FanPost

MLB first-time starters who threw a 'Wesneski'

It was widely reported that Hayden Wesneski of the Cubs on Tuesday night became the first reliever since 1901 to pitch at least 5 innings in his Major League debut without giving up a run, while allowing 2 or fewer hits and striking out at least 8.

I wondered how many starters have done so.

The answer is: 9 -- and 5 of them have done it in this century, including 3 in 2018 and 2019.

None were Cubs.

Following is a look at the first games and careers of those 9.

..........

ELMER MYERS, 1915

On Oct. 6, in the Athletics' final game of the season, Myers blanked the Senators, 4-0, on 2 hits. He struck out 12 but walked 5.

The next year, the right hander walked 168, most of any pitcher in either league, and went 14-23, despite a 3.66 earned run average.

Myers played 8 seasons for 3 teams and finished with a record of 55-72, an ERA of 4.06, an ERA+ of 80 and a WAR of 0.1.

...

JUAN MARICHAL, 1960

Nobody duplicated Myer's debut for nearly 45 years.

On July 19, 1960, Marichal of the Giants struck out 12, walked 1 and retired the first 18 Phillies in order. A 1-out error ended his bid for perfect in the seventh. He gave up a 2-out single in the eighth, then retired the final 4 batters to complete a 1-hitter.

Marichal, a high-kicking righty, went on to win at least 20 games in 6 of his 16 seasons, including 25 in 1963 and 1966, and 26 in 1968. He led all of baseball with 10 shutouts in 1965 and topped the NL with 8 in 1969, when his 2.10 ERA was best of any pitcher.

He finished his career 243-142, with an 2.89 ERA, a 123 ERA+ and a 62.9 WAR.

He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

...

STEVE WOODARD, 1997

Then it was 37 more years before Woodard of the Brewers became the third starter to equal what Wesneski did in relief.

On July 28, 1997, Woodard outdueled Roger Clemens in a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays. He gave up a leadoff double in the first inning, then held Toronto hitless until he was lifted after 8 innings. He fanned 12 and walked 1.

The righty had just 1 winning season in his 7 years with 4 teams. He wound up 32-36, 4.94, with an ERA of 92 and a WAR of 3.3.

...

ERIC GAGNE, 1999

Gagne, another right hander, was the last to meet the first-game criteria in the 20th Century.

He gave up 2 hits, walked 1 and struck out 8 at Miami on Sept. 7, 1999.

After going 11-14, with a 4.61 ERA in 3 seasons as a starter, Gagne became a 3-time all-star as a reliever, racking up 52, 55 and 45 saves in 2002-04. His ERA in those seasons was 1.97, 1.20 and 2.19; his ERA+, 193, 337 and 188.

He recorded 187 total saves while pitching for 4 teams over 10 seasons. He won 33, lost 26, had an ERA of 3.47 and an ERA+ of 119. His WAR was 11.7.

...

KAZUHISA ISHII, 2002

Ishii, a Dodger, was the first to join the club in this century, and the first lefty ever.

He allowed 2 hits, walked 3 and fanned 10 in 5.2 innings against the Rockies on April 6, 2002.

Ishii was 28 that day, having spent 10 years in Japan's Central League. He went 36-25 in 3 seasons with the Dodgers, then 3-9 in 1 year with the Mets, for a combined 39-34, with a 4.44 ERA, 90 ERA+ and WAR of -0.3.

Then he returned to Japan, where he 8 pitched for 8 more years, through his age 39 season.

...

COLLIN McHUGH, 2012

The Mets' righty was next to dazzle in his debut: 7 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts vs. the Rockies on Aug. 23, 2012.

McHugh now is with the Braves, his fifth team in 10 seasons (he sat out 2020). He was a starter through 2017, with a best season of 19-7 for the Astros in 2015. He became a reliever the next year, when he posted an ERA of 1.999. Last year, he had a career-best 1.55 for the Rays.

Through Friday, his career numbers were 66-46, 3.70, with an ERA+ of 109 and a WAR of 12.3.

...

NICK KINGHAM, 2018

Oct. 6, 2015 was the 100th anniversary of when Myers became the first member of the club. On that date, it had 6 members.

