Led By James Shields and David Price, The Rays Rotation is Eating Innings

The Rays pitching staff (with the exception of Jeff Niemann) is off to a rip-roaring start in 2011. So far, the Rays starting pitcher has gone at least seven innings in 13 of the team’s 22 games–David Price and James Shields lead with four apiece. The staff has averaged a hair under 104 pitches per game in these outings with a ceiling of 116 (reached once by both Shields and Price).  That amounts to 13.88 pitches-per-inning–an efficient rate.

Here are some of the more basic numbers about the Rays rotation:

ERA WHIP BB/9 K/9 HR/9
2.50 0.99 2.13 6.38 0.86

Putting up these kinds of numbers across 59 percent of your starts eases the strain on a bullpen finding its feet as well as with an offense playing short-handed. Where does this pace match up in club and baseball history?

*With 13 seven-inning starts, the Rays have a three-game advantage over their nearest competitors in baseball, the Phillies, Athletics, and the Angels. By comparison, the Yankees have two seven-inning starts.

*The most seven-inning starts as a team in Rays history occurred in 2002 with 66 games as Tanyon Sturtze, Paul Wilson, and Joe Kennedy each contributed at least 17 games. The club this year is on pace for 97 starts. The 2010 team featured the second highest total with 64. For reference, the 1923 the Yankees starters went seven-innings in 129 games. Since 1990, the most single-season seven-inning starts belongs to the 1997 Braves with 98. Meanwhile, the 2007 Rangers featured the fewest seven inning starts in a season with 20.

*Not surprisingly James Shields is the franchise leader in seven-inning starts with 73. Matt Garza is second with 42, followed by Tanyon Sturtze, Scott Kazmir, and Mark Hendrickson. Warren Spahn hold the all time record with 498 seven-inning starts.

*Shields also has the single season club record with 20 seven-inning starts in 2007, while his 18 seven-inning starts in 2008 are third. Since 1990, Curt Schilling (2002) and Darryl Kile (1997) share the record for most seven-inning games in a single season with 31.

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