Friend of the VORG Andrew H asked:
Has there ever been a 0 pitch start in MLB history? Paging @dianagram for this one.
— Andrew H (@AndrewtheNerd85) June 21, 2016
Now, there HAVE been plenty of starts where a pitcher was listed as not facing a single batter, with no pitches listed:
|Orval Overall||1913-06-09||CHC||NYG||L 3-11||GS-||0.0||0|
|Don Newcombe||1960-07-17 (2)||CIN||PIT||L 0-5||GS-1||0.0||0|
|Tom Brewer||1961-05-15||BOS||CLE||L 2-13||GS-1||0.0||0|
|Vicente Romo||1969-09-13||BOS||NYY||W 5-2||GS-1||0.0||0|
|Ed Halicki||1976-08-08 (1)||SFG||ATL||L 1-2||GS-1||0.0||0|
|Nate Robertson||2005-07-08||DET||TBD||W 7-3||GS-1||0.0||0|
|Clayton Richard||2013-06-21||SDP||LAD||W 5-2||GS-1||0.0||0|
|Alex Wood||2015-07-09||ATL||COL||L 3-5||GS-1||0.0||0|
However, many of these games took place before pitch data was recorded for individual hurlers, so that makes the sluething a bit more difficult. Using game recaps from ESPN, The Sporting News, The New York Times and even fan baseball blogs, I was able to eliminate most of the games listed above. In most of these cases, the pitcher DID start the game and DID make AT LEAST one pitch, before (most of the time) leaving due to injury. However, the Official Baseball Rules state that:
If, when pitchers are changed, the count is2 balls, 2 strikes,1 ball, 2 strikes,1 ball, 1 strike,1 ball, no strike,no ball, 2 strikes,no ball, 1 strike,the official scorer shall charge that batter and the actionsof that batter to the relief pitcher
That’s what happened in all but one of those cases. The “batter faced” ended up getting charged not to the starter, but to the reliever.
We did have exactly one instance of a pitcher making no pitches in a start:
|Don Newcombe||1960-07-17 (2)||CIN||PIT||L 0-5|
So what happened to Newcombe? According to the New York Times recap of the game, “. . . the Reds’ starting pitcher in the second game, did not face a batter. The Pirates complained that his left shirt sleeve was fluttering. Newcombe changed, but was ejected when he continued the dispute. Cal McLish replaced Newcombe.”
The Sporting News reported it thusly, “Newcombe was slated to start for the Reds, but was thumbed before making pitch in argument with umpires, who had ordered him to change sweatshirt because one sleeve was shorter than other.”
Post-script: Less than 24 hours after originally posting this, Mariners starter Adrian Sampson injured himself during warmups for the bottom of the 1st inning in his start against the Tigers Thursday afternoon. He was immediately relieved by Vidal Nuno, but is still listed as the starting pitcher, with no pitches thrown. So we apparently now have our second-ever “zero-pitch start”.