Then it added 3 in less than a year

On April 29, 2018, righty Kingham of the Pirates retired the first 20 Cardinals, then gave up a single, got a groundout and was done for the day. In 7 innings, he struck out 9.

In 43 games spanning 3 seasons, the right hander was 9-9, 6.08, with an ERA+ of 68 and a WAR of -1.5. He is currently pitching in Korea.

...

FREDDY PERALTA, 2018

Just 2 weeks after Kingham's debut, Peralta made a splash for the Brewers.

On May 13, 2018, he held the Rockies hitless for 5.1 innings, surrendered a single, then notched his 13th strikeout and was removed. He walked 2.

The righty was a reliever in 2019 and 2020, then became an All-Star as a starter in 2021. His career record to date: 30-16, 3.80, an ERA+ of 111 and WAR of 4.7.

He left last night's game with shoulder fatigue.

...

TRENT THORNTON, 2019

The most recent of the 9 starters to match Wesneski's performance was righty Thornton of the Blue Jays, on March 31, 2019. He went 5 innings against the Tigers, in which he yielded 2 hits, walked none and struck out 8.

Thornton went 6-9, 4.84 as a rookie, then had an ERA of 11.12 in 3 starts in 2020. He was converted to a reliever after that, pitching in 37 games last year and 31 this year through Wednesday.

His record stands at 7-14, 4.87, with an ERA+ of 91 and a WAR of 0.8.

..........

CUBS STARTERS IN DEBUTS

Wesneski was the 403rd player since 1901 to make his big league pitching debut as a Cub. That total includes position players.

Only 111 were starters, from Jack Taylor in 1901 through Julian Assad, Cabe Kilian and Matt Swarmer this season.

The Cubs have had more than 3 debuts as starters in only 4 seasons: 1901 (5), 1902 (6), 1909 and 2006 (both 4).

This is the 8th season in which they had 3 and just the 4th since 1948. They also had 3 in 1969, 2000 and 2014.

...

All 111 first-game starters averaged 6 innings and faced 26 batters. They allowed 3.66 runs, 2.71 earned run, 6.37 hits, 2.73 walks and 3.17 strikeouts.

Their combined ERA was 4.05 and their WHIP, 1.51. They average 4.07 walks per 9 innings and 4.73 strikeouts.

...........

LONGEST STARTS

Frank Corridon pitched 10 innings in his debut in 1904. He gave up 10 hits, walked 4 and struck out 5.

16 others threw 9-inning complete games. The most recent was Shawn Boskie, who allowed 5 hits, walked 1 and fanned 6 on May 20, 1990. The 3 this year brought the total of first-game starts since then to 35.

Jeff Pico fashioned a 4-hit, no-walk, 6-strikeout shutout on May 31, 1988.

That made him the first Cub starter to go the distance in 40 years, since Dutch McCall on April 27, 1948.

...

Only 2 first timers before Pico threw shutouts: Alex Hardy, in 1902 (2 hits, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts). and King Cole, in 1909 (6 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout).

4 others gave up no runs: Zip Zabel, in 1913 (5 IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts); Amaury Telemaco, in 1996 (7 IP, 1 hit, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts); Ryan O'Malley, in 2006 (8 IP, 5 hits, 6 walks, 2 strikeouts); and Javier Assad, on Aug. 23 (4 IP, 4 hits, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts).

...

In 2012, Chris Rusin allowed 1 run on 1 hit and 2 walks in 5 innings while striking out 4.

He is the only other first-game starter to permit no more than 2 hits in at least 5 innings, as Wesneski did in relief.

83 have made it through 5 or more innings, while allowing at least 3 hits, including Swarmer (6 innings, on May 30) and Kilian (5, on June 4).

..........

MOST STRIKEOUTS

Only 3 of the 111 struck out more than the 8 that Wesneski fanned in his debut.

Dutch Ruether chalked up 9 in a 6-hit, 1-run complete game in 1917. He gave up 6 hits and walked 2.

Mark Prior whiffed 10 in 6 innings in 2002. He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and walked 2.

Thomas Diamond duplicated Prior's 10 in 6 effort in 2010. He yielded 3 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks.

In 2001, Juan Cruz struck out 8, as did Wesneski. Cruz pitched 6 innings, in which he gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and walked 1.

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