There haven’t been many positive statistics involving the Philadelphia Phillies this year, but Monday night will bring a milestone worth noting.
Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz will work in their 200th game together Monday in Cincinnati, with every one but one coming in a start for Hamels. (The other came in the 2011 finale when Hamels pitched three relief innings to stay sharp for the playoffs.)
Starting pitchers rarely reach 200 games with the same catcher, and the feat has come with a pattern of excellence over the last 65 or so years of modern baseball, for which this kind of data is available.
Here’s what you need to know about the milestone:
1. Almost Every Pitcher-Catcher Combo to Have Reached the Milestone Won a World Series Together
Of the 24 battery combos who qualified for this list (pitchers who either started 200 games with the same catcher or pitched more than 88 percent* of their career as a starter and reached that number), an astonishing 20 of them won the World Series together, including Hamels and Ruiz in 2008. Two other combinations (Early Wynn and Jim Hegan, Roy Oswalt and Brad Ausmus) won the pennant together, while just two of the batteries (Steve Rogers-Gary Carter, Ferguson Jenkins-Randy Hundley) did not reach the Fall Classic at all.
2. Hamels & Ruiz Are the 2nd Pair to Reach the Milestone This Century
Oswalt and Ausmus (exactly 200 games together) are the only other combo to reach this milestone after the turn of the century. In fact, only one additional duo (Tom Glavine and Javy Lopez, 248) even did it after 1990. Hamels has a 3.05 ERA with Ruiz as his catcher and has only been caught more than 10 times in his career by three other backstops – Chris Coste (27), Erik Kratz (15) and Brian Schneider (13). Ruiz, of course, also caught Oswalt in 2010 and 2011.
3.There’s Almost No Chance That Hamels & Ruiz Will Break Mickey Lolich & Bill Freehan’s Record
Detroit’s Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan were together for an incredible 362 games. In order for Hamels and Ruiz to reach that mark, Hamels will have to pitch through his entire remaining contract, plus one year, and Ruiz will have to catch until he is 41. Not only will that not happen, Hamels isn’t even likely to be on the Philles in August.
4. Rick Dempsey Is Among the Catchers to Appear on the List Twice
Six catchers appear on the list twice, including Jim Hegan (with Bob Lemon and Early Wynn), Del Crandall (with Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette), John Roseboro (with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale), Mike Scioscia (with Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser), Tim McCarver (Steve Carlton and Bob Gibson) and Rick Dempsey (Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor). Dempsey just missed a third, catching “El Presidente” Dennis Martinez 199 times. Ruiz doesn’t appear twice on this list, but he did catch Roy Halladay 80 times, the most in Doc’s career, and was Cliff Lee’s second-most frequent catcher (74 times, second to 106 by Victor Martinez).
5. Ruiz Is Only the 2nd Catcher on the List From Outside the United States
Lopez (Puerto Rico) and Ruiz (Panama) are the only catchers on the list from outside the United States. Both Scioscia and Roy Campanella are Philadelphia natives.
*-Mike Witt was caught by Bob Boone 206 times, but many of those came in relief appearances in a two-month stretch of 1983 where he was a relief pitcher. In this statistical study, Mike Witt was used as the baseline for qualification, with anyone starting a higher percentage of games in their career or working with the catcher as a starter before changing to a reliever being considered.