Last week, the Rockies finally achieved a team milestone. On Sept. 18, starting pitcher Jeff Francis threw five innings in his outing, giving him exactly 100 innings pitched on the season.
Incredibly, he was the first hurler on the Rockies staff to reach 100 frames. It took the team 147 games, but it finally, belatedly had someone in triple digits.
All other teams this year already had a guy top 100 innings, and most had done it long ago. A question arises: what is the fewest innings ever pitched by a squad’s top workhorse in a full season? Do the Rockies have a chance at the unwanted record?
Oh, hell yes, they have a chance at the record. Actually, they have it pretty much locked down. The current record holder for fewest innings pitched for a team’s top innings eater in a full season is the 1997 A’s. Swingman Don Wengert threw 134 innings for them. It’s tough to imagine Francis or any other Rockie getting that far. Actually, that A’s team had two other pitchers over 125 innings, a summit no 2012 Rockie will climb.
In fact, things might be even worse than that for this year’s Rockies. The 1997 A’s are the full-season record holder, but what happens if we look at teams with partial seasons?
Well, if you go back to 1884, you have some contenders. The 1884 Milwaukee squad from the American Association had a top workhorse who threw 102 innings. Francis should get there. Then again, that 1884 Milwaukee squad played just 36 games, as it was only there for a fraction of that year’s AA season.
Excluding 1884, the record low is 130.1 innings by Glenn Abbott on the 1981 Mariners. Those Mariners played just 110 games, but they still had a guy throw more innings than anyone on the 2012 Rockies will. The same can be said for all the other 1981 or 1994 teams in those strike-shortened years.
So the 2012 Rockies will have the dubious distinction of the fewest innings ever thrown by their best workhorse among all teams since 1900 (or, if you’d rather, among all teams that played at least 40 games).
It’s a type of history to make, though not the sort of history any team wants to make.