Ten Positives for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021 – No. 9: Backstops Break a Record
Anytime the words “set a new MLB record” are uttered, it’s a big deal. Granted, some records carry more magnitude than others – Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played with 2,131 in a row or Barry Bonds becoming the home run king in 2007 are still talked about to this day and will be talked about for years to come. In my eyes, these are two of the hardest records to ever beat, and I don’t believe I will see them ever get topped during my lifetime.
While the record the Pirates set in 2021 did not garner the attention that either of those did, they broke what was an over 40-year record, and it was previously set by a team that no longer exists. Dating back to last season, the Pirates went 193 straight games without allowing a passed ball. The previous record was held by the then-Montreal Expos, who went 174 straight contests without a passed ball from 1978-79. The Pirates were the first team with a streak over 145 games in the 21st century.
The men responsible for accomplishing the feat were Jacob Stallings, John Ryan Murphy, Michael Perez and a lone game caught by Andrew Susac in 2020. Stallings was responsible for the majority of the games behind the plate during the stretch of 193 games, as he has established himself as one of the top defensive catchers in Major League Baseball.
Interestingly enough, the streak ended on Sept. 23 against the Phillies when Perez was charged with two passed balls in the same inning – just a couple pitches apart.
As to whether we will ever see a team break this record in our lifetimes, well, your guess is as good as mine. But dating back to 1901, the Pirates did something no other team in Major League history had done, smashing the previous record by nearly 20 games. Including the Pirates and Expos, only one other team, the New York Yankees from 1931-32, have ever one at least 150 games in a row without a passed ball. Looking at it from that perspective, this is a record that has a good chance for going uncontested for a while.
Yes, the Pirates struggled this season, but baseball is a game full of unbelievable moments and statistics. Even a team as bad as the Pirates were in 2021 could make history that dates back well over a century ago.