Ziegler's scoreless streak ends at 39 innings ... or so
by Bob Timmermann
Oakland pitcher Brad Ziegler gave up the first run of his career in the ninth inning of today's game at Oakland between the Rays and A's. (You don't have to call them Ray A!)
That ended Ziegler's streak at 39 innings. Or perhaps 39 1/3 innings. It depends who you ask, but according to the practice of the Elias Sports Bureau, a pitcher doesn't get credit for a partial scoreless inning unless he only appeared in a fractional part of an inning, i.e. coming in or departing with one or two outs.
The ruling by Elias' Dark Lord of All Statistics, Seymour Siwoff, came up in 1988 when Orel Hershiser broke Don Drysdale's scoreless inning streak of 58 innings.
Here is how Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times reported the situation back on September 27, 1988. My source for the story did not include the fractions because the database didn't seem to like them, so I included them in brackets.
Hershiser, by pitching a sixth straight shutout in his next scheduled start Wednesday night in San Diego, can equal Drysdale's record of 58 innings.
Many, however, including the Dodgers and Drysdale himself, thought the record was 58 [2/3] innings.
The Sporting News' record book listed it that way until 1981. The Dodger media guide still lists it that way. Pick up any two record books and you may find different interpretationsw.
Seymour Siwoff, the respected head of the Elias News Bureau, official statistician for the American and National leagues, informed the Dodgers before Hershiser's last start in San Francisco that the record should be 58, period.
That's the way it has been listed in the Elias' record book-generally considered the most authoritative in a sport that has no official book-since Drysdale set the record in 1968.
"We didn't just do this. It's been there for 20 years. Where have these people been?" Siwoff said of critics of last week's interpretation.
Siwoff said he did not act arbitrarily in 1968, nor has he now. He said that his initial interpretation was based on a decision by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, unofficial guardians of baseball's performance records, at the 1968 World Series.
The writers decided that in terms of a scoreless or hitless streak a starting pitcher should not be credited with a partial inning if the opposition scores in that inning.
The writers have long served as an ad hoc adjunct to baseball's scoring and rules committee, which, on Siwoff's urging, formally endorsed the original interpretation in 1980, the year that the Sporting News' record book dropped the fraction from 58.
Ironically, Walter Johnson's American League record, long listed at 56 consecutive scoreless innings, is now 55 [2/3] innings in the Sporting News and Elias books. Siwoff said that recent research showed Johnson made two relief appearances in scoreless innings and that there is no way to reflect that except by the fraction.
If Drysdale had been lifted for a relief pitcher after the first out of the fifth inning of his start June 8, 1968, against the Philadelphia Phillies, and that inning had remained scoreless, he, too, would have been credited with the fraction. Drysdale finished the inning, his streak ending when Howie Bedell hit a sacrifice fly to score Tony Taylor. Bedell's fly was the second out. Thus, Drysdale never really pitched 58 [2/3] scoreless innings in the first place. He pitched 58.