Do you remember Tyler Olson? A lefty reliever who came up in the Mariners organization -- some nice kismet, as he grew up in Spokane, Wash. -- he pitched a total 124 games over five seasons for the Yankees, Mariners and Cleveland. He was the sort of lefty specialist that the three-batter rule has mostly phased out of the game: Though he appeared in 124 games, he pitched a total of just 94 innings. You probably don’t remember him at all.
But he holds an incredible record, a record almost no one knows about … perhaps even Olson. In 2017 while with Cleveland, in 20 innings across 30 appearances, Olson didn’t give up a single run, earned or otherwise. Twenty innings, 13 hits, six walks, 18 strikeouts … zero runs. Those 20 innings are the most innings any pitcher has thrown in a season without giving up an earned run in the expansion era, since 1969. The second-most innings in a season without giving up an earned run were thrown by … 19-year-old Fernando Valenzuela, in 1980 (the year before Fernandomania hit), when he threw 17 2/3 innings.
The point is: It’s super, super hard to go untouched for very long, and certainly not within the constraints of a full season.
We are only a little more than a month into the 2022 season, and of the 399 pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings, only six have yet to allow an earned run (three of them have not allowed any runs.) Here are those six guys with a 0.00 ERA, listed in order of innings pitched. (Players with an asterisk have allowed at least one unearned run.)
J.P. Feyereisen, RHP, Rays
17 1/3 IP, 17 K, 4 BB, 3 H
A very Rays type of pitcher, Feyereisen, a Wisconsin native, came over to Tampa in the Willy Adames trade last year. He had been a perfectly respectable reliever for the Brewers, but, like so many other pitchers, he elevated his game once he became a Ray. He had a 2.45 ERA in 34 appearances after the trade, allowed a run in his final appearance of the ‘21 season, and that has been it for earned runs allowed. Because he’s with the Rays, two of his appearances have been starts. And one of those starts turned out to (almost) be a no-hitter.
Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers
13 1/3 IP, 21 K, 5 BB, 2 H
It certainly is not surprising to see Hader on this list. He had the best year of his career in 2021, with a 1.23 ERA in 60 appearances. If you don’t count the postseason -- he gave up a home run to Freddie Freeman in Game 4 of the NLDS -- Hader is on quite a run right now. The last regular season game in which Hader gave up an earned run was July 28 of last year against Pittsburgh. Add his current 13 1/3 innings to the 20 1/3 innings he had at the end of last year, and Hader has thrown 33 2/3 consecutive scoreless regular season innings. That’s fewer than eight innings away from making the top 10 all time.
Jarlín García, LHP, Giants
13 1/3 IP, 10 K, 6 BB, 4 H*
Oh, look, another veteran the Giants have made better, although García has been good for a few years now. The Giants picked up García off waivers from the Marlins in February 2020, and he’s been nails since. He has a 1.88 ERA in 100 1/3 innings in his Giants career, rarely throwing more than one inning an appearance. Like Hader, he last allowed an earned run in the postseason, giving up a home run to Mookie Betts in Game 4 of the NLDS last year, and has allowed just two unearned runs in ‘22.
Joe Smith, RHP, Twins
12 1/3 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 8 H*
Joe Smith! Everybody loves Joe Smith! This is Smith’s 15th year in the Majors and the 38-year-old, after the worst season of his career in 2021 (a 4.99 ERA, including a 7.48 mark with the Astros), has been his best self so far. The sidewinder has danced between the raindrops a bit -- he’s not striking out many guys, and he’s given up the most hits on this list -- but you cannot argue with the results. Fun fact about Smith: In his MLB debut, for the Mets in 2007, he walked Albert Pujols and gave up a single to David Eckstein. If he sticks around next year, he’ll be one of the 10 oldest players in the Majors.
Ryan Helsley, Cardinals
12 2/3 IP, 23 K, 2 BB, 2 H
Of all the incredible pitchers on this list, none of them has been as dominant as Helsley. He was dominant in the 2019 postseason -- he struck out eight in 5 1/3 scoreless innings that year, becoming the most valuable weapon in that Cardinals bullpen -- but injuries have plagued him since then. He had a 5.25 ERA in 2020 and a 4.56 ERA last year, thanks largely to elbow and knee problems. After knee surgery, though, he’s been able to plant his foot and fire, and it has led to Helsley at his absolute best. He also threw the second-fastest pitch of this season, with a 103.1 mph fastball.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Dodgers
10 1/3 IP, 16 K, 3 BB, 3 H*
Of course there was going to be a Dodger on here. Heaney has been tantalizing for years, and the Dodgers got two excellent starts out of him, thanks largely to an overhauled delivery, before he went on the IL with shoulder issues. Still, the Dodgers are optimistic he’ll be back soon and that he will continue to be able to work his magic the same way upon his return.