Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

How to succeed in pitching without really trying (to strike anyone out)

It’s possible to surrender four walks and still succeed. You just need a manager who lets you stick around a while.

A season after Tony La Russa pulled him in the middle of an inning a team-high 40% of the time, Jake Westbrook tried his new manager’s patience with four walks in the first two innings. Mike Matheny rode out the storm, though, and Westbrook finished seven full innings without allowing an earned run. Westbrook outlasted his opposite number, Homer Bailey, by keeping the ball on the ground and thus in the park: He induced 11 ground balls from the 27 batters he faced. Bailey, on the other hand, fell victim to the bandbox of Great American Ballpark, allowing nine fly balls, three of which went over the boards.

Westbrook’s strange line made for a huge disparity between his fielding-dependent and fielding-independent numbers. Although he goes into the books with a 0.00 ERA for the night, he had a lofty 4.71 expected FIP, surely one of the biggest gaps we’ll see this season. (Reader Dave Sherman from The Good Phight points out  that Cole Hamels experienced the opposite kind of luck last night: a 5.06 ERA and a -0.40 xFIP.)

Had Westbrook kept going, he might’ve rivaled Vinegar Bend Mizell’s nine-inning shutout in which he allowed nine walks and struck out just one. Mizell’s “feat” ranks among the best of the worst Cardinal pitching performances. Here’s a list of pitchers who pitched at least seven shutout innings (earned runs) with horrendous K:BB ratios:

Rk Player Date Opp IP H R ER BB SO K:BB
1 Flint Rhem 1926-09-06 (1) PIT 9 4 1 0 6 0 0.00
2 Red Munger 1944-05-14 (2) PHI 9 6 0 0 5 0 0.00
2 Red Ames 8/19/18 PHI 8 7 4 0 5 0 0.00
4 Rick Sutcliffe 5/31/94 LAD 7 2/3 7 0 0 4 0 0.00
4 Red Munger 8/25/49 NYG 9 4 2 0 4 0 0.00
4 Harry Brecheen 7/21/49 BSN 9 5 1 0 4 0 0.00
4 Ray Starr 9/15/32 BRO 9 2 0 0 4 0 0.00
4 Art Reinhart 1927-06-25 (1) CIN 9 4 1 0 4 0 0.00
4 Bill Sherdel 7/19/25 BRO 9 6 0 0 4 0 0.00
10 Vinegar Bend Mizell 1958-09-01 (1) CIN 9 4 0 0 9 1 0.11
11 Silvio Martinez 7/8/78 PIT 9 1 0 0 7 1 0.14
12 Bill Sherdel 5/18/23 BRO 9 5 1 0 6 1 0.17
13 Lary Sorensen 1981-09-16 (2) MON 7 4 1 0 5 1 0.20
13 Vinegar Bend Mizell 6/25/58 PIT 9 3 1 0 5 1 0.20
13 Al Brazle 1952-06-17 (2) PHI 7 3 0 0 5 1 0.20

Some pitchers, like Mizell, Bill Sherdel and Red Munger, made a career on somehow avoiding runs despite walking many more than they struck out. We’re sure that with practice, and a little support from his manager, Westbrook can do it, too.

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