Single-Pitch Outings: 2014 Year in Review

In 2014, relievers appeared in 14,459 games. In more than 90% of those games, the reliever faced multiple hitters, but in 1,266 appearances, the reliever pitched to just one batter. In just about ten percent of those appearances, the reliever made just one pitch. This post looks back at the 139 reliever appearances that lasted just one pitch, according to Baseball-Reference Play-Index Data.

The one-pitch pitchers skewed left with 81 appearances compared to 58 for right-handers. The pitchers were incredibly successful, allowing only 15 hits, and only four extra base hits. One of those hits was a home run. Josh Outman of the Cleveland Indians made just one pitch on May 31, 2014 against the Colorado Rockies. It did not go well.

Twenty-six pitchers made more than one single-pitch appearance, but the most appearances, the most valuable one-pitch pitcher (MVOPP) goes to Marc Rzepczynski. The man known as Scrabble made five single-pitch outings in 2014.

Date Team Opponent Inning Runners On Result
5/4/2014 CLE CHW 9 0 Out
5/5/2014 CLE MIN 10 2 Out
8/27/2014 CLE CHW 7 2 Out
8/29/2014 CLE KCR 7 2 Out
9/12/2014 CLE DET 8 1 Single

Greg Holland and Casey Janssen were the only pitchers who managed a save while only throwing one pitch. On the other end of the spectrum, C.C. Lee, Brian Duensing, and the previously mentioned Josh Outman outings were the only single-pitch events where the pitcher blew the save. No pitch resulted in a loss on the box score, but there were six pitchers who actually earned a win by making just a single pitch.

Player Date Tm Opp App,Dec Pit
Zach Duke 9/20/2014 MIL PIT 8-8, W 1
Matt Belisle 8/10/2014 COL ARI 9-9, W 1
Ryan Pressly 8/2/2014 MIN CHW 7-7, W 1
Darin Downs 7/22/2014 HOU OAK 11-11, W 1
Randy Choate 6/14/2014 STL WSN 7-7, W 1
Daniel Webb 4/15/2014 CHW BOS 9-9f, W 1

I’d be remiss if I did not mention Joe Beimel’s outing on April 1, 2014 for the Seattle Mariners against the Los Angeles Angels. He did not qualify for the above criteria because he did not make a pitch. He did get an out, though.

While not quite as efficient as Beimel, Nick Hagadone had a similar outing for Cleveland on September 23, 2014 against the Kansas City Royals. He came in, picked off Lorenzo Cain to end the inning without making a single pitch, but then came out for the next inning and Eric Hosmer hit a single the first pitch he saw. Nick Hagadone got one out and made one pitch, but the out was not on the pitch.

Out of the 139 pitches thrown in single-pitch outings, just four of the pitches were not strikes. Here are three:

Pedro Figueroa of the Texas Rangers against Josh Reddick of the Oakland Athletics on April 22, 2014

Joe Thatcher of the Los Angeles Angels against Chris Davis of Baltimore Orioles on July 21, 2014

Kyle Crockett of the Cleveland Indians against Mike Moustakos of the Kansas City Royals on August 29, 2014

There were three walkoffs:

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec Batter Play Description
Jeff Beliveau 8/23/2014 TBR TOR L 4-5 10-10f Jose Reyes Single to LF (Line Drive to Short LF); Rasmus Scores
Koji Uehara 6/21/2014 BOS OAK L 1-2 10-10f Coco Crisp Single to RF (Line Drive); Callaspo Scores
Fernando Salas 4/23/2014 LAA WSN L 4-5 9-9f Adam LaRoche Single to LF (Line Drive to LF-CF); Werth Scores

Fourteen pitchers managed to make just one pitch and received two outs. Thirteen of the plays came on ground ball double-plays. On the other, Alex Torres of the San Diego Padres induced a sacrifice fly on July 11, 2014 against Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers, allowing Dee Gordon to score. Then this happened:

Of the remaining thirteen double plays, the highest by WPA was Scott Rice’s of the New York Mets on April 20, 2014 against the Atlanta Braves when he induced a ground ball off of Freddie Freeman with one out and runners on first and third of a 3-3 game. However, the most important single-pitch outing of the season was turned in by Eric Surkamp of the Chicago White Sox against the Royals on September 27, 2014.

As the White Sox were celebrating the end of Paul Konerko’s career and unveiling a statue in his honor, the Royals stood just one game back of the Detroit Tigers for the division title with two games to go. A tie with Detroit would have meant a tie-breaking 163rd game. In the bottom of the top of the seventh, the Royals trailed 5-3, but put their first two runners on base. Surkamp entered the game.

The Win Expectancy chart looked like this:
KCR VCHW 72914

The game went from likely White Sox win to almost sure thing. The Royals did not play in a tie-breaking game with Detroit. Instead they played in the wild card game on their way to the World Series.

While the Surkamp double play was likely the most important single-pitch outing of 2014, it was not, in this author’s subjective opinion, the best. That title goes to Alex Torres, who made one pitch on August 3, 2014 against Jason Heyward of the Braves. Earlier, four pitches were noted as non-strikes. Three of those pitches are shown above. Here is the fourth, the best single-pitch outing of 2014:

A pat on the back to the 99 pitchers who unknowingly put themselves in the running, and congratulations to Alex Torres for doing the least of all pitchers to get an out and earning the best single-pitch outing of the year.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Well-Beered Englishman
9 years ago

I love the game attempts of the catchers to catch the HBPs, especially the Angels’ catcher, leaping up and trying to catch the ball before it can hit Chris Davis.