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Baseball is a sport filled with statistics, records, and rare feats that are celebrated by fans and players alike. One of the most elusive achievements in baseball is the immaculate inning. This pitching feat is achieved when a pitcher strikes out the side on nine pitches, resulting in a perfect inning. In other words, the pitcher throws three strikes to each of the three batters they face, resulting in a nine-pitch inning with no balls, no hits, and no walks.
The term "immaculate inning" was first coined by Boston Red Sox broadcaster Red Barber in 1960. Barber used the phrase to describe the rare feat of striking out three batters on nine pitches, and it has been used ever since to describe this perfect inning. Over the years, the immaculate inning has become a coveted achievement for pitchers, and a symbol of pitching dominance in baseball.
In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the immaculate inning, what it is, and why it's so rare in baseball. We'll explore the rules and strategies for achieving an immaculate inning, as well as notable achievements and famous pitchers who have achieved this feat. We'll also examine the rarity of the immaculate inning, comparing it to other rare feats in baseball and looking at the statistics and probability of achieving one. So let's get started and explore the magic of the immaculate inning in baseball.
To achieve an immaculate inning, a pitcher must strike out the side on nine pitches, meaning they need to throw three strikes to each of the three batters they face. The pitcher can't throw any balls, hit any batters, or allow any batters to reach base by any means. In other words, the pitcher must pitch a perfect inning, striking out every batter they face.
The key to achieving an immaculate inning is a combination of skill and strategy. The pitcher needs to have excellent command of their pitches, throwing accurate strikes that the batters can't hit. They also need to be able to mix up their pitches and keep the batters guessing, throwing a combination of fastballs, curveballs, sliders, and other pitches to keep the batters off-balance.
Another important factor in achieving an immaculate inning is timing. The pitcher needs to be able to get ahead in the count and throw strikes early in the at-bat, putting the batter in a defensive position. This allows the pitcher to take control of the at-bat and dictate the terms, making it more likely that they'll be able to strike out the batter with three pitches or less.
Over the years, the immaculate inning has become a symbol of pitching dominance in baseball, and achieving one is considered a rare and impressive feat. Since the first recorded immaculate inning by Lefty Grove in 1922, there have been a total of 105 immaculate innings thrown in Major League Baseball history, as of the end of the 2021 season.
Some of the most famous pitchers to achieve the immaculate inning include Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, and Max Scherzer, among others. Koufax holds the record for the most immaculate innings thrown in his career, with three. Martinez and Scherzer are the only two pitchers in MLB history to have thrown two immaculate innings in their career.
In addition to the individual achievements, the immaculate inning has also been achieved by teams in rare instances. Only three teams in MLB history have recorded an immaculate inning during a game: the Philadelphia Phillies in 1917, the Cincinnati Reds in 1964, and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020.
The immaculate inning is one of the rarest achievements in baseball, with only 105 instances recorded in MLB history, as of the end of the 2021 season. To put this in perspective, there have been over 220,000 games played in MLB history, making the immaculate inning a truly rare and elusive feat.
When compared to other rare feats in baseball, such as the perfect game or no-hitter, the immaculate inning is still relatively rare. There have been 23 perfect games and 303 no-hitters recorded in MLB history, making them even rarer than the immaculate inning.
In terms of probability, the odds of achieving an immaculate inning are extremely low. The probability of a pitcher throwing an immaculate inning is approximately 1 in 1,000, based on the number of innings pitched and the frequency of the feat. This makes the immaculate inning a truly special achievement in baseball, and a testament to the skill and dominance of the pitchers who have achieved it.
While the immaculate inning is primarily associated with Major League Baseball, it's worth noting that this feat has been achieved in other baseball leagues around the world as well.
In Japan, the equivalent of the immaculate inning is known as the "triple three" or "triple nine" inning, which refers to a pitcher striking out three batters on nine pitches in a single inning. The first recorded triple nine inning in Japanese baseball history was achieved by Tsuneo Horiuchi of the Yomiuri Giants in 1964.
Similarly, in Korea, the immaculate inning is known as the "triple three" inning, and has been achieved on several occasions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) league. The first recorded triple three inning in KBO history was achieved by Park Chul-soon of the Haitai Tigers (now known as the Kia Tigers) in 1987.
In Australia, the immaculate inning is known as the "triple strikeout inning," and has been achieved in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) as well. The first recorded triple strikeout inning in ABL history was achieved by Steve Kent of the Brisbane Bandits in 2017.
