For any fan who has gone to a baseball game there is nothing worse than a pitcher that can’t throw strikes. The amount of time it takes to play a major league game is getting longer and it is partly because pitchers struggle. When they get really wild there have been many pitching coaches out there that have said their pitcher can’t hit the broadside of a barn. At that point it is time to go out for a visit and settle them down.
Tommy Byrne of the St. Louis Browns owns the modern record for walks in a game by issuing 16 of them in 1951, albeit in 13 innings. Three other pitchers, Bruno Haas of the 1915 Philadelphia A’s, Bill George of the 1887 New York Giants, and George Van Haltren of the 1887 Chicago Cubs also issued 16 walks in a game. Nolan Ryan may be baseball’s strikeout king but he also issued more free passes than anyone else, 2,795 of them to be exact. Guess you could say he was effectively wild. There are extreme examples of pitchers who just completely lose control like Rick Ankiel and when that happens their career as they know it is over. There is even a name for this, Steve Blass Disease, named for the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher and 1971 World Series hero who suddenly lost control in the 1973 season and never got it back. For a pitcher control is key.
Hitters are not immune to this either. Strikeouts are up in today’s game as hitters try to hit the ball as hard as they can so it can go as far as it can. Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles struck out 219 times last season and 134 others struck out 100 times or more during the past season. At times, when the pitcher has them fooled it has been uttered that they can’t hit the broadside of a barn. Every hitter goes through struggles as well and at that point they can’t hit the broadside of a barn. Guess there are so many holes in their swing you could get anything through. Do you keep playing them or do you sit them on the bench?
In 1909 Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Bill Bergen went to the plate 45 times straight without getting a hit, a major league record for non-pitchers and since tied by San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals infielder (and future ESPN analyst) Dave Campbell as well as Milwaukee Brewers infielder (and current manager) Craig Counsell. Their record was broken in 2011 by Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Eugenio Velez who had 37 at bats without a hit adding to his 9 hitless at bats with the San Francisco Giants from the 2010 season and thus breaking a record that no one wants to break. This ignominious record is still active as he has not returned to the majors since and no other player has come close in recent seasons.
For the record current Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester is the true owner of this record not recording his first hit until his 67th at bat with a single off the foot of then-St. Louis Cardinals (and current teammate) pitcher John Lackey in 2015. Lester spent the first 34 of those at bats with the Boston Red Sox who play in the American League and use a designated hitter for all games except when they play in a National League park so his lack of hitting ability is to be expected. Lester since has recorded nine more hits.