Batters Faced Over Time

A tweet from Jeff Sullivan this afternoon sparked my curiosity into batters faced totals and I headed to Baseball-Reference to dig around. I enjoy using batters faced rather than innings pitched for two main reasons. One, because I think it’s a better measure for durability. Number of pitches is actually even better, in my opinion. Secondly, I think it makes for a much better denominator in rate stats than the more standard per nine innings.

On the subject of the tweet itself, how many people know or remember that Tanyon Sturtze led the American League in batters faced in 2002? He also led the league in losses, hits allowed, earned runs allowed and walks. Not all sunshine for Tanyon down in Tampa that season.

Less surprising is that Livan Hernandez led the National League in batters faced multiple times. Three straight seasons, from 2003 through 2005, in fact. Livan faced 3,085 batters during those three years, logging 734.2 innings pitched. The next highest for that same time period was Greg Maddux at 2,709 batters faced (over 300 fewer than Livan) and 656 innings pitched (nearly 80 fewer). Maddux’s achievement was possibly more impressive given that he was between 37 and 39 years old at the time while Livan was in his late 20s/early 30s.

It pales a bit in comparison to Phil Niekro between 1977 and 1979, however, as Niekro’s 4,253 batters faced was 847 more than second place J.R. Richard. Some of the other names on the 2003-5 combined National League list are a hoot. Brian Lawrence, 5th most batters faced. 11th through 15th were Jason Schmidt, Dontrelle Willis, Woody Williams, Matt Morris and Russ Ortiz.

2005 marked the last year so far that a pitcher has repeated an appearance atop the batters faced leader board, and it happened in both leagues as Mark Buehrle in the AL joined Livan Hernandez. Since then it’s been Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander in the American League and Aaron Harang, Brandon Webb, Johan Santana (he never led while with Minnesota, weird) and Adam Wainwright in the National League. So who takes over in 2010?

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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The twins seemed to protect Santana when he was there. Radke was the #1 starter through 2006, and 2007 the twins were out of the race so there was no reason to push him.