UPDATE: Pitchers who threw the most extra-inning games

I started this blog in 2009; I now have some additional resources so I thought I might revisit and revise some of my earlier posts. For instance, when I first wrote about pitchers who worked into extra innings, Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index data base went back only to 1954. It now goes back to 1913, meaning I can paint a more complete picture.

Nine-inning games by pitchers are rare enough in the 21st Century, but extra-inning performances are all but extinct. It’s happened only six times in the 16 seasons from 2000-2015 (only Roy Halladay did it more than once in that period; he had two 10-inning games), and the last pitcher to do it as of this writing was Cliff Lee in 2012. But such games used to be much more common. Here are the pitchers who have gone at least 9-1/3 innings the most times from 1913-2015, with their records in those games (clicking “Ind. Games” will show you all of the games involved):

Player W L ERA CG ShO WHIP
Pete Alexander 51 Ind. Games 32 15 1.71 51 6 1.02 PHI,CHC,STL
Walter Johnson 44 Ind. Games 22 20 1.31 44 7 0.94 WSH
Gaylord Perry 39 Ind. Games 12 11 1.93 17 1 0.93 SFG,CLE,TEX,SDP,SEA
Ted Lyons 39 Ind. Games 19 19 2.24 38 1 1.15 CHW
Red Faber 36 Ind. Games 21 13 2.20 34 1 1.09 CHW
Eppa Rixey 33 Ind. Games 18 15 1.83 32 0 1.16 PHI,CIN
Wilbur Cooper 33 Ind. Games 20 9 1.67 33 1 1.04 PIT,CHC
Bucky Walters 31 Ind. Games 20 9 1.73 26 2 1.16 PHI,CIN
Red Ruffing 28 Ind. Games 11 15 2.63 25 2 1.17 BOS,NYY
Stan Coveleski 28 Ind. Games 14 13 1.54 26 3 1.05 CLE,WSH
Warren Spahn 26 Ind. Games 11 12 1.79 22 0 0.99 BSN,MLN
Carl Hubbell 26 Ind. Games 10 14 1.83 24 3 0.94 NYG
Lefty Grove 26 Ind. Games 14 10 2.06 24 1 1.17 PHA,BOS
Earl Whitehill 25 Ind. Games 11 11 2.61 22 1 1.30 DET,WSH,CLE,CHC
Robin Roberts 25 Ind. Games 12 9 2.16 19 1 1.05 PHI,BAL,CHC
Jeff Pfeffer 25 Ind. Games 8 12 1.61 23 2 1.02 BRO,STL
Dolf Luque 25 Ind. Games 11 11 1.71 21 2 1.00 CIN,BRO
Bob Gibson 25 Ind. Games 9 11 1.73 19 1 1.08 STL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/19/2016.
Alexander

Grover Cleveland Alexander as a Philadelphia Phillie

The first two pitchers on the list are inner-ring Hall of Famers who spent the prime of their careers in the low-scoring dead ball era, at a time when pitchers were absolutely expected to finish what they started. Even so, what Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander accomplished was remarkable. From 1913 through 1928 he pitched into extra innings 51 times and completed every one of them…including a 17-inning game in 1920, three 14-inning games and four others in which he pitched at least 13 innings. By way of comparison, as of the start of the 2016 season the active pitcher with the most career complete games is C.C. Sabathia with 38 — none of which went extra innings.

And those 51 extra-inning complete games don’t even include the first two years of Alexander’s major league career. I can’t find how many times he pitched into extra innings in 1912 (although we know he started four games that went long), but as a rookie in 1911 Alexander got a decision in 11 extra-inning contests. So while we don’t know if he pitched into extra innings on any other occasions and was removed without getting a decision, we do know he pitched extra innings at least 62 times in his career, more than 10% of his career starts. We also know this wasn’t solely a factor of the dead ball era conditions, as 32 of those games came from 1920 onward, the last two of them coming when Alexander was 41 years old.

