April 4, 2021

Opening Day Pitching Factoid

After the Red Sox's Opening Day loss to the Orioles, I read this in the Washington Post regarding Baltimore starter John Means (7-1-0-0-5, 97):

The last pitcher to strike out five or more batters while allowing one or fewer hits in seven or more innings on Opening Day was Boston Beaneaters starter Irv Young in 1906, according to Baseball Reference's Stathead service.

I hadn't even finished reading the sentence when I was thinking "Wait a minute . . ."

Many baseball fans know that on Opening Day in 1940, Feller pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox (9-0-0-5-8). Feller pitched nine innings, allowed no hits, and struck out more than five batters. So why was he apparently ignored in BRef's Stathead search?

MLB.com's story may clear things up:

Means became the first O's pitcher (since at least 1901) to go seven-or more innings on Opening Day allowing one hit or fewer. He also became just the third pitcher in baseball history to do so without also issuing a walk, joining Irv Young in 1906 and Jordan Zimmermann in 2019.

The Post's factoid was not limited only to Orioles pitchers since it mentioned a Boston pitcher. Maybe the Post writer forgot to mention "and no walks", which would disqualify Feller, but then why didn't he include Zimmermann (7-1-0-0-4, 70)?

The Orioles' Game Notes the following day stated:

Means became the first pitcher in Orioles history to work at least 7.0 innings, while allowing one or fewer hits and no runs in a start at Fenway Park.

Means became the 17th pitcher in Major League history, and first Oriole, to toss at least 7.0 innings, while allowing one or fewer hits in a start on Opening Day.

Means became the third pitcher in MLB history to go at least 7.0 innings on Opening Day and allow one or fewer hits while not walking a batter (Jordan Zimmermann - DET, 2019 and Irv Young - Boston Beaneaters, 1906).

It seems clear that the Post writer (Jon Meoli) committed two errors on one play (or sentence). He forgot to include "no walks" and then neglected to include Zimmermann. Plus it looked like BRef was to blame.

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