Baseball historian and current Boston Red Sox executive Bill James was recently asked about the impressive back-to-back pitching performances of Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey on his website the other day. His response?
The back-to-back pitching performances of this quality are certainly unusual, and my intuition would be that it is more likely meaningful than random……It seems to me that games of that quality are scarce enough that you just don’t get COMBINATIONS of them unless you have a pretty decent pitching staff.
James goes back and finds some examples of similar back to back games (with the same two teams playing); it hadn’t happened since 2001, but it did happen five times over the 2000-2001 seasons. One example was the back-to-back Reds pitching performances of Elmer Dessens and Ron Villone in 2000 where both gave up one run on two hits, including a 16 strikeout performance by Villone. James’s comment: “Somehow I suspect the Reds would not be thrilled to hear that Cueto and Bailey are the new Elmer Dessens and Ron Villone.”
James’s overall conclusion, and, I find this to be perhaps the most important:
My guess is that pitching performances of this quality are unusual enough that probably
a) 90% of the teams that pull this off are better-than-.500 teams, and
b) 90% of the teams that are victimized by it are less-than-.500 teams.