SweetSpot: Sterling Hitchcock

The 350-plus Baserunners Club

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
5:44
PM ET
Numbers and statistics are one of my favorite things about baseball. As I often do, I was browsing through Baseball-Reference the other day before stumbling upon Brian Bohanon’s 1999 season for the Colorado Rockies. Bohanon’s season wasn’t particularly good; the left-hander threw 197.1 innings as the Rockies’ No. 2 starter with an uninspiring 6.20 ERA. What makes Bohanon’s year interesting was the huge number of baserunners he allowed: 351 in total.

[+] EnlargeBrian Bohanon
Tom Mihalek/AFP/Getty ImagesFormer Colorado left-hander Brian Bohanon was no stranger to pitching with runners on base.
Because baserunners (H + BB + HBP) can be influenced by the total number of innings pitched (i.e., the more innings pitched, the more hits a pitcher will give up), I wanted to look at pitchers who tossed 200 innings or less. This should help us to find pitchers that gave up a lot of baserunners, but weren't padded by huge innings totals.

In honor of Bohanon, I set my cut-off point at 350runners allowed and ran the search from 1950 to 2010.

And here’s what I discovered:

1999 Colorado Rockies, Darryl Kile, 190.2 IP, 350 BR

Little did I know that this post was going to turn into a study of the 1999 Rockies. It makes senses that late-‘90s Coors Field would give way to huge baserunner totals. In the mid to late-‘90s, Coors Field was the definition of a hitters’ park. In ’99, Kile finished with an ERA of 6.61 while leading the NL in earned runs with 140.

Maybe more damaging to Kile’s ERA was Colorado’s defense. By Total Zone -- a defensive metric that rates on runs above or below average -- the Rockies, as a team, were rated at a National League worst 87 runs below average. The worst offender of the bunch was left fielder Dante Bichette, who gave nearly 3 wins back (minus-34 runs) just by playing defense.

1999 Colorado Rockies, Brian Bohanon, 197.1 IP, 351 BR

Bohanon falls into the same traps as Kile. Bohanon pitched in an extremely hitter-friendly environment with defenders like Bichette (minus-34 runs) and Darryl Hamilton (minus-11 runs). Bohanon would return to pitch two more years in Colorado before retiring after the 2001 season.

1953 Johnny Lindell, Pittsburgh Pirates/Philadelphia Phillies, 199 IP, 351 BR

Lindell is an interesting story. Originally a pitcher, Lindell was converted to an outfielder by the Yankees in 1943. In his first year as a position player in the majors, Lindell batted .245/.329/.365 (101 OPS+) while making his first and only All-Star team. Lindell would play for the Yankees until 1950 before being purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals. He struggled to hit for the Cardinals, batting just .186/.287/.398, and eventually ended up in the Pacific Coast League. Lindell would resurface in the majors in 1953, but this time as a pitcher. A knuckleballer, Lindell obviously had problems controlling his knuckler in ’53; he led the league in walks with 139. It’s not often you see a pitcher converted to a position player, and then back to a pitcher.

Just missing the cut: Jimmy Hayes (2000, 346 BR), Mike Hampton (2002, 342 BR), Bobby Witt (1996, 338 BR), Pat Rapp (1998, 334 BR), and Sterling Hitchcock (1996, 334 BR).

Chris Quick writes Bay City Ball, a blog about the San Francisco Giants

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