Do other teams' bats go ice-cold more often than they logically should and make bad/unknown pitchers like Gil Meche and Bobby Madritsch look like Cy Young Jr.?A few days earlier, Madritsch, in only his 7th career start, had thrown eight shutout innings against Boston. (His career would last only five more games.)
On Wednesday night in Anaheim, 30-year-old rookie Matt Palmer overcame some initial trouble to methodically mow down the Red Sox, pitching a complete game and retiring 22 of his last 23 batters. It was his 7th major league appearance.
We haven't heard it much in recent years, but it used to be a fairly common refrain: Any time the Red Sox faced some unknown pitcher, their bats would go limp. It seemed like it always happened.
But did it?
Thanks to Baseball Reference's amazing Play Index, we can definitively answer that question.
I searched for every Red Sox game since 1995 in which the opposing pitcher had fewer than 15 career appearances (relief or starts), pitched at least seven innings against Boston and allowed two or fewer runs.
It has happened 27 times against Boston in those 15 years, and 11 times since 2000. There is a mix of the now well-known (Scott Kazmir, Cliff Lee, Tim Hudson), the never-becames (Jason Stanford, Delvin James, Madritsch) and some in between guys (Rolando Arrojo!). In one instance, it happened twice in the same series: Stanford and Lee in September 2003. But Boston won both games, each by a 2-0 score!
(This was an arbitrary benchmark -- after all, Palmer went nine and allowed four. In case you are wondering, here are two more lists: 6 IP/3 R outings (68 since 1995 and 32 since 2000; not really the kind of shutdown outing we used to shake our heads at) and 7 IP/3 R games (32 since 1995 and 13 since 2000).)
The perception that this annoying phenominon has abated in recent years is backed up by the evidence. In the last three full seasons (2006-08), it happened only once. But this April, it happened twice in a span of four games (Oakland's Brett Anderson and Baltimore's Koji Uehara)!
So the next question is: how often does this happen to other teams? I looked at the AL East and then picked some random teams:
>15 GMS; 7 IP; 2 or Fewer RANotes: The Devil Rays began play in 1998. ... It happened to the Yankees three times in a two-week stretch in 2006. The only Red Sox pitcher on New York's list? Brian Rose. ... The Expos/Nationals list has four pitchers appearing twice: A.J. Burnett, Anibal Sanchez, Horacio Ramirez and Sean Burnett.
Red Sox 27 11
Yankees 19 11
Blue Jays 36 22
Orioles 32 21
(Devil) Rays 24 22
White Sox 32 20
Rangers 33 20
Angels 33 20
Cubs 39 21
Cardinals 33 20
Expos/Nationals 40 21
Astros 39 22
Rockies 31 20
So, despite the obvious frustration at being shut down by a pitcher you may never have heard of before, this clearly has not happened more often to the Red Sox. In fact, it happens far less.
Here is a list of pitchers (in their first 15 games) who started against the Red Sox and did not last more than three innings. That outcome is more common.