Sometime during San Francisco Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit's 84-pitch complete game on Tuesday -- probably when he was at 29 pitches through four innings -- I got to thinking about one of the more underrated accomplishments not only in Colorado Rockies history, but in Major League Baseball as a whole over the last two decades.
Aaron Cook was barely more than a league-average pitcher during his 11-year MLB career. He allowed 10.5 hits per nine innings and whiffed just 1.35 batters for every walk that he issued. Pretty middling numbers, for sure. But what Aaron Cook possessed was one of the heaviest sinkers of his era. And when it was on -- which, more often than not, came when the San Diego Padres were in the opposing dugout -- it was truly a sight to behold.
Cook amassed 14 wins and a 3.10 ERA in 27 career starts against the Padres, but it was a pair of outings at Coors Field in the span of a calendar year that really made Cook stand out.
On July 25, 2007, Cook tossed a 74-pitch complete game against a team the Rockies would later beat in a one-game tiebreaker to advance to the postseason. In that game, Cook threw 55 strikes compared to just 19 balls and induced 15 ground-ball outs. The 74 pitches to this day is tied for the fewest amount of pitches in a nine-plus-inning complete game since the Rockies broke into the league in 1993.
Not even a year later, Cook one-upped himself.
Yes, he threw five more pitches, but Cook did not allow a run and faced only three batters over the minimum in a 79-pitch shutout on July 1, 2008 -- also at Coors Field, and also against the Padres. Cook induced 16 groundouts and produced a Game Score of 81, which was tied for the second-best of his career.
Cook is one of only six pitchers -- a list that includes Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine -- since the start of the 1993 season to throw a complete game on fewer than 80 pitches. Cook is the only one to do it twice. Don't believe me? Check this out:
Pretty impressive, right? Well, let's go back a few years before 1993. Like, say, 1914. The list doesn't get a whole lot bigger:
There are only nine pitchers since 1914 who have accomplished what Cook has. And, aside from Cook, only one -- Bob Tewksbury -- has done it twice.
Aaron Cook has a nice little niche in MLB history, but he's certainly a huge part of Rockies lore not only because of achieving the vastly unheralded feat described above, but also because he was the ultimate poster boy for pitching to contact when stuff and repertoire called for the approach.