Monday, April 23, 2012

Pitcher Colon Throws 38 Straight Strikes

Last Wednesday night, the Oakland Athletics' 38-year-old Bartolo Colon threw 38 consecutive strikes in shutting out the Angels 6-0. (My thanks to Richard Zitrin, whose message to the SABR discussion group brought Colon's streak to my attention.)

This article provides links to statistical breakdowns of Colon's consecutive-strikes streak and to a video of the sequence (less than four minutes long, edited to include only the pitches and related game action). The streak is said to be the longest of its kind since at least 1988. There's an aspect of the streak that makes me wonder if it can really be considered official, however.

Embedded within the 38 pitches are 10 balls put in play. For example, on one of the pitches in the video (the one resulting in the Angels' first out of the seventh inning), the broadcaster says, "That's a strike... and it's grounded to short."

A called strike by the umpire, a swing-and-miss, and a foul ball are all officially designated as strikes (putting aside whether a foul with two strikes is officially deemed a strike). On a ball put in play, I wondered, what authority is there for someone seemingly to pronounce a pitch a strike because it looked to be in the strike zone.

I sent my own message to the SABR group, as did other members, and a bit of a discussion got going. Dvd Avins wrote in that, "...all balls in play are always considered strikes for this purpose... So I very much doubt that the streak, as reported, depends on the announcer's or anyone else's perception of what pitches would have been called had a batter not swung."

My view is that it would be more defensible to say either that: (a) on pitches not put in play, Colon threw 28 consecutive strikes; or (b) Colon threw 38 consecutive pitches on which the umpire never called a "ball."

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