There are a few baseball categories that only have a handful of entries – the 3,000 hit club, with 31 members, is one. Another rare feat is the “immaculate innings,” which means a nine-pitch, nine-strike inning. To date, there have only been 89 immaculate innings, and despite this low number, 2017’s had quite the run. Considering it only takes 10 regular baseball games to rack up 90 innings, getting an immaculate inning is extremely rare.
Let’s take a look at immaculate innings over the last century of baseball history so we can better understand how rare indeed they truly are.
Immaculate Innings on the Rise
As the years go by, there seems to be another trend aside from more guys clobbering homers. Glancing over this chart, you can see that the first three decades weren’t teeming with immaculate innings; in fact, there was only one immaculate inning in each decade in these early years.
In the ’20s, there were five immaculate nine-pitch, nine strike innings, the ’50s saw three, and the ’60s and ’70s each saw eight. The number went down in the ’80s (4) and jumped up dramatically in the ’90s (18) followed by 15 in the ’00s. Thus far in the ’10s, there have been 25 immaculate innings, far outpacing the decades of yesteryear.
The National League, by the numbers, has more immaculate innings than the American League – 55 for the NL, compared to 34 for the AL (although the Astros currently play in the American League, they achieved 5 immaculate innings during their time in the National League). In fact, the top team overall with the most immaculate innings is the National League’s Dodgers, who have seven. The second most amount was at the hands of the American League’s Yankees with six.
Two teams are tied with five – the Astros and the Phillies. There are quite a few that have four, including the Brewers, who have one while they were still in the AL and three in the NL. Other teams include the defending World Series champs – the Chicago Cubs – and the Boston Red Sox.
There are also a number of teams with three immaculate innings, including the Royals, Rays, and Giants. Among those with two immaculate innings are the Blue Jays, Mets, Nationals and Tigers. And finally, there are a handful of teams with one immaculate inning, including old-timey teams like the Beaneaters (who are now the Atlanta Braves) as well as current teams like the Mariners and the White Sox.
Considering how rare an immaculate inning is, it’s not a stretch to realize that it’s difficult for a pitcher to get one at all, much less more than one. Sandy Koufax, flamethrowing southpaw for the Dodgers (both Brooklyn and Los Angeles), managed to throw three immaculate innings during his career.
Lefty Grove is another pitcher who managed to grab an immaculate inning more than once – he performed this feat twice in the same year (1928) for the same team (the Philadelphia Athletics, who are now located in Oakland and are better known as the A’s). Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson also achieved it two times – once for two different teams.
The rest of the players on our list threw an immaculate inning once, which, as we’ve established, is still impressive. Pitchers include Max Scherzer (Nationals), Danny Jackson (Royals), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Rick Porcello (Red Sox), Roger Clemens (Blue Jays), Orel Hershiser (Giants), and Pedro Martinez (Red Sox).
Strike Three, You’re Out!
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