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Cliff Lee has posted the lowest walk rate in 77 years

Oct 1, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

Cliff Lee won’t be pitching on short rest this postseason. He also, if regular season form holds up, won’t be issuing many walks.

From the Elias Stats bureau, via Buster Olney, is this fairly astounding factoid: Lee walked only 18 batters in 212 innings this year. That translates to a walk rate of 0.76 per nine innings. That’s the lowest walk rate for any
pitcher with 200 or more innings since 1933, when Cincinnati’s Red Lucas walked 18 guys in 219 innings.

Given how different the game is now — guys take a ton more walks these days — Lee’s mark is more impressive in my mind.  Not that saying so sullies the memory of Red Lucas, because really, how can any of us think about Red Lucas in a way other than that which the media and historians have been pounding him into our consciousness for the past several decades?

  1. HomeHalfwayDotNet - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Hah, and I remember picking him up as a free agent in fantasy baseball when he went 22-3, the year after he spent so much time in the minors for the Indians.

  2. John_Michael - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    You got me all sorts of curious.
    First, BB-Ref says Red Lucas’s nick name was ‘The Nashville Narcissus.’ That’s just fantastic by itself.
    He went 10-16 in 1933. He finished 21st in the MVP that year (which was won by Carl Hubbel, who tossed 308.2 innings, with a WHIP under 1.00).
    The most intersting thing about the MVP finalists though, are their first names. A quick scan reveals Pepper, Gus, Dizzy, Pie, Blondy, Rabbit, Spud and Dolf. If players today had names like those, there’d be no need to do the first-letter-of-first-name-first-syllable-of-last-name thing.

  3. John_Michael - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Ok, so Rabbit and Spud are nicknames. Haven’t checked the others yet. Either way, they beat just about anything we’re using today.

  4. BC - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Curt Schilling had a couple years where he gave up a ridiculously low number of walks. 2002 was insane: 33 walks, 316 K’s in 259 innings, with a sub-1.0 WHIP.

  5. Greg - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    “guys take a ton more walks these days”
    That is a fairly drastic exaggeration. In 1933 in the Major Leagues there were 7344 BBs taken over 94615 PAs for a 7.76% BB rate. In 2010 that rate was 8.50%.
    An 8.7% increase in walk-rate is hardly “a ton.”
    The idea walk rates have increased is, I feel, a side-effect of an increased focus on the walk. We tend to notice more what we are looking for.
    Also, comparing BB/9 is misleading (3.0 in 1933 vs 3.3 in 2010) because more walks will increase the number of plate appearances per inning and lead to even more walks per inning. Thus BB/9 will increase at an exponential rate given a linear increase of BB/PA. This effect is shown in the 10% increase in BB/9 between 1933 and 2010 vs. that 8.7% increase in BB/PA.

  6. kevinapps - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    It’s a shame there’s the 200 IP cutoff.
    Carlos Silva’s 9 BB in 188.1 IP in 2005 is ridiculous.

  7. Greg - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    To apply those numbers to this case, Lucas’s numbers normalized to 2010 standards would yield 19.5 instead of 18 walks over his 219 innings. That puts Lee in front of Lucas, but only slightly.

  8. Trevor B - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    Is that serious?!

  9. Jonny5 - Oct 1, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    18 walks in a season is just totally insane!!! Maybe he should throw more balls? just saying… Throwing it in the strike zone all the time can lead you to think there are more hittable balls, which leads to more hits, Which leads me to think this is why his ERA is higher than it has been in a while.

  10. kevinapps - Oct 1, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Yes. His walk rate was something like 0.4 / 9 IP.

  11. BC - Oct 1, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    I remember one year that Dennis Eckersley had more saves than hits allowed and walks allowed combned. He walked literally something like 3 guys that year.

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