Johnson

Walter Johnson didn’t seem to mind extra work

Second on the list is the great Walter Johnson, who, like Alexander, completed all his extra-inning starts from 1913 on. But those 44 extra-inning games don’t include the first six seasons of his career, in which he started 194 games and completed 87% of them. During those years Johnson started games that went into extra innings once in 1907, four times in 1908, six times in 1909, three times in 1910 and once in 1912 (I can’t readily find a record of Washington’s extra-inning games in 1911). He likely pitched into extra innings in the majority of those 15 games, but that’s just a guess, and I’m not up for digging up the box scores just now.

With at least 38 extra-inning wins (32 from 1913 on plus six in 1911), Alexander is the runaway leader in that category, at least from 1911 forward. More than 10% of his 373 career wins went extra innings. Johnson’s 20 extra-inning losses from 1913 on are the most for any pitcher in that period, and in those games (remember, all losses) he had a 1.99 ERA.

The (relatively) “modern” leader in extra-inning performances, by a wide margin, is Gaylord Perry, who had 39 such games over a 19-year period. Here are the pitchers who have worked extra innings the most times since 1960:

Player #Matching W L ERA CG SHO WHIP Tm
Gaylord Perry 39 Ind. Games 12 11 1.93 17 1 0.93 SFG,CLE,TEX,SDP,SEA
Bob Gibson 23 Ind. Games 9 10 1.72 19 1 1.04 STL
Jim Palmer 20 Ind. Games 5 5 1.52 10 0 0.89 BAL
Tom Seaver 19 Ind. Games 4 3 1.15 6 1 0.82 NYM,CHW
Phil Niekro 18 Ind. Games 7 5 2.14 12 0 0.98 ATL,NYY
Bert Blyleven 18 Ind. Games 7 4 1.63 9 4 1.02 MIN,TEX,PIT,CLE
Nolan Ryan 17 Ind. Games 6 6 1.86 9 1 1.07 CAL,HOU,TEX
Jim Kaat 17 Ind. Games 9 6 1.16 12 2 0.98 MIN,CHW,STL
Jerry Koosman 16 Ind. Games 3 6 1.45 2 1 1.01 NYM,MIN
Jim Bunning 16 Ind. Games 4 3 1.16 5 0 0.92 DET,PHI
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/19/2016.
Perry

Gaylord Perry as The Ancient Mariner…I do love those Seattle caps

Perry did have the advantage of the designated hitter rule for 14 of his extra-inning games, in that he never needed to be removed for a pinch-hitter. Or maybe that’s a disadvantage, if you factor in that he never got to face an opposing pitcher. His last three overtime appearances came when he was 43 years old, pitching for Seattle in 1982. (But Perry was not the oldest man to pitch extra innings; the remarkable Satchel Paige tossed a 12-inning shutout for the St. Louis Browns when he was 46! Team owner Bill Veeck rewarded him by telling Paige to order himself a new suit of clothes. Gregory H. Wolf has more about this game as part of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Games Project.)

Paige headline

Paige photo

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 7, 1952

How about the most extra-inning games in a season? We discovered Grover Cleveland Alexander had 11 in 1911 that won’t be included in Play Index. Since 1913, we find Johnson and Perry at the top of the list.

Rk Player Year #Matching W L ERA CG SHO Tm
1 Walter Johnson 1918 9 Ind. Games 6 3 1.21 9 2 WSH
2 Gaylord Perry 1972 8 Ind. Games 5 3 1.37 7 0 CLE
3 Al Javery 1943 8 Ind. Games 7 1 1.40 8 0 BSN
4 Red Faber 1922 8 Ind. Games 4 4 2.92 8 0 CHW
5 Stan Coveleski 1918 8 Ind. Games 3 5 1.03 8 0 CLE
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/19/2016.

Perry’s eight extra-inning games in 1972 (pre-designated hitter, by the way) are as many as all major league pitchers have had in the last 18 years combined (1998-2015).

