Our colleague Jayson Stark sent a Tweet that rattled around my brain for a few hours Sunday evening.
It told how Johan Santana has made 12 starts this season in which he's pitched at least six innings and allowed one run or fewer (In researcher world, those fall under a larger umbrella, articulated in this piece by my colleagues on "Superior Starts")
Yet in those dozen starts, he has as many wins (six) as no-decisions.
As another blogger, Justin Norman, wrote elsewhere, that's absurd.
And while Norman looked into whether Santana is the unluckiest pitcher in baseball this season (and basically concluded he is), I'll look at it from another angle.
What is the context of Santana's season within Mets history?
Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index provides us with an easy means for taking a closer look, so we did so late last night, and here's what we found.
As noted previously, Santana has six no-decisions in those 12 starts (six or more innings, no runs/one run allowed).
Inspired by multiple works (by Bill James and others) who have toyed with the numbers on this subject, let's have a little fun with the numbers and call those no-decisions "Unlucky no-decisions."
Santana's six are the most "Unlucky no-decisions" a Mets pitcher has EVER had in a single-season.
However, Santana's fate could be worse. In those 12 starts, he's 6-0 with six no-decisions. So he does have six victories.
But take note that he hasn't personally had his record damaged (ie: suffered the loss) in any of those contests. There's some solace for him, albeit a mild amount.
Solely for the sake of this piece, let's invent a stat, and we'll call it "Gross Unlucky Score" or GUS for short.
If we make the presumption that it's twice as painful for a pitcher when he loses a start in which he pitches great (six-plus innings, zero/one runs) as when he gets a no-decision, we can create a formula easily.
GUS equals (Unlucky Losses*2) + No-Decisions.
Santana has a GUS of six, which as it turns out, is painful, but not historic ... not yet.
This is the 19th time in Mets history that a pitcher has had a GUS of six or greater. A lot of pitchers have had sixes. Mike Pelfrey was the most recent in 2008 (two losses, two no-decisions). Tom Glavine notched a six twice in a three-year span (2003 and 2005).
With one more no-decision in a start such as this, Santana moves into a more elite territory of unluckiness. Only four pitchers have posted a GUS of seven or greater and it hasn't been done since Pete Schourek (two losses, three no-decisions) scored a seven in 1992.
Two pitchers posted GUS'es of seven or greater in 1973. But Jon Matlack had six wins in games in which he allowed one run or fewer in six innings or more, and Tom Seaver had nine. Plus, both had a National League pennant to dull their pain.
Highest GUS (Gross Unlucky Score)
Mets History (2 pts for L, 1 for ND)
But there is one pitcher whose GUS qualifies him as the Babe Ruth of unlucky Mets starters. It would take a herculean effort by Santana to catch Roger Craig's 1963 season.
Craig went 5-22 during a hapless season in which he lost 18 straight games in one stretch. He deserved a better fate.
Craig's GUS score was a 14 and it took a heck of an effort on his part, as well as a heck of a lot of futility, to reach that mark.
Craig made eight starts in 1963 in which he pitched at least six innings and allowed no runs or one run. He had two no-decisions and six losses.
So you know what that means. Of those eight great starts, how many did Craig win?
None of them.