak is, he’s barely halfway to Silva, who went nearly a full season without walking two batters in a start. Of course, as was his wont, Silva gave up 27 homers in those 28 starts, largely canceling out the benefit of his stingy walk rate. That is often the tradeoff with these players–throw more strikes and get hit harder or throw fewer strikes and give up more walks. Baseball is rarely as simple as Greg Maddux made it seem.

Speaking of Maddux, it’s no surprise to see him on the list; if anything, the only surprise is that he never had a streak longer than 17 games.

I find it interesting that so many of these streaks have come during the heightened offensive era of the 1990′s and early 2000′s. This was a time when batters began to embrace the value of the walk, and when many pitchers began sacrificing control for velocity… and yet this was also the era of Silva, Jon Lieber, Maddux, David Wells, and Brad Radke, all of whom embraced a “pitch to contact” philosophy to varying degrees of effectiveness.

It’s also worth noting that many of the pitchers to appear on this list were not particularly successful despite their low walk totals. Look at Kevin Slowey’s streak from last season (4.75 ERA) or Lieber’s from 2002 (4.53 ERA), for evidence of this. Tomlin fits well with this group, too, posting a tremendously average 3.94 ERA during his streak. You could certainly make the argument that some of these pitchers would have done better if they had thrown fewer strikes, a seeming paradox that nicely epitomizes the quirkiness of baseball.

It’s that quirkiness that keeps me coming back to baseball after my periodic feelings of oversaturation, and hopefully it’s that same quirkiness that will keep this site going into the foreseeable future.

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One Response to Josh Tomlin And The Longest Streaks Without 2+ Walks

  1. Pitching Seasons With No Stolen Bases Allowed | JunkStats
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    says:

    [...] at JunkStats, we love Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin. I recently found another cool factoid about him: he pitched [...]

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