Jason Roberts, the London Mets’ ace, arrived at Roundshaw on Saturday with a record on the mound of 10 victories from as many starts. A double-digit wins totals has been achieved twice before in the British top tier’s modern history, by Cody Cain for the London Warriors in 1995 and Ian Bates for the Croydon Pirates in 2004. But one more win for Roberts would push him to 11, which would set a new modern record. The Mets’ opponents on Saturday were the Richmond Flames, in a single 9-inning game.
Early indications at Roundshaw hinted that Roberts might need a second attempt to gain his record-breaking victory, as the Flames jumped to a 5-0 lead after the first two frames. However, the Mets’ offence slowly began to eat into the lead and by the bottom of the sixth had pulled to within a run. With 121 pitches to his name already, Roberts remained in the game in the seventh and kept the score at 5-4, while in the bottom of the inning the Mets rallied to seize a 10-5 advantage.
Aided by a caught stealing to nullify a hit batter in the eighth, Roberts was able to face the minimum number of players over the final two innings, and the Mets took the game 12-5. Despite his economical closing frames, Roberts still finished the game with a pitch count in excess of 150. Incredibly, though, the pitch total of 158 that he registered was 42 fewer than he threw against Richmond in a 9-inning contest on 5 June. And in that game, Roberts had to keep warm during a 30-minute rain delay just to stay on the mound. With his final pitch back on 5 June he struck out Cody Cain, who represented the tying run, and in doing so brought up the double ton.
Unsurprisingly, a player who can throw 200 pitches and who can remain composed when faced with a 5-run deficit is a player who will notch up complete games. In fact, Roberts is yet to be relieved this season. His 11 complete games are three short of the modern record (set by Ian Bates in the season he posted 10 wins). With the Mets having four more regular-season weekends left, Roberts has an opportunity to reach 15 complete games and set another new mark.
Roberts also has an outside shot at breaking the single-season record for strike outs. This currently belongs to Don Knight, who struck out 129 batters for the Hounslow Rangers back in 1995; Roberts currently has 91 (a figure not surpassed in a complete season since 2001). Should the London hurler tally four more starts of 7 innings each, he will need to strike out 12.5 batters per 9 innings to pass Knight, which is within the range of someone currently retiring 10.8 batters on strikes every 9 innings.
In addition, if Roberts were to throw 28 innings (and this relies on him being available to pitch for the last four weekends and not being “hindered” by his team scoring enough runs to inflict game-shortening mercy-rule victories on any of their opponents), this would leave him 2.2 frames shy of Matt Gilbert’s record of 106.2 innings pitched for the Cambridge Monarchs in 2001. Without any extra-innings games, then, the Mets’ moundsman would need to throw in both ends of at least some of his team’s remaining double-headers in order to have a chance of passing Gilbert. British Baseball Federation bylaw 3.5 allows players who pitch fewer than 4 innings in the first game of a double-header to return in the second to take their day’s total up to a maximum of 9 frames (but a player who throws 4 or more frames in game one is only able to pitch at most 2 in the second contest).
League leaders and full season statistics, which include a game-by-game breakdown of batting and pitching figures, can be found on the Great Britain Baseball Scorers Association (GBBSA) website.