MLB Notebook: Hurlers turn in unforgettable month
When slicing the 2013 campaign neatly into monthly segments, there were 20 pitchers to produce a single month that saw a line include at least five starts, an ERA below 2.00, a WHIP below 1.00 and a winning percentage of at least .800. The Mets' Matt Harvey, the Giants' Madison Bumgarner and the Rays' Matt Moore got things rolling with April lines that accommodated all of these numerical guidelines, and then the month of May saw another three do it. For the most part, three seemed to be the magic number for this achievement, as June and August each contributed a trio, while September just missed out, providing two hurlers that fit this statistical bill. And then there was July 2013, when six pitchers -- southpaws Clayton Kershaw and David Price and right-handers Jered Weaver, Chris Archer, Hiroki Kuroda and Felix Hernandez -- made that particular month unforgettable.
|David Price||6||1.68||0.703||0.833||35:1||48 1/3|
Combined, this group of six in July went 23-3 (.885 winning percentage) in 33 starts, with a 0.781 WHIP, a 1.18 ERA and a 6.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 243 1/3 innings. From one perspective, they were -- collectively -- pitching like Bob Gibson in 1968 (1.12 ERA), Walter Johnson in 1913, (0.780 WHIP) and Ferguson Jenkins in 1971 (7.28 strikeouts per nine innings with a 7.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio), while enjoying Lefty Grove's success in 1931 (.886 winning percentage). The appreciation for these standout pitchers from July 2013 certainly doesn't need such contrivance (even if those associated names are wondrous), as picking out certain elements from each individual line is enough of an action to inspire its own collection of warm effusions.
For instance, Kuroda simply submerged to a level never before seen in a Yankees starting pitcher in any month since they had a first baseman named Wally Pipp leading the league in home runs -- as the righty produced the lowest single-month ERA (minimum of five starts) for the club since 1916. Similarly, Hernandez's July numbers saw him compile the 10th lowest single-month ERA in Mariners history, tie for the eighth best strikeout-to-walk ratio, and produce an ERA/WHIP combination that had been seen in any month in Mariners history only five times before. Weaver also assembled the 10th lowest single-month ERA in his franchise's history (minimum six games started), and only three other Angels pitchers had engineered a month with Weaver's ERA/strikeout-to-walk ratio combo. And then there was the trio of Kershaw, Price and Archer, who -- by going beyond their franchise's marks and competing against all of baseball -- deserve their own couple of paragraphs.
Archer was 24 years and 281 days old on July 4, 2013, when he made his first appearance of the month: a six-inning stint that yielded five baserunners and two earned runs. It would prove to be among the lesser lines Archer produced for the month, as he filled out a resume for July that saw him drop the 14th lowest ERA in any month since 1916 for a pitcher in his age-24 or younger season with at least five starts. And then there was his microscopic 0.649 WHIP, which -- for that same set of variables -- was bettered by only two pitchers: Odalis Perez in April 2002, and Mark Prior in August of 2003. And as the table showed, it wasn't even the best WHIP by a starting pitcher in this historic July, as Kershaw produced a 0.596. Among all pitchers since 1916 with at least six starts in these monthly splits, Kershaw's mark has only two rivals: a 0.534 by Jesse Barnes in July '19, and the 0.552 by Ferdie Schupp in September/October '16. Kershaw's extraordinary stinginess was assisted by an historic strikeout-to-walk ratio that has been exceeded in a single month (or a March/April or September/October) by only 10 pitchers with at least six starts since '16, with Price's hard-to-imagine-let-alone-believe 35:1 mark in July 2013 standing as the very best.
In July 2013, Price was about as superb as a pitcher can be over any specific calendar designation -- a statement supported by that balance of strikeouts to walks and further buoyed by his phenomenal ERA and WHIP. Three other pitchers with at least six starts have assembled an ERA and a WHIP as low while having at least 10 strikeouts for every one walk: Mort Cooper in September 1942, Mike Mussina in September/October 2001 and Kershaw -- also in July '13. That's right: Two of the most magnificent ERA/WHIP/strikeout-to-walk ratio months in the past 98 seasons came about in July. Even so, Price was not able to claim the honor as Pitcher of the Month Award (a bit of prestige that was accorded his fellow dominant southpaw in the NL, Kershaw) in the AL, as that designation went to his teammate, Archer. In trumpeting Archer's credentials, the news release noted that the right-hander's 0.73 ERA was the lowest ever by a rookie in July, while also acknowledging that hurlers such as Price, Kuroda and Weaver also received votes. It was that kind of month.
With their work, these six put a "July 2013" pin on a map with few other markers. From April 1968 through September '13, only seven other monthly splits featured at least six pitchers with those original qualifications: five or more starts with an ERA below 2.00, WHIP below 1.00 and a winning percentage of at least .800. There were a pair of Mays in there (in 1968 and 2007), while one June (in 2011), one August (in 2001) and two September/Octobers (in 1995 and 2010) also made the cut, along with one other July (just to make for a nice circle of appreciation): a July featuring some of the stars of an insane pitching season.
Summer heat, take two
|Denny McLain||8||1.93||0.888||.875||59:17||65 1/3|
|Luis Tiant||6||1.71||0.782||.833||53:7||47 1/3|
In July 1968, Denny McLain (on his way to 31 wins) did this, as did Gibson (as part of his 1.12 ERA season) and Luis Tiant (helping with his final season 1.60 ERA). Along with Gibson, two other future Hall of Famers -- Juan Marichal and Jenkins -- made the list for this month in that year, and Gibson's teammate Ray Washburn rounded out the sextet.
The numbers speak for themselves, offering a nice juxtaposition to the most recently concluded July. Quite simply -- collectively and individually -- these numbers and performances offer a multitude of interesting connections: some fanciful, some perhaps meaningful, some hopefully intriguing. In any case, it is a month of lines that simply don't often emerge in such volume.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.