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A Quick Look at Shutouts

Last Wednesday, the Blue Jays, much to my surprise, recorded only their first shutout of the season. Prior to defeating the Angels 3-0, they opened the season with 38 non-shutout games. Based on little knowledge of the expected frequency of shutouts, that seems like an awful long stretch of non-shutout baseball to open the season. In order to ease my troubled mind, here's how long it's taken each Blue Jays team since 1977 to record its first shutout:

Year     First Shutout                   # Total Shutouts
1977     Game 69 (June 26 vs. Orioles)      3
1978     Game 14 (April 23 vs. White Sox)   5
1979     Game 16 (April 24 vs. Rangers)     7
1980     Game  6 (April 17 vs. Brewers)     9
1981     Game 18 (April 29 vs. Brewers)     4 <-- Strike-shortened season
1982     Game  8 (April 16 vs. Red Sox)    13
1983     Game 19 (May 1 vs. White Sox)      8
1984     Game 10 (April 10 vs. Oakland)    10
1985     Game  2 (April 10 vs. Royals)      9
1986     Game 18 (April 27 vs. Orioles)    12
1987     Game 29 (May 11 vs. Royals)        8
1988     Game  5 (April 9 vs. Twins)       16
1989     Game  7 (April 10 vs. Yankees)    11
1990     Game 42 (May 28 vs. Oakland)       9
1991     Game  7 (April 14 vs. Brewers)    16
1992     Game  9 (April 15 vs. Yankees)    14
1993     Game  2 (April 7 vs. Mariners)    11
1994     Game 26 (May 5 vs. Royals)         4 <-- Strike-shortened season
1995     Game  4 ( April 29 vs. Angels)     8 <-- Strike-shortened season
1996     Game  6 (April 9 vs. Angels)       7
1997     Game  6 (April 9 vs. White Sox)   15
1998     Game 29 (May 2 vs. Athletics)     11
1999     Game 13 (April 18 vs. Orioles)     9
2000     Game  6 (April 8 vs. Rangers)      4
2001     Game  4 (April 5 vs. Devil Rays)  10
2002     Game 41 (May 19 vs. Athletics)     6
2003     Game 64 (June 8 vs. Reds)          6
2004     Game  9 (April 15 vs. Tigers)     11
2005     Game 12 (April 16 vs. Rangers)     7
2006     Game 39 (May 17 vs. Angels)        ?

Well, it turns out that it's abnormal to not post a shutout a good deal prior to the 39th game of the season. However, that doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on the quality of the Blue Jays. Simply put, there doesn't appear to be any sort of correlation between the date of a team's first shutout and its overall performance. Now, it does appear as though successful teams accrue more shutouts than unsuccessful ones, which makes sense. However, that correlation doesn't appear to be overly strong, since past teams with poor records posted many shutouts, and vice versa.

As of now, the Blue Jays are on pace to record approximately four shutouts this season, but they should easily surpass that. To be honest, this seems like it has more to do with unfortunate luck than anything else. With that in mind, however, it's important to note that a great deal of the current Blue Jays' success can be attributed to its high-octane offense as opposed to its subpar pitching staff. That should change, because the pitching really isn't this bad, while the offense simply isn't this good.

For interest's sake, here are the top 10 all-time Blue Jays shutout leaders, taken from baseball-reference.com:

Player      Shutouts
Dave Stieb      30
Jim Clancy      11
Jimmy Key       10
Pat Hentgen      9
Roy Halladay     8
Roger Clemens    6
Chris Carpenter  5
Jesse Jefferson  4
Todd Stottlemyre 4
Six others tied at 3