As of the start of play on May 10, 2017, five Major League relievers (with enough innings to qualify, of course) still have a 0.00 ERA to start their season.
Here is the list (stats via FanGraphs) with the number of innings pitched thereafter:
- Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians: 16.2 IP
- Anthony Swarzak, Chicago White Sox: 14.2 IP
- Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs: 14.1 IP
- Pat Neshek, Philadelphia Phillies: 12.0 IP
- Nick Goody, Cleveland Indians: 10.1 IP
When I noticed that these five pitchers were keeping this streak alive, I reached out to Baseball Reference on Twitter, to find out the current streak/record:
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) May 10, 2017
Let’s dig into this a bit.
So looking at the actual list here, you’ll see that in 2008, Brad Ziegler started his season (and career!) with 38 consecutive innings pitched without allowing an earned run. Holy crap. Now, that streak actually started on May 31, because he did not break camp with the Major League team, but it is the record for a reliever’s start to a season and the high watermark for those five pitchers above.
Here’s the rest of the top five* (via Baseball Reference):
- Brad Ziegler (2008), Oakland Athletics: 38.0 IP
- Les Lancaster (1989), Chicago Cubs: 30.2 IP
- Lee Guetterman (1989), New York Yankees: 29.2 IP
- Dellin Betances (2015), New York Yankees: 29.1 IP
- Aroldis Chapman (2012), Cincinnati Reds: 29.0 IP
Both Lancaster and Guetterman started their streaks in the same season, before finishing just an one inning (and one line in the record books) apart. Similarly, Betances and Chapman, now teammates in the Bronx, are separated by just one out, and managed to crack the top five in the last five years. This will never be an easy record to break into, but clearly it has happened in recent years.
So … do our guys have a chance?
To crack the top five, then, Miller will have to toss another 12.1 innings of scoreless relief – of course, that’s not impossible, but it will be ridiculously difficult. And, in case you were wondering, his active 16.2 IP is tied for 47th in MLB history right now.
Here are the rest of the active leader, with their respective rankings:
- Andrew Miller: T-47th
- Anthony Swarzak: T-61st
- Wade Davis: T-65th
- Pat Neshek: T-86th
- Nick Goody: T-94th
All five pitchers have cracked the Top 100 (according to Baseball Reference), although just Miller has found his way into the top 50. As you can imagine, the margins start narrowing quickly after that – Miller, for example, needs just 4.0 more innings without an earned run to break into the Top 25 of all time.
It’s also worth pointing out that Davis’ 22.0 scoreless innings to start the 2015 season is already 14th of all time. But, as a Cubs fan, I wouldn’t mind if he broke his own record with the Cubs here in 2017.
So, our five relievers in 2017 aren’t dangerously close to breaking the record – by any means – but they are having very notable and highly ranked starts to their season – and all of them are doing it at once. Very, very cool.
* I would like to note, as Baseball Reference did in their tweet, that streaks like these are not always easy to query. This is the best our data could provide. So if you see a mistake, feel free to drop a line in the comments and we’ll correct the stats above.