The Philadelphia Phillies seem well on their way to another NL East title, largely due to an incredible pitching staff. (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt). Their number four starter in his career averages a 16-9 record, with a 3.21 ERA.
That is damned impressive. One could debate whether there has been a better staff in the past to years (Atlanta, 1995? Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Avery. The 1971 Orioles boasted four twenty-game winners, though not sure Pat Dobson is the equal of Oswalt.)
What I find most interesting though, is the Phils' set-up man and lefty specialist, Antonio Bastardo. Aside from the obvious intrigue of his unfortunate sur-name, Bastardo has quietly racked up some unbelievable stats this year.
To wit: in his 50 appearances, covering 46 innings, Bastardo has allowed 18 hits.
That's not a mis-print. 18 hits in 46 innings.
That figure works out to 3.5 hits per nine innings. The league is hitting .118 this season against him.
To put it into context, Nolan Ryan, the owner of six career no-hitters, in his best season (1972) allowed 166 hits in 284 innings, a rate of 5.26. Ryan allowed fifty per cent more hits per nine innings. Oh, and he also tossed in 157 bases on balls, so Ryan - in a great season - allowed 323 baserunners in his 284 innings.
Bastardo has walked 16, so he has allowed 34 baserunners in 48 innings.
Tom Henke was another guy who could come in and simply blow hitters away. In his best season (1987), The Terminator gave up 62 hits in 94 innings, or 5.94 per nine innings. Henke walked 25, so his runners per nine innings was better than Ryan's (87 runners in 94 innings), but again, not close to the numbers Bastardo has put up.
And Henke, as a relief pitcher for a team that collapsed, in an epic fashion, received MVP support for his efforts.
It's a relatively small sample size, of course, but the almost complete failure of National League hitters to hit Bastardo is truly remarkable; it's sufficiently low that I wonder, has there ever been a guy who put up seasonal figures like that, tossing a minimum number of innings.