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Efficient Maddux works his magic

Greg Maddux threw 68 pitches Sunday. In eight innings.

Just for fun, we'd like to contrast that to a start a month earlier, by Marlins rookie Ricky Nolasco. He threw 70 pitches in that start (July 8 in New York). In 1 2/3 innings.

This, friends, is the essence of Greg Maddux. He's the master of efficiency. Not to mention a font of useless info. So we start our trek through a new course in useless-ology with an attack of Useless Greg Maddux Information:

• OK, believe it or not, Maddux isn't the only pitcher this year who made it through eight innings in 68 pitches. That would be shocking enough. But the other, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Toronto's since-banished Josh Towers -- who threw exactly 68 pitches himself in the first eight innings of his only win of the year, May 14 in Tampa Bay. So Towers averaged under nine pitches per inning that day. In his other 11 starts this year (in which he went 0-9, with a scenic 10.49 ERA), he averaged almost six pitches per out.

• But that's the last reference you'll read today to Josh Towers, or Kevin Towers, or even the Eiffel Tower. How amazing was Maddux on Sunday? Only once all day did he even throw more than nine pitches in an inning. And that was an 11-pitch sixth. On the same day, by the way, Royals starter Luke Hudson threw 40 pitches before he got an out.

• Maddux ran exactly one three-ball count all game (to Ray Durham in the fourth). But in four of the other seven innings he was out there, he didn't even run a three-ball inning. And he never threw more than four pitches out of the strike zone in any inning.

• As loyal reader Eric Lee points out, besides Durham, the longest at-bat of the day against Maddux was five pitches -- by the opposing pitcher (Jason Schmidt). You don't see that much, folks.

• Another loyal reader, Steve Simas, wondered how long it's been since any other pitcher averaged 8.5 pitches per inning in a quality start (i.e., six or more innings, allowing 3 ER or fewer). Well, as it turned out, you have to go back just to last year, to the only start in this millennium that has been even more efficient than Maddux's. That, according to Elias, was Carlos Silva's astounding 74-pitch complete game on May 20, 2005. Silva averaged 8.2 pitches per inning in that game. (By the way, Josh Towers didn't qualify because he went out for the ninth in his May 14 start and threw eight more pitches without getting an out.)

• But it's not as if Maddux just started pitching this way last weekend. According to ESPN.com's game logs, this was his sixth start over the last five seasons in which he averaged under 10 pitches per inning.

• And it's too bad the Dodgers forgot to score in that game, because we would have loved to have seen Maddux pitch the ninth and take a shot at Silva's 74-pitch standard (lowest since pitch counts have been officially recorded) -- or even Maddux's own personal record, a 78-pitch CG on July 22, 1997. In the 14 seasons we've been keeping track of this stuff, we've recorded just two nine-inning complete games with fewer pitches. One was Silva's game. The other was a 75-pitch Andy Ashby CG on July 5, 1998.

• Unfortunately, you don't see many Maddux complete games anymore. But recording Maddux pitch counts in those CGs used to be one of our most ridiculous personal hobbies. So by our calculations, of the 66 Maddux complete games since 1993, he has thrown 26 nine-inning CGs of under 100 pitches, 13 of under 95 pitches and six in which he didn't even throw 90 pitches (a 78, and 82, an 86, an 88 and two 89s).

Ladies and gentlemen, that's a whole different form of genius than the kind you get from Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez. But it's still genius. So savor these Greg Maddux classics while you can. There won't be many more like last Sunday. From anybody.

Really Useless Info
• Box score line of the week, year and century

It isn't easy to claim that any pitching line qualifies as the messiest box-score line of modern times. But Sunday's horror show by the Royals' Luke Hudson vs. Cleveland is an official all-timer. Ready? Click those seat belts. Here it comes:

1/3 IP, 8 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SLAM, 47 pitches, 1 out

The script:

How do you give up 11 runs in 1/3 of an inning? Here's how: Walk. Single. Walk. Single. Double. Single. E6. Single. Walk. Single. Strikeout of Jason Michaels. Travis Hafner slam. Double. Exit stage left.

The claims to fame:

First prize: Eleven hitters into the game, Hudson still was looking for his first out. Thanks to diligent work by Elias' Kevin Hines, we now know that no other pitcher in the last 40 years faced all of the first 10 hitters to bat in a game without getting at least one of them out.

Luke Hudson Hudson

Second prize: Giving up 11 runs in the first inning is a challenge unto itself. Elias reports that Hudson was the first pitcher to give up that many runs in the first inning of any game since Sept. 21, 1897, when Boston Beaneaters ace Kid Nichols allowed 12 in the first to Fielder Jones' Brooklyn Bridegrooms.

• Box score champ of the rest of the week

In any other week, you'd have a tough time topping Gil Meche's ever-distinctive line from his Aug. 11 start in Texas:

1 IP, 2 H, 9 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 0 K

Yep. You read that right. Nine runs -- on two hits. So when was the last time any pitcher ever gave up that many runs on that few hits? How about never, at least in the live-ball era, according to Elias.