Al Javery

Al Javery

Al Javery is the only man I’ve found to earn seven extra-inning wins in a season…he went at least 11 innings in five of them, including a 14-inning triumph. Javery went 17-16 for the 1943 Boston Braves and, not surprisingly, led the National League in innings pitched and batters faced. I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Javery; he finished his career with a 53-74 record and was pretty much done once the boys got home from World War II.

For tough-luck losers…pity Stan Coveleski, who won 22 games in 1918 but lost five extra-inning decisions, all in a period of less than eight weeks, in which he allowed a total of five earned runs. The only other pitcher since 1913 to lose as many extra-inning games in a season was Nate Andrews in 1943, when he led the National League with 20 losses despite finishing fifth in the league in ERA. He worked more than 11 innings in three of his overtime defeats. We know Pete Alexander also lost five extra-inning games in 1911. In more recent years, Bob Gibson lost four extra-inning games in 1969.

Next, the most extra-inning games pitched without allowing a run, since 1913. Note this doesn’t include games in which the pitcher either took a shutout into extra innings only to allow a run later, or left the game in extra innings with a shutout but saw a reliever allow an inherited runner to score.

Player #Matching W L CG SHO Tm
Walter Johnson 7 Ind. Games 6 0 7 7 WSH
Jim Perry 6 Ind. Games 2 0 2 2 CLE,MIN,DET
Bert Blyleven 6 Ind. Games 4 0 4 4 MIN,TEX,PIT
Pete Alexander 6 Ind. Games 4 0 6 6 PHI,CHC
Tom Seaver 5 Ind. Games 1 0 1 1 NYM
Don Sutton 4 Ind. Games 2 0 2 2 LAD
Nolan Ryan 4 Ind. Games 1 0 1 1 CAL,HOU,TEX
Dick Rudolph 4 Ind. Games 2 0 3 3 BSN
Jerry Koosman 4 Ind. Games 1 0 1 1 NYM
Bob Feller 4 Ind. Games 2 0 2 2 CLE
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/19/2016.

Notice Walter Johnson pitched seven of these games, all shutouts, but earned only six wins. One of those games was a 12-inning scoreless tie in 1919. Likewise, Grover Cleveland Alexander (I so prefer seeing his full name as opposed to “Pete”) pitched two extra-inning games that ended in 0-0 ties, both in 1913. Johnson and Alex are the post-1913 leaders in extra-inning shutouts. Alexander did not pitch an overtime shutout in 1911 or 1912, but I did some digging on Johnson and found he pitched an 11-inning shutout in 1908 and a 12-inning shutout in 1909 (the DAY AFTER he pitched four innings) to give him at least nine career extra-inning shutouts (still don’t know about 1911).

You’ll also notice Jim Perry and Tom Seaver each pitched four extra-inning games in which he did not allow a run but did not get the win…ouch.

In more recent times, Bert Blyleven is the leader with four extra-inning shutouts…and two of them came in consecutive starts in June 1976!

Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO BF
1975-08-27 MIN MIL W 1-0 11.0 6 0 0 1 13 39
1976-06-21 TEX OAK W 1-0 10.0 1 0 0 4 8 36
1976-06-26 TEX CHW W 1-0 10.0 10 0 0 2 5 40
1978-04-26 PIT NYM W 1-0 11.0 6 0 0 4 8 42
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/19/2016.

Since 1913 only 13 other pitchers have tossed two or more extra-inning shutouts in a season (Alexander, naturally, is the only man with three, which he did in 1913, and Johnson is the only man with two in a season twice, 1918 and 1919). Aside from Blyleven, only Lefty Tyler did it in consecutive starts, in August 1914 for the “Miracle” Boston Braves. The first of Tyler’s games was a 13-inning scoreless tie, followed four days later by a 10-inning 1-0 victory. Blyleven is thus the only pitcher, at least since 1913, to have complete-game extra-inning shutout victories in back-to-back starts.

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