In the Summer 2012 awards voting, a rookie right hander who sometimes rocks an almost submarine delivery style did something that shocked most of the wiffleball world…he won the Cy Young Award.
It wasn’t that his numbers didn’t deserve consideration for the award given to the best pitcher in the league, he led in ERA (.31) and OBA (.137) and was fourth in strikeouts (56). It was that he upset the incumbent holder of the award; the four time winner who was the odds on favorite for a fifth Cy, Joe Thaman. Thaman, in addition to winning four Cy Youngs, had also won four MVP’s over the same time span. For his own double dip in the awards, Nitto claimed himself a Rookie of the Year trophy.
Some question the value of the year end awards, citing voter turnout and popularity more than stats as determining factors. After all, Thaman won the World Series that same season, eliminating Nitto’s Gumballers in the DCS. A DCS in which Thaman outpitched Nitto in ERA (0.53/1.06) as well as OBA (.175/.209) and in K’s (40/13), not to mention in the most important “team” category, two game wins to one. (NOTE: Postseason performance doesn’t factor into the awards, they’re voted on before that.)
During the past week the sophomore Nitto did something else to push the veteran out of the way, and this one can’t be attributed to anything other than his performance. He broke a record thought to probably be unbreakable, by throwing 78 consecutive scoreless innings. Thaman, the previous record holder, had set the “unbreakable” mark in the spring of 2011 at 73. The previous high mark before then had been 53, by Tony Ragano.
“The scoreless inning streak is certainly amazing,” Commissioner Gallaway said. “This is a game where we have a home run every 17 at bats. To consider that he has faced 10 times that many batters over this time and not given one up, let alone a run of some other kind, it’s simply remarkable.”
In fact, during the streak, Nitto has only allowed four doubles, and sixteen singles. It’s hard for runs to get scored against you when no one ever reaches scoring position. He’s also blessed with an above average fielder, Don McClintock who keeps a lot of balls in front of him with his speed and range. Through 11 games in Summer 2012, and the first two of this season, McClintock was error free behind Nitto. He did commit two fumbles this past week, a rarity for him, but still only one runner even reached second base in the two games.
Nitto’s mark isn’t without controversy of course. His streak is split over two seasons, with his first 56 innings coming in his rookie year, and 22 carrying over this season. Thaman’s mark was in one season, but streaks carry over. In between those two seasons, Nitto got tagged for eight runs in the postseason, but those games don’t count. This season, he didn’t pitch in games Week 2 against Superman’s Wheelchair (who got to him for those eight postseason) or Scared Hitless, who sometimes can score runs. (Nitto faced Hitless twice last season, giving up three runs in his league debut game, but holding them scoreless early in his streak for the second meeting.)
Don’t let the naysayers get to you though, the four-time Player of Week certainly isn’t going to. When presented with his keychain for winning his fourth award during Week 1 this season, Nitto feigned surprise with a wry smile and said he was sure that Matt Gagnon was going to win.
The question now, is how long can the streak go. Nitto’s Gumballers have two games on the Red field this week against the Canvassers, who are hitting about 60 point below the league average, and Oedipus who by all measures are the worst hitting team in the league. The wind is also supposed to be blowing in, pretty stiff, so a home run might be tough to come up with. Week 5 he draws rookies Porkchop Sandwiches and the light hitting Natty Brohs. It’s not hard to see a possibility that this streak gets to somewhere close to the century mark.
Of course, it’s just as possible that a guest player who’s never had a hit in his life knocks a ball off the foul pole in the first inning to make this next “unbreakable” record capped off, and ready for the next guy to take a run at. That’s why we play the games.