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Here at JunkStats, welove Josh Tomlin
Below is a list of the 22 seasons in which a pitcher has qualified for the ERA title yet not allowed any stolen bases. Caught stealing statistics didn’t start being kept reliably until 1950, so I’ve limited this to the seasons since then. The list is sorted by fewest caught-stealings (and thus fewest attempted steals).
As it turns out, Tomlin’s season was even more amazing than it appeared at first glance. Not only did he not allow any steals–he didn’t allow any steal attempts. That makes him only the second pitcher to qualify for the ERA title without having any steals attempted off of him, and the first such pitcher since 1950.
This is particularly impressive to me, since Tomlin is right-handed; the stereotypical impossible-to-steal-against pitchers seem to always be lefties. In fact, 16 of the 22 seasons on this list are by lefties. Aside from Tomlin, only Chris CarpenterNed Garver Carl Erskine Bob Porterfield Luis Tiant
In 2010, Tomlin’s rookie year, runners attempted 5 steals, and 3 of them were caught stealing. In a fun twist, both of the successful steals came on the same play in this gameMitch Maier Yuniesky Betancourt
The only other pitcher to go a full season without any steal attempts is Max Lanier
Based on the 5 balks in 1950, I want to think that Lanier had one of those borderline-illegal moves to 1st base… though he only had 3 balks in the rest of his career, so who knows? That would certainly help explain his absolute dominance in preventing steals.
The only pitcher with more seasons on the list than Lanier is Whitey Ford
Oh, and in those 4 seasons on the list, Ford also had 17 pickoffs. So that’s a total of 31 outs on the bases without a single steal over those 4 (non-consecutive) seasons.
Ford had two of the best seasons on the list, posting ERA+ marks of 170 in 1964 and 177 in 1958. Only Tiant’s incredible 1968, in which he had a 186 ERA+ and a 1.86 ERA, is better than those two seasons. And actually, it’s another Ford season that may be the most impressive of all. In 1961, Ford pitched a league-leading 283 innings and didn’t allow a single steal. That’s easily the most innings with no SBs allowed.
Tiant’s 1968 is notable for another reason–he had the most stolen base attempts without a successful steal. No matter how good you are at holding runners on, and no matter how good of a thrower your catcher is (the Indians’ main catcher that year, Joe Azcue
Tomlin’s 2011 is one of just 4 seasons on the list to have a below-average ERA. The worst of these by far is Terry Mulholland
Something clicked in 1993, though. That year, runners were just 2/7 on steals, and he never again allowed more than 2 steals in a season. For the last 15 seasons of Mulholland’s career (many of which were spent at least partly in relief), runners attempted just 50 steals and were caught in 36 of those attempts. That’s a 28% success rate.
I look forward to seeing if Tomlin–not to mention the other active pitchers on the list, Chris Carpenter and Jon Niese–can continue to prevent steals in 2012.
Tagged with: amazing seasons Billy Pierce Bob Porterfield Carl Erskine caught stealing Chris Carpenter Chris Hammond Don Rudolph Geoff Zahn Jarrod Washburn Jon Niese Josh Tomlin Kenny Rogers Luis Tiant Max Lanier Mickey McDermott Ned Garver Rick Honeycutt steals stolen base percentage stolen bases Terry Mulholland Whitey Ford
This blog is devoted to the invention and use of unusual baseball statistics. These Junk Stats are designed to reveal the not-so-meaningful quirks that make baseball so fascinating.
JunkStats is written by Jacob Peterson, who also writes for the Braves blog Talking ChopBeyond the Boxscore
For more about the site or the author, read the About page
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