Does anyone else have a random question just enter into their head that just can’t get out until it’s fully answered? To give an example, I had trouble sleeping last night, trying to figure out how Helen Keller learned to talk. It frustrated me so much that I caved and looked it up at like 12:30 AM. Turns out a teacher would physically move Helen’s lips and tongue to demonstrate how different sounds are made. That question has nothing to do with baseball, though. The following question, however, does.
How many teams have averaged exactly 9 innings pitched per game over a season? Not 8.999, not 9.001, exactly 9.
As you all know, it is possible for a team to pitch exactly 9 innings (this will occur in most of the team’s wins), fewer than 9 (either in a road loss or a rain-shortened game), or more than 9 (#freebaseball). All those possibilities combined over the course of an entire season will inevitably make any exact number of innings pitched per game quite a demanding task. But at some point, some teams had to have accomplished the miraculous feat of having their total innings pitched divided by the amount of games played to equal nine. I cannot emphasize enough how useless this information is, but you made it this far, so you might as well keep going.
Twenty-nine teams have done it. Awesome. When? Well, eight did it in the 1870s, the longest drought happened between 1890 and 1917, and the most recent team was the inaugural 2005 Nationals. The average winning percentage among the teams is 46.59%, which means I haven’t found the secret to winning in baseball. Here’s a table.
These are some funky names here, particularly at the bottom. I didn’t know another team called the Nationals existed. Neat. Some of those same teams don’t have a ton of games played. Who are the Marylands and why did they only play six games in a season? Well, not only did they play just six games that year, but that’s the total amount of games they played as a franchise. They went 0-6 and then folded.
On the flip side, the 1963 Yankees were quite good. They won the AL by 10.5 games and won 104 games total before getting swept in blowout fashion by Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers. They scored four runs over four games in that series and never led. But at least they have the consolation of averaging exactly 9 innings pitched per game. Step aside, Stan Musial, your retirement was not the most memorable part of this season.
The 1971 Cardinals went 90-72, finishing second to the world-champion Pirates. Joe Torre won the MVP that year. They all shared a name with the St. Louis Cardinals football team, which is something I presume people thought was a good idea. Most importantly, they averaged exactly 9 innings pitched per game. Bob Gibson celebrated this after the season by melting a car with his bare hands.
You know what? We’re meant to live while we’re alive; let’s look at a couple more benchmarks in this useless stat. You might be able to guess who averaged the least amount of innings pitched per game. It was the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, famous for going 20-134 over the whole season. Going 11-101 on the road means you’re not pitching many ninth innings. They averaged 8.21 IP/G.
To finish off, we’ll do the most. It was the 1969 Minnesota Twins. You wouldn’t have guessed that, unless you fondly remember the Billy Martin-coached team that went to the first-ever version of the two-round playoffs, only to get swept by the Orioles. Just at a glance, you wouldn’t expect it. They went below .500 on the road and played only 19 extra-inning games. But looking closely, you’ll find four games featuring 16 or more innings, including two 18ers. They ended up at 9.24 IP/G.
What does this mean? Nothing. I wanted to answer this dumb question and it really wouldn’t be socially acceptable to go through this analysis at a party. Actually, the first person to send me proof of this being mentioned at a party gets a prize. Good luck.