Now that we've covered the basics of what an immaculate inning is and how rare it is, let's take a look at some fun facts and trivia surrounding this impressive feat:
The pitcher with the most career strikeouts and the most career wins in MLB history, Nolan Ryan, achieved the immaculate inning three times in his career.
The only pitcher to achieve the immaculate inning twice in the same season is Brandon Morrow, who did so in 2017 while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On May 11, 2021, Joe Musgrove of the San Diego Padres threw the first no-hitter in Padres history, and achieved an immaculate inning in the process.
The most recent pitcher to achieve the immaculate inning as of the end of the 2022 season is Hayden Wesneski of the Chicago Cubs, who did so on September 22, 2022.
The longest gap between immaculate innings in MLB history is 34 years, between the achievement of Sandy Koufax's first immaculate inning in 1962 and his second in 1996.
The fastest immaculate inning in MLB history was achieved by Lefty Grove in 1931, who struck out the side on nine pitches in just over one minute.
As you can see, the immaculate inning is not only a rare and impressive feat, but it's also rich in history, culture, and trivia. Whether you're a die-hard baseball fan or a casual observer of the sport, the immaculate inning is sure to capture your attention and inspire awe in the skill and dominance of the pitchers who achieve it.
The i is for immaculate. pic.twitter.com/DqOOFomUMh
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 23, 2022
Over the course of baseball history, only a select group of pitchers have achieved the immaculate inning. Let's take a look at some of the most notable pitchers who have accomplished this feat:
Sandy Koufax, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest pitchers of all time, achieved the immaculate inning twice in his career. He achieved his first immaculate inning on June 30, 1962, while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the New York Mets. He achieved his second immaculate inning on August 31, 1965, while playing against the Chicago Cubs. Koufax's achievement is particularly impressive given that he played in an era when strikeouts were less common than they are today.
Randy Johnson, who was known for his overpowering fastball and devastating slider, achieved the immaculate inning twice in his career. He achieved his first immaculate inning on September 27, 1997, while playing for the Seattle Mariners against the Minnesota Twins. He achieved his second immaculate inning on May 18, 2001, while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Atlanta Braves. Johnson's achievement is particularly impressive given that he is one of only five pitchers in MLB history to achieve 4,000 career strikeouts.
Nolan Ryan, who is the all-time leader in career strikeouts and no-hitters, achieved the immaculate inning three times in his career. He achieved his first immaculate inning on July 9, 1968, while playing for the New York Mets against the Cincinnati Reds. He achieved his second immaculate inning on August 1, 1977, while playing for the California Angels against the Detroit Tigers. He achieved his third and final immaculate inning on May 1, 1991, while playing for the Texas Rangers against the Toronto Blue Jays. Ryan's achievement is particularly impressive given that he played in an era when strikeouts were less common than they are today.
Other notable pitchers who have achieved the immaculate inning include Lefty Grove, Sandy Alomar Sr., and Max Scherzer. Grove achieved the feat on July 25, 1928, while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics against the Cleveland Indians. Alomar achieved the feat on July 10, 1968, while playing for the California Angels against the New York Yankees. Scherzer achieved the feat on June 14, 2020, while playing for the Washington Nationals against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In conclusion, the immaculate inning is a rare and impressive feat in baseball, achieved by striking out three batters in a single inning using only nine pitches. While it may seem like a simple task, it requires a pitcher to be at the top of their game mentally and physically. Not only do they need to have exceptional control and velocity on their pitches, but they also need to maintain their focus and composure throughout the inning.
Throughout baseball history, only a select group of pitchers have achieved the immaculate inning, and each one of them has left their mark on the game in their own unique way. Whether it was Sandy Koufax's dominance in the 1960s, Nolan Ryan's longevity and durability, or Randy Johnson's overpowering fastball, each pitcher brought their own unique style to the mound.
While achieving the immaculate inning is rare, it is not impossible. With hard work, dedication, and a little bit of luck, any pitcher has the potential to achieve this impressive feat. So the next time you're watching a game and a pitcher strikes out three batters on nine pitches, remember that you have witnessed one of the rarest and most impressive feats in all of baseball.
Chris Sloan is a former baseball league commissioner and travel baseball coach who has made significant contributions to the sport. In 2018, he founded selectbaseballteams.com, a website that helps parents find youth and travel baseball teams in their local areas. Since its launch, the website has experienced impressive growth, offering a wealth of resources including teams, news, tournaments, and organizations. Chris's unwavering passion for baseball and his innovative approach to connecting parents with quality baseball programs have earned him a respected reputation in the baseball community, solidifying his legacy as a leading figure in the world of youth and travel baseball.
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