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A fifteen-inning offensive drought July 18, 2011

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: , , ,

Last night’s ESPN game, between the Red Sox and the Rays, was a pitchers’ duel of the highest magnitude. John at Baseball Reference already looked for other games where both starters had game scores of 85 or higher, and neither team had to call on a position player to pitch, but I thought one of the most interesting things to happen was offensive in nature.

Neither team scored until the sixteenth inning, at which point Dustin Pedroia followed up a John Reddick walk, a Jason Varitek sacrifice, and a Marco Scutaro infield single (to move Reddick to third) with a single to right field. Every batter up to that point was productive and helped manufacture that run… except Jacoby Ellsbury, who flied out to left between Scutaro and Pedroia. In fact, every lineup spot had either a hit, a walk, or a productive out except for Ellsbury, who led off. (Granted, Varitek’s only productivity was his sacrifice, but that’s enough.) Ellsbury had 8 plate appearances, all of them at-bats, and didn’t reach base at all.

Even getting 8 plate appearances is rare. Since 2002 (and through July 7), only 403 batters have had 8 plate appearances, including a handful with 10 and quite a few with 9. All five of the 10-plate-appearance games took place on April 17, but some of them took place in 2008 and some in 2010. (Just an odd coincidence.) Of those 403, only 12 failed to reach base at all. Corey Patterson and Trot Nixon share the record for most plate appearances without reaching base, with 10.

Ellsbury’s streak of 8 plate appearances without reaching base is especially weird because he’s so talented. Ellsbury has a .370 OBP, meaning that on average he reaches base 37% of the time (or, he only gets sent back to the dugout 63% of the time). If we assume last night’s plate appearances were random draws, the probability of 8 times without reaching base would be

.630^8 \approx .025

or, in English, vanishingly rare.