Useless slam-around info: One more note from that Luke Hudson Extravaganza: As loyal reader Perry Miyashita observes, it takes a really bizarre inning for the No. 3 hitter in the lineup to hit a grand slam in the first inning, as Travis Hafner did. So how often has that happened?

According to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home run historian David Vincent, Hafner was just the third No. 3 hitter in the expansion era (1961-present) to do that. The others were Atlanta's Chipper Jones, on Oct. 5, 2001, and the Cubs' Billy Williams, on May 1, 1964.

Useless never bet on baseball info: Here's what makes baseball the beautiful sport it is. Heading into the matchup Wednesday in Chicago, Royals starter Adam Bernero had won three of his previous 37 starts (3-21). White Sox starter Jose Contreras, meanwhile, was 22-6 in his previous 37 starts. So who won? Bernero and the Royals, of course, in a game they led 10-0 in the ninth before winning 10-4. What a sport.

Useless zero-hero info: Not many folks out there in Useless Info Land have noticed this, but loyal reader Mitch Levy is getting increasingly worked up about all the zeroes being twirled by Mariners rookie Mark Lowe. And we can't blame him. Lowe has come up from Double-A to twirl 17 2/3 consecutive shutout innings in relief to start his career (complete with 20 strikeouts and just 8 hits).

So if you're wondering, as Levy is, how close Lowe is getting to doing something historic, well, it's time to pay attention. He's just 4 1/3 innings from Boo Ferris' AL record of 22 shutout innings to begin a career, set for the 1945 Red Sox. The major-league record is 25, by George McQuillan, of the 1905 Phillies. Last team to score on Lowe: the Frisco Rough Riders of the Texas League, back on the 4th of July.

Ryan Howard Howard

Useless don't-mess-with-Ryan Howard info: The Reds intentionally walked Ryan Howard three times in their July 11 game in Philadelphia, including once with runners on first and second and no outs in the 14th inning. That's Barry Bonds-type stuff. But we remind you this man is in just his second full season in the big leagues. The only other second-year player in the last 20 years to be intentionally walked three times in one game: Toronto's John Olerud (by Seattle), on Sept. 18, 1991.

Useless there's-no-K-in-leadoff info: With just six weeks left in the season, Tigers leadoff whiz Curtis Granderson is leading the league in strikeouts, with 129. That isn't normally in the how-to-lead-off manual, but it's happened. Last player to lead the league in whiffs in a season in which he got at least 80 percent of his at-bats out of the No. 1 hole, according to Elias: Delino DeShields (151 K) for the 1991 Expos.

The readers wonder ...
• Useless leadoff-blitz info: Loyal readers Diane Firstman, Ryan Trenkle and Ed Burmila all checked in within minutes of each other Thursday, when the Royals-White Sox game featured home runs to lead off each half of the first and second innings. They all suspected (correctly) that there had never been a game like this in history. The closest calls, according to the Sultan, were two previous games that featured homers to lead off three of the first four half-innings:

May 1, 1998, Arizona at Montreal -- Devon White and F.P. Santangelo in the first, Shane Andrews in the bottom of the second.

Oct. 1, 1985, Cincinnati at San Francisco -- Eric Davis and Dan Gladden in the first, Dan Driessen in the bottom of the second.

Since Thursday's Orioles-Yankees game also featured leadoff homers in both halves of the first inning, Burmila also wondered if we'd ever seen two games in one day like that. Answer: Nope. Closest previous gap: 14 games.

Useless don't-walk-this-way info: Loyal reader Erik Nelson didn't want us to overlook the hack-amatic season of Giants rookie Eliezer Alfonzo. More than 180 at-bats into his rookie season, he has walked exactly four times -- three of them intentionally. So Nelson was wondering about the record for the fewest unintentional walks in a season by a guy who played at least 95 games and got 300 at-bats -- as Alfonzo will unless he gets hurt.

Good question. And here's the answer, according to Lee Sinins' Complete Baseball Encyclopedia CD-rom:

2 in 348 AB -- Rob Picciolo, 1979 (3 walks, 1 intentional)
2 in 420 AB -- Whitey Alperman, 1909 (2 walks, 0 intentional)

Special citation:

0 in 158 AB -- Jose Morales, 1976 (3 BB, all intentional)
1 in 256 AB -- Garry Hancock, 1983 (5 BB, 4 intentional)

Useless RBI man info: Jason Giambi has 93 RBI on 91 hits this year, and loyal reader Paul Baron checked in, guessing that that has to be the greatest RBI-to-hit ratio in history. Well, if Giambi gets to 100 RBI and keeps this up, he'll sure have a shot at it.

The only 100-RBI man in history who has ever had more RBI than hits was Mark McGwire, who knocked in 149 runs with 147 hits in 1999. McGwire is also the only other 90-RBI man to do this, with 90 RBI on 87 hits in 1995.

So who's the non-McGwire champion in this esoteric department? Would you believe Paul Sorrento (79 RBI, 76 hits in 1995)?

