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Three Strikes: History in the unmaking edition

10/1/2009

When history is made in baseball, half the planet is there to chronicle it. But when history is unmade, well, apparently that's Three Strikes' niche. So on with this blog ...

STRIKE ONE -- TAKE THE OVER DEPT.

Little did Pedro Martinez know that when he took the mound in Philadelphia on Wednesday, there was much, much more than the Phillies' NL East clincher riding on it.

Pedro Martinez

Martinez

The fate of all starting pitchers in the '00s was riding on it.

Huh? How's that? Well, as loyal reader Eric Orns reported to us recently, there had been only one "decade" since 1900 -- the 1920s -- that didn't produce at least one starting pitcher who had an ERA under 3.00. But as Pedro headed for the mound Wednesday, he was the only remaining starter in the '00s who still had a shot.

In fact, he began the night with an ERA of exactly 3.00 for the "decade." So the pressure was on. Here was his assignment:

He had to pitch at least three shutout innings and bolt for the showers ASAP. Or give up one earned run in six innings or more. Or allow two earned runs and make it through eight innings.

Now that wasn't too tough a task, in a late-September start against the Astros. Was it?

OK, turned out it was -- for a guy who hadn't thrown a pitch in 11 days.

Pedro walked in a run in the first inning, then served up two (count 'em, two) home runs to a guy who had hit zero in the big leagues this year (J.R. Towles), and then was through for the evening after four innings. He gave up three runs (all earned) for the night.

So he'll finish the '00s -- barring a surprise long-relief barrage of zeroes this weekend -- with an ERA of (gulp) 3.01. And since the three pitchers with the next-best ERAs in this "decade" -- Johan Santana (3.12), Roy Oswalt (3.23) and Brandon Webb (3.27) -- are all currently extremely unavailable to throw about 40 shutout innings in the next four days, that seals the sad fate of the '00s.

Here, courtesy of Eric Orns, are how many pitchers have had ERAs below 3.00 in each "decade" since 1900 (minimum: 1,000 innings). And once again, we're putting "decade" in quotes to hold off the technicality lovers out there who can't wait to point out that, officially, this decade runs from 2001-10:

1900s: 50

1910s: 62

1920s: 0

1930s: 3 (Carl Hubbell, Lefty Grove, Dizzy Dean)

1940s: 10

1950s: 3 (Whitey Ford, Hoyt Wilhelm, Warren Spahn)

1960s: 18

1970s: 9

1980s: 2 (Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser)

1990s: 3 (Greg Maddux, Jose Rijo, Martinez)

2000s: 0

STRIKE TWO -- ALL SWEPT UP DEPT.

It's hard to have faith in the Dodgers in this postseason after the way they screwed up one of the great feats of the year this week.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Until they rolled into San Diego on Tuesday, they'd played 50 series this season. And they'd made it through the whole stinking season without getting swept in any of them.

So just the other day, naturally, Three Strikes asked the Elias Sports Bureau to check on how many teams in the division-play era have gone sweepless through an entire season. Good move, huh? You can all feel free to sing to us, in unison: "Jinx!"

Yep, before we could even unveil that list, the Dodgers went and get swept in a two-game visit to San Diego. But the good news is, at least we know that now leaves just five teams in these last 41 seasons that have avoided getting swept through the whole six-month marathon. These Dodgers could have joined the...

2004 Braves

2002 Braves

1998 Padres

1993 Phillies

1992 Blue Jays

But they didn't. And friends, unmade history doesn't get much more powerful than that.

STRIKE THREE -- NOT DUNN YET

One of Three Strikes' favorite human stat lines, Adam Dunn, has hit 38 home runs this year.

Adam Dunn

Dunn

And as all loyal Adam Dunn aficionados know, the reason we're interested in that has nothing to do with the fact that Dunn leads the Nationals, or that he's sixth in the National League, or that he's managed to hit half of those homers in spacious Nationals Park.

Heck, no. The big news here is that, with four games to go, Dunn still needs two more home runs this year to finish with 40 for the season ...

For the fifth straight year.

Want to know how hard it is to hit the exact same number of homers in five straight seasons? Here's how hard, according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home-run historian David Vincent:

• No one else in history has ever had more than three straight seasons of hitting any number of home runs from 30 on up. So Dunn already has sealed that record. Dale Murphy (36 HRs from 1982-84) and Mike Schmidt (38 HRs from 1975-77) are the current runners-up.

• And even if we lower the bar all the way to one homer per season, the only numbers that have ever been reached five years in a row are one, two and four. Here are the longest streaks at each of those digits:

4 HRs: Slammin' Sam Wise, five straight years (1882-86)

2 HRs: Al Evans, six straight years (1945-50)

1 HR: Al Orth, seven straight years (1895-1901)

So if our man Adam Dunn makes just two more trots this weekend in Atlanta, he can remain alive in the dramatic Pursuit of Al Orth -- a chase that would make hearts pound all over America. Uhhhh, or all over the Adam Dunn Fan Club portion of America, anyway.