Brian Schlitter may be off to the greatest start ever for a pitcher: Five strikes, two strikeouts.
It’s related to a topic that rarely comes up, even with the most diehard fans.
During last night’s Pirates v Cubs game, Pittsburgh’s Paul Malhom was batting with one out in the seventh inning and a runner on first base.
Cubs’ pitcher John Grabow threw three pitches to Malhom, bringing the count to 2-1. After the third pitch, Grabow walks around the mound in obvious pain. The trainer comes out and Grabow is removed from the game. Brian Schlitter enters the game—his Major League debut nonetheless—and strikes out Maholm for the second out.
At this point Schlitter has thrown two strikes in his career and already has a strikeout, not too shabby. But is it fair?
The rules say it is.
Rule 10.16 states that the majority of the time the relief pitcher is recorded as having faced the batter, even if he enters the game in the middle of the at-bat. If the batter reaches base due to a hit, error, fielder’s choice, force out, or is hit by a pitch the at-bat is charged to the reliever. This makes sense because the batter reached base on a pitch thrown by the reliever.
If the batter walks, however, it’s a little more complicated. If the count is 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1, or 3-2 when the relief pitcher enters the game and the batter draws a walk the walk shall be charged to the original pitcher.
The rule goes on to clarify itself in part 3, stating that if the pitcher enters the game with a count of 2-2, 1-2, 1-1, 1-0, 0-2, 0-1 than the at-bat (regardless of outcome) shall be charged to the relief pitcher.
Basically, if the pitching team is behind in the count at the time of the pitching change then the reliever must throw at least three balls in order to be charged with the walk. The only way the reliever can be charged with the walk and throw only two balls is if he enters the game with a 2-2 count.
With four balls to walk only one batter the rules have to draw the line somewhere and it makes it about as fair as you can get.
Schlitter went on to strikeout Jose Tabata and was then replaced when the Cubs pinch hit for him in the bottom of the inning. His career totals after game one: 2 batters faced, five strikes thrown, two strikeouts.