This is a update of my earlier post about the historic start to Jeff Samardzija‘s season. Samardzija shut out the Yankees for seven innings on May 21, only to see the Yanks rally to tie the game against the bullpen in the ninth and win in extra innings. That makes 10 starts for Samardzija this season, eight of them quality starts (three in which he gave up no runs and a fourth in which he gave up no earned runs), a 1.46 ERA (best in the majors!)…and no wins.
Using Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index Pitching Streak Finder, I find 181 other occasions since 1914 when a pitcher has not won any of his first 10 starts of a season. Some of those pitchers also pitched in relief during that period, and some of them won games out of the bullpen. But none of them had an ERA through 10 starts anywhere near as low as Samardzija’s.
My earlier post checked out the competition through eight and nine starts. Let’s look at the closest competitors now:
Rube Schauer — né Dimitri Dimitrihoff — lost his first 10 starts for the 1917 A’s, with a 2.33 ERA in those games. Of course, he’d allowed more unearned runs (25) than earned runs (21), so it’s not like he was pitching that great. (Samardzija has given up five unearned runs in his first ten starts.) And Schauer was not winless, as he had made six relief appearances (five of them lasting at least five innings) and won two of them. His overall ERA was 3.19 through his tenth start, and he finally won start 11.
The previous year, through ten winless starts for the 1916 A’s, Tom Sheehan had lost eight of them but had a 2.58 ERA in those games. He had also allowed 14 unearned runs. Like Schauer, Sheehan was not winless on the season by that time, as he had earned a win in one of his 14 relief appearances. His season ERA through his tenth start was 3.30. Sheehan won none of his 17 starts in 1916 (thanks for the fix, @mighty_flynn), going 0-14 with a 3.27 ERA in those games. Only Matt Keough, who lost his first 23 starts for the 1979 A’s (with no relief wins either), and Bob L. Miller, who lost his first 20 starts for the famed 1962 Mets (and was also winless in relief) before pitching a complete game seven-hitter against the Cubs on the next-to-last day of the season, started a season with a longer streak of winless starts than Sheehan’s.
Bill Piercy was not only winless in his first ten starts of 1923 for the Red Sox, he was the losing pitcher in nine of them — and he lost two relief appearances during that time as well. His season ERA to that point was 3.14, with a 2.69 ERA as a starter. But he gave up at least one unearned run in each of those ten starts, 23 in all, compared to 20 earned runs. Like Schauer, he got his first win in start 11.
Andy Ashby was 0-5 with a 2.85 ERA through 10 starts with the 1994 Padres. He pitched a four-hitter against the Pirates to win start 11. The previous year Ashby was winless in his first 11 starts, nine with the expansion Rockies plus his first two after being traded to the Padres. Yet somehow Ashby went on to pitch in two All-Star Games and a World Series.
Rick Langford led the American League in losses with 19 in his first full major league season in 1977, and was winless in his first six starts for the 1978 A’s before going to the bullpen, then he got another shot at starting in mid-June. When he did not win his tenth start — a game in which he allowed no runs — his ERA to date as a starter was 3.04 and his overall ERA was 2.87…but he had won a game in relief. In his eleventh start Langford pitched a complete game five-hitter and lost 1-0 to the Twins before finally winning start 12. He went on to win his next four decisions, two of them shutouts. In 1980 Langford won 19 games and pitched 28 complete games — something no major leaguer has done since — then led the league again in 1981 with 18 complete games before his arm gave way.
Rickey Clark was 0-6 with a 3.19 ERA through 10 starts for the 1968 Angels (like Ashby, he was not used in relief during that period) and would not finally win until start 13…his only win of the season (he finished 1-11).
Guy Morton made his big league debut in June 1914 for the Indians and appeared in relief in his first seven outings. He got his first start in mid-July and didn’t win any of his first 10 starts, losing the first nine before getting a no-decision. He had a 3.21 ERA in those games, and including his nine relief appearances had a 3.19 overall ERA. Morton, like Bob Miller, would get his only win in his final start of the season, after going winless in his first 12. Morton was a 16-game winner for the Indians the next year, and while he was never a star he never had another losing record until his final season, when he was 0-1 in 10 relief outings for the 1924 Indians.
Pablo Torrealba lost all 10 of his starts for the 1977 A’s (the same team Rick Langford lost 19 games for; we’ve certainly mentioned a lot of A’s here), going 0-5 with a 3.34 ERA. However, he also made 31 relief appearances in which he put up a 1.73 ERA and won four games. His overall ERA on the season was 2.62.