Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Most Consecutive Seasons with a Different Opening Day Starter: Pitcher

The Oakland Athletics have an interesting streak going. Over the last nine seasons, their starting rotation ERA is the lowest in the American League and fourth-lowest in the majors, all while having a different Opening Day starting pitcher each year:

2006: Barry Zito
2007: Dan Haren
2008: Joe Blanton
2009: Dallas Braden
2010: Ben Sheets
2011: Trevor Cahill
2012: Brandon McCarthy
2013: Brett Anderson
2014: Sonny Gray

Gray is likely to draw the April 6 start against Texas and end the streak. But let's take a look at where this run stacks up on the all-time list.

X different Opening Day Starting Pitchers in X Seasons
Reds 13 1892-1904
Athletics 12 1956-67
Browns/Orioles 12 1952-63
Phillies 12 1898-1909
Browns 11 1939-49
Athletics 10 1993-2002
Athletics 9 2006-14
Yankees 9 1985-93
Rays 8 1999-2006
Angels 8 1997-2004
White Sox 8 1976-83
Astros 8 1962-69
White Sox 8 1944-51
Senators 8 1925-32
Tigers 8 1916-23

The Baseball-Reference Opening Day Starters section was vital in this search, as were Retrosheet's game logs for the seasons before 1914.

Cincinnati's string dates back to a time before the pitcher's mound was moved back to its current distance of 60 feet 6 inches. The 13 different hurlers are: Tony Mullane, Bumpus Jones, Tom Parrott, Frank Dwyer, Billy Rhines, Red Ehret, Ted Breitenstein, Pink Hawley, Bill Phillips, Noodles Hahn, Len Swormstedt, Jack Harper and Jack Sutthoff. Harper opened the 1905 season as he did in '03 and the streak was over.

The 20th-century mark of 12 is held by two clubs that did not hold onto their players for very long, the early Baltimore Orioles (including their last two years as the St. Louis Browns), and the Kansas City A's. Notice the Browns' other streak from 1939-49. That makes 22 different Opening Day starters in 25 years, with only Ned Garver's four-year streak from 1949-52 holding up the revolving door.

We'll see if Oakland will become the seventh team to reach double digits, but are any other active streaks threatening to crack the above list with eight? The Pirates have a seven-year run going (Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Kevin Correia, Erik Bedard, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano), but Liriano might draw the opening start and snap the streak. Let's hope Clint Hurdle extends it to eight by electing to go with Gerrit Cole instead.

The Rangers have had six different starters the last six years (Kevin Millwood, Scott Feldman, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Tanner Scheppers), and will almost certainly tab Yu Darvish this time to stretch their streak to seven.

The full list of pitchers from the teams shown above:

Reds 13 1892-1904 Tony Mullane, Bumpus Jones, Tom Parrott, Frank Dwyer, Billy Rhines, Red Ehret, Ted Breitenstein, Pink Hawley, Bill Phillips, Noodles Hahn, Len Swormstedt, Jack Harper, Jack Sutthoff
Athletics 12 1956-67 Alex Kellner, Tom Morgan, Ned Garver, Bob Grim , Bud Daley, Ray Herbert, Ed Rakow, Diego Segui, Orlando Pena, Moe Drabowsky, Catfish Hunter, Jim Nash
Browns/Orioles 12 1952-63 Ned Garver, Virgil Trucks, Don Larsen, Lou Kretlow, Bill Wight, Hal Brown, Connie Johnson, Jack Harshman, Jerry Walker, Milt Pappas, Billy Hoeft, Steve Barber
Phillies 12 1898-1909 Red Donahue, Wiley Piatt, Al Orth, Jack Dunn, Harry Felix, Chick Fraser, Bill Duggleby, Togie Pittinger, Johnny Lush, Frank Corridon, George McQuillan, Harry Coveleski
Browns 11 1939-49 Bobo Newsom, Slick Coffman, Elden Auker, Bob Muncrief, Al Hollingsworth, Jack Kramer, Sig Jakucki, Nels Potter, Denny Galehouse, Fred Sanford, Ned Garver
Athletics 10 1993-2002 Bob Welch, Bobby Witt, Dave Stewart, Carlos Reyes, Ariel Prieto, Tom Candiotti, Gil Heredia, Kevin Appier, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder
Athletics 9 2006-14 Barry Zito, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Dallas Braden, Ben Sheets, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Sonny Gray
Yankees 9 1985-93 Phil Niekro, Ron Guidry, Dennis Rasmussen, Rick Rhoden, Tommy John, Dave LaPoint, Tim Leary, Scott Sanderson, Jimmy Key
Rays 8 1999-2006 Wilson Alvarez, Steve Trachsel, Albie Lopez, Tanyon Sturtze, Joe Kennedy, Victor Zambrano, Dewon Brazelton, Scott Kazmir
Angels 8 1997-2004 Mark Langston, Chuck Finley, Tim Belcher, Ken Hill, Scott Schoeneweis, Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, Bartolo Colon
White Sox 8 1976-83 Wilbur Wood, Ken Brett, Steve Stone, Ken Kravec, Steve Trout, Britt Burns, Jerry Koosman, LaMarr Hoyt
Astros 8 1962-69 Bobby Shantz, Turk Farrell, Ken Johnson, Bob Bruce, Robin Roberts, Mike Cuellar, Larry Dierker, Don Wilson
White Sox 8 1944-51 Orval Grove, Thornton Lee, Bill Dietrich, Eddie Lopat, Joe Haynes, Al Gettel, Bill Wight, Billy Pierce
Senators 8 1925-32 George Mogridge, Walter Johnson, Stan Coveleski, Milt Gaston, Sad Sam Jones, Firpo Marberry, Lloyd Brown, General Crowder
Tigers 8 1916-23 Harry Coveleski, Bill James, Bernie Boland, Howard Ehmke, Hooks Dauss, Dutch Leonard, Red Oldham, Rip Collins

Here is the complete series for each position (SPC1B2BSS, 3B, LF, CF, RFDH)

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