Harden’s Odd Feat

In his first start of the season on April 10, Rich Harden tossed six tremendous innings, issuing one free pass while racking up 10 punchouts at the expense of the Brewers. Yesterday, Harden performed less effectively against the Rockies in what amounted to a 5-2 loss. He only spent three innings on the mound due to an escalating pitch count that reached 92 thanks to four walks and four earned runs surrendered. Even so, Harden managed to rack up eight more strikeouts.

There are only nine outs to get in three innings of work meaning that Harden recorded strikeouts for all but one of the required outs. The other came on a hit by opposing pitcher Jason Marquis, when Chris Iannetta was thrown out while running to third base. Three innings… nine outs… eight strikeouts + one baserunning out. Combine these factors and it becomes clear that Harden did not retire anyone via a ball in play, which reeks of rarity.

I turned to my Retrosheet database to determine just how rare this event was, and not shockingly at all, it is incredibly rare. The number of similar games really depends on what constitutes a ball in play. If we look at groundouts, flyouts and lineouts only, there have been six games from 1954-2008 in which a pitcher logged at least three innings and recorded no BIP outs.

If we change the definition of balls in play to include foulouts as well as the aforementioned three, our sample of six games is halved to just three. Either replace foulouts with popouts or include both foulouts and popouts in conjunction with the groundouts, flyouts, and lineouts, and no games from 1954-2008 surface. That is, there has never been a game in this 50+ year span in which a pitcher tossed three or more innings and recorded no outs by any of these five forms of balls in play.

Rich Harden certainly didn’t record any lineouts, groundouts or flyouts yesterday but popouts and foulouts were also absent. Essentially, Harden’s game yesterday is the only such occurrence of the above feat since at least 1954, the start of my database.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

10 Responses to “Harden’s Odd Feat”

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  1. mattsd says:

    Harden’s game reminded me of one of the most bizarre game I can recall.

    Darren Dreifort’s second to last career start vs Colorado saw him strike out 7 batters in the first 2 innings, while the teams had something like 5 errors, 3 wild pitches, and a hit batsman in the first 2 frames.

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  2. Brian Cartwright says:

    I came close when I was 15…5.1 IP, 9 BB, 13 K, 3 HB, 5 WP

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  3. Nick says:

    Rich Harden…serial bullpen killer. Don’t you think his skillset reeks of 7th/8th/9th inning rally douser?…rather than bullpen taxing starter.

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  4. dan says:

    Well he’s not usually going to have 4 walks and 5 hits allowed, so his pitch count won’t get that high that quickly. His BABIP right now is .448, and his career BB/9 is 3.88, not 6.

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  5. Joel says:

    At first I saw the title, and I was wondering, what do hardens feet have to do with anything? I need sleep

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  6. Nate says:

    Rich Harden- Three True Outcomes pitcher

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  7. The Artful Dodger says:

    dan, Harden would be a great closer/set up guy but he takes about 17 hours to warm up. By the time he got ready as a closer the fans would be in the Cubby Bear sopping up the suds.

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  8. Rowen says:

    I was at that game, and I’d mentally noted after the 3rd inning that Harden had yet to record any batted-ball outs. However, I thought Harden’s string was broken when Marquis grounded out to lead off the 4th inning. You see, it was Jackie Robinson day, so all Cubs pitchers were wearing #42. Watching the game from the stands, I had no idea that Harden was pulled after the 3rd inning! I scored the game as if he pitched the first 5 innings (with 11 strikeouts) and was shocked to discover when reading the box score the next morning that somebody else had actually pitched the 4th & 5th for the Cubs.

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  9. Aron Kamalii says:

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