It started out, as it so often does, as a simple, innocent tweet. Carrie Muskat, MLB.COM Cubs beat writer, tweeted the following Thursday afternoon:
Rotation order will be Demp, Garza, Samardzija, Volstad and Maholm.
I instantly noticed something cool/odd about that list and retweeted with this note:
SO close to “no E in last name” rotation!
Ryan Dempster had foiled the VORG’s never-ending pursuit of the quirky. But Muskat’s tweet DID send us to try and find if there have been any rotations with all five pitchers lacking one of the five vowels.
We took the Lahman Baseball Database and filtered out the top five starters for every squad in history, based on number of game starts in a season. There have been 2,562 rotations of at least five pitchers since 1871, and here is the breakdown of the vowelless ones:
U: 1,079 teams (42.1%) had no Us anywhere in their last names. In 2011, there were 13 such staffs (CHN, CLE, COL, DET, LAA, OAK, PHI, PIT, SEA, SLN, TBA, TEX and TOR).
O: 215 squads (8.4%) lacked an O throughout. In 2011, only the Seattle Mariners could say that, with Hernandez, Vargas, Pineda, Fister and Bedard.
I: 354 fivesomes (13.8%) were missing an “I”. Last year, seven teams had that situation: ARI, ATL, CHA, CHN, DET, FLO and PHI. Yes, the Cubs, Tigers and Phillies could claim no Is *or* Us in their 2011 rotations. It didn’t hurt two out of those three teams.
E: 36 rotations (1.4%) had E-ectomies performed prior to the season. There hasn’t been a squad like this since … that’s right … the Cubs, in 2007, with Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Marquis and Marshall.
A: 129 gangs of five (5.0%) didn’t bother to have any As in their last names. The most recent such group was the 2007 Dodgers, with Penny, Lowe, Wolf, Billingsley, Hendrickson (and Tomko too, as he had same number of starts as Hendrickson).
Going a little further down the rabbit hole . . .
A+E: there have been NO rotations with pitchers lacking BOTH an A and an E in their last names.
A+I: there have been 12 teams with rotations missing both an A and an I. The most recent example is the 2004 Pittsburgh Pirates, with Perez, Fogg, Wells, Vogelsong and Benson doing the deed.
A+O: there have been a mere four groups of five pitchers sans an A and an O. The last occurrence was the 2001 Florida Marlins, with the aforementioned Dempster along with Penny, Burnett, Clement and Smith.
A+U: 51 teams had a one through five with no As or Us. Guess who the last team to do it was? The 2007 Dodgers, again.
E+I: only 2 clubs went E-less and I-less in their rotations. The 1982 WhiteSox and the 1990 Mariners. The Sox had Hoyt, Dotson, Lamp, Burns and Trout …. and Jerry Koosman had as many starts as Trout, so that’s 5(+1). The Mariners get in only on a technicality as Bill Swift tied Russ Swan for the fifth-most starts that year (with a mere eight!)
E+O: there have been NO rotations with pitchers lacking BOTH an E and an O in their last names.
E+U: 15 times a club has fielded a staff with no Es and Us. The 2006 Giants, with Schmidt, Morris, Cain, Lowry and Wright were the last to pull it off.
I+O: 14 teams had no Is or Os in their rotations. The 2009 Angels’ Weaver, Saunders, Lackey, Santana and Palmer filled the bill.