Last night, Bronson Arroyo threw his 13th straight quality start. Pretty impressive, huh? One quality start is a middling achievement, but 13 in a row usually means you are regularly beating the 6 IP, 3 ER baseline. For instance, Arroyo has posted a 1.91 ERA during his stretch.
So, how impressive is it? It’s the second such streak this season: Adam Wainwright strung together 13 QS earlier this season, and both CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum managed an equal feat last year. Also last season, Johan Santana made 14 consecutive QS.
None of those streaks hold a candle to the Retrosheet-era record, however. Back in 1968, when Bob Gibson ruled the earth, the Cardinals ace posted 26 consecutive quality starts. (The streak started in September of the previous year.) 19 were complete games, 8 were shutouts, and if Bob Gibson wants to say anything about how men were men back then, I think you should let him. Chris Carpenter is also the owner of an impressive tally, having strung together 22 QS in 2005.
Three runs? Pshaw.
What’s striking about Wainwright’s streak, though, is that he beat the quality start standard every time out. He never gave up three earned runs. Just as impressively for 2009, he went 7+ IP in 11 of the 13. But that’s not a streak. Let’s focus on the earnies.
Change the threshold to 6+ IP, 2 ER, and now you’ve got an elite group.
The Retrosheet-era record is 15 straight, held jointly by Dwight Gooden, Gaylord Perry, Luis Tiant, and Don Drysdale. Both Tiant and Drysdale accomplished the feat in 1968. They would’ve gone on longer, but then they faced Bob Gibson.*
* I originally wrote this as a joke. But, sure enough, Drysdale went for his 16th straight on July 1 against the Cardinals and Bob Gibson. Judging from the boxscore, it was the sort of day where every time a Cardinal made contact, the ball squibbed through to the outfield. Not so for the notoriously weak Dodger offense; this was part of Gibson’s QS streak. Gibson gave up one run and threw a complete game. Tiant, of course, pitched in the wrong league. On July 7 he beat the Angels, but he settled for a conventional QS, giving up three runs.
Wainwright is the first person to put together a streak of 13 or more 6+ IP, 2 ER outings since Randy Johnson threw 14 in a row in 1999. Perhaps most impressively, Wainwright holds the Cardinals club record. Gibson’s best such streak was 11 straight, in June and July of 1968.