Sunday, September 23, 2007

Baseball diversion: Fewest Pitches in a complete game

I was watching a baseball game the other day and the announcers were talking about pitch count -- how many pitches the pitcher had thrown so far. This prompted two questions in my head:

1. What is the fewest number of pitches thrown by a pitcher in a complete game?

My friend David found the answer to that one: 58, by Red Barrett in 1944 for the Boston Braves.
http://baseball-almanac.com/boxscore/08101944.shtml

David guessed 60 before finding this, which is pretty darn close. I was guessing low 70s.

Figure that if each batter gets out on the first pitch (grounder, fly ball, etc.), then there would be only 27 pitches. If the pitcher averages 3 pitches per batter then you'd be at 81.

2. What is the most pitches thrown in one at-bat?

We don't have an answer to this one. Apparently this statistic was not tracked at all until the late 1980s.

I found a bunch of things on the web but nothing very reliable. The best I found was on the lower half of this page:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/20020626aim.shtml

This indicates a 20 pitch at-bat in 1998. I read other sites which suggested there was one at-bat with 24 pitches by a Luke Appling, but that did not seem as reliable. There's another reference to Roy Thomas fouling off 22 pitches in one at-bat, bringing the count to 3-2, for a total of at least 26 pitches. Then I saw something else about Enos Slaughter fouling off 26 pitches in one plate appearance. Still not reliable.
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