R.A. Dickey’s unusual streak

We are in the golden age of strikeouts in Major League Baseball.  Over the past three full seasons, MLB pitchers as a group have struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings, an all-time high.

2015 has gotten off to a similar start, with the current rate among league hurlers sitting at 7.6/9. One strikeout artist, though, has not been chipping in.

In 2012 as a member of the New York Mets R.A. Dickey won a strikeout title in the National League when he sat down 230 batters via the whiff. His rate that season was 8.9/9, a career high.

Flash forward three years to this season, where the 40-year-old Dickey is striking out just 4.0 batter per nine while walking 3.8. What has been particularly interesting is what he has done in last two starts. Dickey has not retired a batter via strikeout in either game, putting him in some small company over the past 20 seasons. 

Consecutive starts with 0 strikeouts since 1995 with at least 14 innings pitched:

Name Year Starts IP Strikeouts
Kirk Saarloos 2005 3 17.0 0
Scott Erickson 2002 2 15.0 0
Sean O’Sullivan 2011 2 14.2 0
R.A. Dickey 2015 2 14.0 0

Don’t be too quick to judge; in these nine starts, the pitchers combined to go 6-2 despite putting up a 0-to-24 K/BB ratio.

The all-time major league record for most consecutive starts (since 1914) without recording a strikeout belongs to Ted Wingfield, who in 1927 turned in eight consecutive starts without recording a K. Wingfield’s streak covered 50 innings that year as a member of the Boston Red Sox. He finished that season, his last, with a 0.1 K/9 rate. 

I know. I also thought Old Hoss and his "Hall of Fame" 3.6/9 career strikeout rate might have held the record too. Fortunately for him, game-by-game search queries don’t go back that far.