Carlos Beltran Beltran

Useless road warrior info: Speaking of RBI, Carlos Beltran is up to 99 of them this year -- but incredibly, 71 of them are on the road. (Apparently, he's distracted by the No. 7 train.) And loyal reader Chris Wheeler, of Phillies broadcast-crew fame, wondered if that was some kind of record for road-home disparity. Well, he's working on it.

Elias reports that, over the last 40 years, no player with this many RBI has had this large a percentage (72 percent) on the road. The closest anyone has come: 67 percent (74 of 110), by Mike Cameron in 2001.

Useless 50-less-than 50 club info: The Ryan Howard minutia just keeps on coming. Howard remains on pace to blow by 50 homers this year. But loyal reader Dennis Deitch, of the Delaware County Times, reports he's also on pace to become the third member of a different group.

Only twice in history has a 50-homer man managed to avoid scoring 100 runs. But Howard (42 HR, 71 runs) has a definite shot to join Mark McGwire (58 HR, 86 runs in 1997) and Andruw Jones (51 HR, 95 runs last year) at the meetings of that distinctive club.

Big Mac reached base 200 times, not counting homers, in 1997, and somehow scored only 28 times. Howard has been on base 154 times if you factor out homers, but has scored just 29 times. You need lots of assistance from the bottom of your order to pull this off. And the Phillies have cooperated. They rank 12th in the NL in RBI from both the No. 7 and No. 8 slots this year.

Useless start-the-relief info: Loyal reader Julian McCracken found the exploits of Reds pitcher Elizardo Ramirez last weekend to be highly entertaining, in a useless-info kind of way. Ramirez got the loss in relief in the 14th inning Friday night, then made his scheduled start Saturday anyway (and promptly got KO'd in the second inning).

So how often does something like that happen? Well, even if we disqualify Kyle Lohse for doing it in a suspended game in 2004, Elias reports that three other pitchers since 2000 have thrown the last pitch for their team one day and the first pitch the next:

Al Levine, Angels -- May 9-10, 2001
Ismael Valdez, Dodgers -- Aug. 15-16, 2000
Steve Sparks, Tigers -- July 26-27, 2000

But the only one of those three who really did what Ramirez did was Valdez, a regular starting pitcher who jumped in there in an emergency. Levine was a reliever, and Sparks was a knuckleballer. Fortunately, for all three, they didn't duplicate what Ramirez did the next day -- when he got sent to the minors for his thank-you gift.

Seth McClung McClung

Useless don't-blame-me info: Tampa Bay's Seth McClung served up a game-ending, 10th-inning grand slam to Richie Sexson on Aug. 8 in Seattle -- yet he wasn't the losing pitcher. (Shawn Camp, who had given up a leadoff double to Ichiro Suzuki in the inning and then departed, got to hang the L on his record.) Loyal reader Brett Ash figured McClung's slam-but-no-loss feat had to be extremely rare. Uh, 'fraid not.

Matter of fact, according to Elias, McClung was the third reliever to do that just in the last two years. The others: Atlanta's John Foster (gave up a Sept. 21, 2005 slam to Ryan Howard) and Texas' Brian Shouse (gave up a Garret Anderson slam on June 28, 2005).

The Sultan's Corner
Useless slammer info: Hafner has thumped six grand slams already this season. The Sultan reports that one member of the 400-Homer Club never hit six in his whole career. That would be Duke Snider (407 HR, but just 5 slams).

Useless switch-yard info: Jose Reyes didn't just hit three home runs in one game Tuesday. He did it while homering from each side of the plate. He's the 12th player in history to do that, according to the Sultan. But he's also ...

The second this year (joining Mark Teixeira, who did it July 13). And the third shortstop (joining Tom Tresh and Jose Valentin). And the third player to do it for a team from New York (joining Tresh and Mickey Mantle).

• Useless team-killer info: Finally, while we're on the subject of Jose Reyes, he has homered seven times against the Phillies this year -- and seven against all those other teams out there. Here's why that almost makes sense. Of the 10 players in history to hit at least half their homers in a season against one team (and hit at least 14), seven of them have done it against teams from Pennsylvania. Here's that goofy list:

Harry Heilmann, 1922 (11 of 21 vs. Philadelphia A's)

Eddie Robinson, 1955 (8 of 16 vs. Detroit Tigers)

Johnny Barrett, 1945 (9 of 15 vs. Boston Braves)

Babe Dahlgren, 1939 (8 of 15 vs Philadelphia A's)

Tony Lazzeri, 1936 (7 of 14 vs Philadelphia A's)

Eddie Miller, 1940 (7 of 14 vs. Philadelphia Phillies)

Daryl Spencer, 1956 (7 of 14 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates)

Jim Tabor, 1939 (7 of 14 vs. Philadelphia A's)

Zack Wheat, 1924 (7 of 14 vs. Philadelphia Phillies)

Gus Zernial, 1954 (7 of 14 vs. Boston Red Sox)

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your Useless Information to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.