Many of us fondly remember opening up the newspaper each morning to see how our favorite teams and players did the prior day. In those lines of agate type, we were able to discern to some degree if (insert “your guy” here) was a hero or a goat. Usually this was through four simple numbers, the hieroglyph of “AB-R-H-RBI” that was the standard in The Sporting News beginning in 1961 and most major newspapers in that era, to wit:
In the late 1950’s, because of rising newsprint costs, The Associated Press was asked to make its box scores thinner. The A.P. complied by eliminating the antiquated putout and assist columns — causing a firestorm among traditionalists who claimed defense was being overlooked — and adding the run batted in, shrinking the width from 10 to 8 columns and saving trees everywhere.
ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian penned a loving ode to box scores back in 2010:
The box scores start every day for me because there’s always a chance you’ll see a pitching or batting line that you’ve never seen before, and might never see again, such as Ben Petrick’s 3-0-0-4 a few years ago. Four RBIs without a hit! “I thought I had a bad day,” Petrick said, “until I looked at the box score.” . . .
In the upper left-hand drawer of the desk in my office, I keep the box score from the Rangers’ 30-3 victory over the Orioles on Aug. 22, 2007, because it was historic in so many ways, including the batting line of the eighth and ninth hitters for the Rangers: Saltalamacchia 6-5-4-7 and Vazquez 6-4-4-7. And I can still remember John Kruk laughing at me in the background as I made a complete fool of myself on national TV when I could not control my enthusiasm at the sight of a box score never seen before in baseball history.
Well, I love box scores too, and like Kurkjian, I have a fondness for the rare batting lines in a game. I decided to catalog/count up every batting line ever produced by every player in a starting lineup. The only limitation would be (in order to compare apples to apples) the starter would have had to have finished the game.
So, what follows periodically over the next few weeks is a through examination, through the Baseball Reference Play Index, of each possible AB-R-H-RBI combination that has been produced from 1918-2011. For those who care, there have been roughly 2.3 million individual batting lines generated in the last 94 years. I will not be listing any particular combination that has NOT occurred to date. I do list the “career leader” in said batting line, and link to those specific games if there are no more than four players tied for the lead.
So, let’s start off with the “zero at-bats”. These are going to be cases of players having a games’ worth of walks, sac flies, hit-by-pitches and the like:
|1918-2011 STARTER’S GAME LINES – Zero ABs
|0||0||0||1||32||Tony Gwynn, Lew Fonseca||2|
|0||1||0||2||4||Rudy York, Jose Valentin, Kevin McReynolds, Chipper Jones||1|
|0||3||0||1||3||George Uhle, Brian Downing, Max Bishop||1|
Next time out in this series: The “one at-bat” batting lines.