Friday, June 22, 2012

Flashback Friday: Dave Stieb's Back to Back One-Hitters


By
Image courtesy of Toronto Mike
Back in the day, no-hitters used to be rare occurrences. This year alone, pitchers have no-hit the competition six times.

As incredible as it is to put zeros across the board, there's one feat that happened this week that hadn't been accomplished in 24 years prior.

On the heels of R.A. Dickey's back to back one-hitters earlier this week, we take a look back at the last man to accomplish the very same feat.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we salute Dave Stieb for his consecutive complete game one-hitters during the 1988 season.

Of course, Dave Stieb was notorious for his tough luck starts during his tenure as a Blue Jay, and his consecutive one-hitters on September 24th and September 30th of 1988 was just further proof of that.

Most pitchers would be more than happy to toss back to back one-hitters, but if you asked Dave Stieb, he would probably trade two of those one-hitters in a heartbeat for a no-hitter.

What makes those two starts by Dave Stieb even more impressive is that he had no-hitters broken up with two outs and two strikes on the opposition. On both occasions, Stieb was just one strike away from throwing a no-hitter.

The first start was September 24th 1988; the Blue Jays were on the road in Cleveland, and Dave Stieb was coming off a complete game four-hitter against the Indians at home. Stieb spun a gem against the tribe once again, this time on their home turf.

Of all people, it was the Cleveland Indians number nine hitter Julio Franco that broke up Dave Stieb's no-hit bid. After giving up a single right up the middle, Stieb got the 27th out and secured his one-hitter against the Indians.

Stieb took the hill the very next Friday September 30th in Toronto and picked up exactly where he left off in Cleveland. Dave Stieb silenced the Baltimore Orioles all the way until the very end, until he had a 2-2 count on pinch hitter Jim Traber.

Once again, with two outs and one strike away from collecting a no-hitter, Stieb's no-hit bid was broken up in front of the crowd at the Skydome Exhibition Stadium. That's the kind of tough luck most people can't even fathom, and yet it was a reality for Dave Stieb. 

Perhaps the most incredible fact about Stieb's second straight one-hitter was that he only needed 90 pitches to get all 27 outs, so he averaged about 10 pitches per inning or just over 3 pitches per batter.

That kind of efficiency from a starting pitcher is Halladay-esque. But Stieb was a precursor to Doc, so I guess that means I should correct myself and say that kind of efficiency was Stieb-esque.

Much like Moby Dick eluded Captain Ahab, Dave Stieb did not bag his while whale during the 1986 season. But he did finally bag his first career no-hitter in 1990. Incredibly, Dave Stieb pitched three one-hit games during the 1988 season, and five during his entire career.

R.A. Dickey's consecutive one hitters might be impressive, but my allegiance will always lie with the man who did it 24 years before him: Dave Stieb.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting. The Bill James game score would suggest Dickey's two games (combined score 191) were stronger than Stieb's (combined 179), but it is hardly a perfect metric. In particular, it doesn't take into account the efficiency aspect, which I completely agree with you is Stieb's most impressive feat.

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    1. I think Stieb "only" had 4 K's in one game, 8 in another. Dickey had 12 and 13 respectively.

      But in that game where Stieb threw 90 pitches, the game was only 1 hour and 52 minutes. Can you imagine that? It started at 7:36, and was over by 9:28. Most Jays games that start at 7:07 don't even end that early!

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  2. Even after all these years and so many players after him, he's still my favourite Blue Jay.

    Great job bringing back the memories. And yes I remember both of those games.

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    1. Simply put, Dave Stieb was the man ... always has been, always will be. There might not be another Blue Jay like that in our lifetime.

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  3. Perhaps the most incredible fact about Stieb's second straight one-hitter was that it was purported to have taken place at Skydome, despite the fact that said sports venue was not yet constructed and would not open until June of the following year.

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    1. That's the power of Stieb! For some reason, I always think the dome opened in 87. My mistake!

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