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A day of pitching (almost) perfection

5/11/2013

Friday marked a historic day in the sport, as the Elias Sports Bureau noted it to be the first in baseball’s modern era (which began in 1900) in which two different pitchers-- Shelby Miller and Jon Lester-- each pitched a one-hit shutout with no walks.

What made each performance so special? Let’s run through the statistical highlights.

Shelby Miller’s dominance

Elias came through with some amazing notes on this one, most notably that Miller is only the second modern-era pitcher (ie: since 1900) age 22 or younger to throw a one-hit shutout with at least 13 strikeouts and no walks.

Also of significance:

Miller became the first Cardinals pitcher in the modern era to throw a shutout with one hit or fewer allowed, no walks, and at least 13 strikeouts. That’s something never done by the likes of Hall of Famers Dizzy Dean or Bob Gibson.

Miller is only the second pitcher in the last 31 seasons to allow the first batter to reach base, then retire every hitter after that for a nine-inning complete-game win, joining John Lackey (2006 Angels against the Oakland Athletics).

9+ IP, 1 H or Fewer, 12+ K, 0 BB
Last 2 seasons

Miller finished with a Bill James Game Score (a metric that rates starts on a scale usually of 0 to 100) of 98, the highest for any start this season, topping the 97 by Mets rookie Matt Harvey earlier this week.

Harvey and Miller are the fourth and fifth pitchers to have a nine-inning, one-hit (or fewer), 12-strikeout, no-walk outing in the last two seasons.

There had only been 10 such outings from 1920 to 2011, with none coming in the seven-year period from 2005 to 2011.

What made Miller so good? His key was how he pounded the strike zone.

Miller threw 61 percent of his pitches inside the strike zone. He got called strikes on 51 percent of taken pitches, with eight of his strikeouts being looking. That tied Kris Medlen for the most in any start in the last two seasons.

Jon Lester makes it look easy

Lester’s one-hitter marked his first shutout since 2008 (a year in which he threw two, with one being a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals).

Lester is one of five Red Sox pitchers in the Live Ball Era to throw a one-hit shutout with no walks. The rest of that quintet is Pedro Martinez (2000), Hideo Nomo (2001), Curt Schilling (2007), and Josh Beckett (2011).

Elias’ spotlight stat on this start dealt with the rarity of a Red Sox lefty to throw a one-hit, walk-free shutout. The only other one to do so was Ray Collins against the Chicago White Sox in 1910.

Lester was not as dominant as Miller. He finished with only five strikeouts. The Red Sox infield defense was helpful to this win, with Lester netting a season-high 12 ground-ball outs.

Getting ahead in the count helped too. Lester, like Miller, threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 hitters he faced.

It turned out not to be their only common bond this evening.