The Stranded Ones

Lost in the Kansas City Royals’ Yuniesky Betancourt-fueled 5-3 extra-innings win over the Cardinals yesterday was that Alex Gordon tied his franchise record with five walks in a single game. Yeah, I’m as furious as the rest of you that this was overlooked. But hey, at least this time he at least scored a run. When Gordon originally set the record (as I am sure you all remember) back on July 30, 2008 against Oakland, he did not score once. (I remember that game well, as not long before that I had an argument with someone who said that Jose Guillen was the Royals’ only “feared” hitter, unlike that loser Gordon. Guillen hit right behind Gordon in this game. FEAR.)

It was an amazing feat, in a way, but not nearly the most times on base without scoring. In fact, since 1918, there have been 73 players who have gotten on base six or more times without scoring in regular season games. What follows is a look at the most extreme cases.

While FanGraphs does have a handy play-by-play database going back to 1974, some of the cases of being stranded happened before that, so I have utilized Baseball Reference’s Play Index and game summaries for those. Also, I have used the “official” definition of times on base: hits + walks + hit by pitch (where available). Yes, I think that reached on error should be treated differently, but it has not been in baseball’s record keeping, and I wanted to be consistent.

Since 1918, there have been seven cases of players reaching base seven or more times in one game without scoring. Six of them involve getting on base seven times. Here they are:

Paul Waner, September 22, 1931. The notoriously hard-drinking “Big Poison” was in the midst of his Hall-of-Fame prime in 1931, so some of his five recorded walks might have have been intentional. However, intentional walks were not recorded distinctly at this time. The Pirates still managed to beat the Phillies 3-2 despite their inability to drive Waner in.

Ron Northey, September 24, 1944. Northey quite probably had the least impressive career of any player on this list. Sure, he had four singles, and the 1944 Phillies were pretty terrible, but it is still kind of hard to believe the Cardinals walked him three times. The Cards won, anyway, 4-3.

Reggie Smith, September 13, 1974. Smith arguably had a Hall of Fame-quality career, and it is really hard to believe that a player of his skill moved around so much in his prime (which might have cost him). He had a 150 wRC+ for the Red Sox in 1973, so naturally they traded him to St. Louis, where he regressed all the way to a 151 wRC+. Well done. This game went 17 innings, so Smith came to the plate nine times, collecting one hit, five walks, and a hit by pitch. Despite getting stranded all seven times, the Cardinals managed to beat the Phillies 7-3.

George Brett, June 6, 1991. Alex Gordon may hold the record for most walks in a game, but he’ll never be the next George Brett, so BUST. The Royals won this 18-inning affair against the Rangers, but Brett not only did not score any of team’s four runs, but he did not drive in any of them, either.

Eric Young, June 30, 2000. He was more of a “Northey” than a “Brett,” but Eric Young did have a some good seasons as a lead-off hitter. This game was deadlocked at four at the end of nine, and the Cubs won it by scoring three in the top of the 15th. However, despite a hit, five walks (only one intentional), and a hit by pitch, Young scored none of them.

Prince Fielder, April 10, 2007. Prince had a nice season in 2006, but 2007 was his first “monster” year, as he finished with a 152 wRC+ and 50 home runs. The Brewers one this one in 13, but Fielder was stranded despite getting on base all seven times he came to the plate.

Those are each interesting, but one player got on base eight times in one game without scoring:

Rod Carew, May 12, 1972. Maybe you’ve heard of this guy. This was actually one of Carew’s lesser seasons (by his standards), as he only hit .318 (122 wRC+). What is amazing is that while Carew got on base eight times, he actually had ten plate appearances during this 22-inning marathon. He was walked three times (twice intentionally) and had five hits. The Twins’ failure to drive him in even a single time cost them, as they lost the game 4-3.

Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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Jon L.
Jon L.

I’m inferring that these were some very long games. Players don’t usually bat seven times in games with scores like 3-2 and 4-3.