From April 7 (his first start of the year) through Sept.24 (his penultimate start), Myers gave the Houston Astros at least six innings every time he took the hill to begin the ballgame. For some perspective on this feat, the second-longest streak of this kind in 2010 belonged to Cliff Lee, who went at least six innings in each of his first 21 starts of the year. But Myers' streak didn't only set him apart in a season in which starting pitchers were seemingly making outstanding performances a daily occurrence; it also put the right-hander in some extraordinarily rare and some amazingly successful company.
Since the dawn of the live-ball era (1920) through 2009, only 12 pitchers had ever opened a season by throwing at least six innings in each of their first 32 starts. Among the 10 different pitchers to do it (two of them did it twice), seven are in the Hall of Fame and another, once he becomes eligible, will probably gain induction rather quickly. The 10 also combined to win nine Cy Young awards and four league MVP's and made a total of 61 All-Star appearances. And in 2010, Brett Myers joined this rather illustrious group of pitchers.
In his final start of the 2010 season on September 30 in Cincinnati, Myers took the mound in the bottom of the first with a chance to place his name in an even more exclusive group: since 1920, only nine pitchers had made at least 30 starts in a season and had gone at least six innings in every one of them.
Pitchers to go at least six innings in each of first 32 starts of year since 1920
Alas, Myers had his toughest outing of the season in that final start. In the bottom of the sixth inning of the outing, needing one more out to complete six innings, Myers surrendered his second home run of the inning and was removed. His final line was 10 hits and eight runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings pitched. Still, the clammy aftertaste of that final effort should not obscure Myers' place in the drama known as the Year of the Pitcher. In addition to the streak, he made 22 starts in which he allowed no more than two earned runs. That total was second-most in the Majors, behind Felix Hernandez's 25.
Myers' seasonal total 22 starts of six-plus innings and two earned runs or less also stands as one of the most in Astros' franchise history.
As part of his run of 37 straight starts of six-plus innings in 1952, Robin Roberts pitched a 17-inning complete game in the first game of a Sept. 6 doubleheader against the Boston Braves. Roberts allowed 18 hits and six runs (five earned) while walking three and striking out five. The victory improved his record to 23-7 for the year. Five days later, Roberts threw a more conventional nine-inning complete game and earned his 24th win. He would start and win four more games after that, going the distance in all four, and finish the season with a 28-7 record. He led the league in wins, starts, complete games (30), innings (330) fewest walks per nine (1.2) and strikeouts to walk ratio (3.29). Roberts finished second in the NL MVP voting, to the Cubs' Hank Sauer.
As part of his streak of 30 straight starts of six-plus innings in 1920, Joe Oeschger pitched a 26-inning complete game (sort of complete, since the game ended in a 1-1 tie). On May 1, in his fourth start of the season, Oeschger, pitching for the Boston Braves, allowed one run on nine hits while walking four and striking out seven. His mound counterpart that day, Brooklyn's Leon Cadore, also went all 26 innings. Oeschger and Cadore share the Major League record for the most innings pitched in a single game. After that effort, Oeschger didn't pitch again for 11 days, making his next start on May 13. In that game, he went seven innings and took the loss.
Most seasons of 100 Games & 100+ OPS (or better) within first four years for Houston
In 2010, Astros right fielder Hunter Pence hit 25 home runs, drove in 91, scored 93 runs and compiled a 114 OPS+. Although the season doesn't stand out for the magnificence of the numbers, it is notable for two reasons. Pence's 114 OPS+ (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, compared to the league, adjusted for ballpark) gave the fourth-year player four straight seasons of a figure above 100. In Astros history, only Pence and Jeff Bagwell have begun their career with four straight seasons of at least 100 games played and an OPS+ of at least 100.
The other interesting element to Pence's numbers in 2010 lies quietly in the home run total: 25. Pence's 25 dingers marked the third straight year he hit exactly 25 -- an exceptionally rare and quirky statistical feat. What's even more mind-boggling is that only two players in history have ever hit exactly 25 in three straight years, as he and Adam LaRoche have both achieved the milestone.
Pence is one of six players in history to reach the exact same home run total (minimum of 20 homers) in at least three straight years. If he can hit exactly 25 in 2011, he will join Ken Boyer, Fred Lynn and Adam Dunn as the only players to complete the season with the same exact home run total in four straight years.
Roger Schlueter is a senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.