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Friday, August 27, 2021

Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale joins Sandy Koufax as only pitchers on record with 3 immaculate innings

Red Sox ace Chris Sale joined Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers on record with three immaculate innings when he struck out the side on nine pitches in the third inning of Thursday night’s 12-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Sale was making his third start for Boston since returning from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2020 season.

He struck out Nick Gordon, Andrelton Simmons and Rob Refsnyder on three pitches each. Refsnyder was fooled badly by a slider in the dirt on the final pitch of the inning.

“Today was probably the best my mechanics have been start-to-finish. I really felt like I was staying on top of the baseball. I really kind of found it out in the bullpen before the game,’’ said Sale, who improved to 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA after the win.

Sale’s other immaculate innings came less than a month apart in 2019 when he did it against Baltimore on May 8 and Kansas City on June 5. He’s the first pitcher to throw an immaculate inning at Fenway Park since Pedro Martínez on May 18, 2002, vs. the Mariners.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 27, 2021 at 08:40 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: chris sale, immaculate inning

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. villageidiom Posted: August 27, 2021 at 10:58 AM (#6036685)
Today was probably the best my mechanics have been start-to-finish.
No wonder Cora took him out with one out in the 5th.
   2. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: August 27, 2021 at 11:31 AM (#6036693)
6th not 5th. And he was fading a bit. Probably could've kept going and there's a time and a place for that but a guy fresh off the DL who you have big money invested in is not the time and place. Your general point that you've made in a few places, that the Sox need to get some length from their starters, is 100% correct. They can't keep asking the bullpen for 4+ innings a night.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2021 at 12:14 PM (#6036697)
I find the concept of the immaculate inning a little odd. It's not like it's the best outcome. Three weak pop-ups, ground-balls, or fly-outs on less that 9 pitches is better.
   4. Jay Seaver Posted: August 27, 2021 at 12:24 PM (#6036702)
It's the best outcome that can be attributed (primarily) to the pitcher's skill. Three weak ground balls may be more efficient, but there's much less "what if" to three strikeouts on nine pitches.
   5. villageidiom Posted: August 27, 2021 at 01:49 PM (#6036728)
Yes, 6th. I started by typing 5.1 IP, and then edited to make it clearer, and then failed spectacularly at that.

I find the concept of the immaculate inning a little odd. It's not like it's the best outcome.
I mean, inside the park home runs are not as good an outcome as hitting a HR over the fence. You have to run, like, really hard!

OTOH, an immaculate inning, like an ITPHR, is a better outcome for the viewer. It's a "how about that!" moment. It's... fun. I'm not sure I need to explain the concept of fun, but this is the internet and all.

(FTR: Getting 3 outs on 3 pitches? Also fun.)
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2021 at 02:17 PM (#6036735)
I mean, inside the park home runs are not as good an outcome as hitting a HR over the fence. You have to run, like, really hard!

OTOH, an immaculate inning, like an ITPHR, is a better outcome for the viewer. It's a "how about that!" moment. It's... fun.


I guess, compared to normal strikeouts and walks, but contact, and men on base, and good defense are more fun. If I were to describe the most fun inning, it wouldn't be three K's, or three quick outs, of any sort.
   7. Rally Posted: August 27, 2021 at 02:20 PM (#6036738)
I find the concept of the immaculate inning a little odd. It's not like it's the best outcome. Three weak pop-ups, ground-balls, or fly-outs on less that 9 pitches is better.


Best outcome is to throw such an unhittable slow change that the batter swings and misses 3 times. As does the guy behind him, and the next one. One pitch - 3 strikeouts. Last time anybody did that was 1946.
   8. Textbook Editor Posted: August 27, 2021 at 02:38 PM (#6036742)
How many innings have there been with 3 pitches = 3 outs? I'm guessing there's a fair bit more of those by comparison, but also that this also was never really tracked before maybe the 1980s (unless Retrosheet has such data).
   9. phredbird Posted: August 27, 2021 at 03:21 PM (#6036753)

i wish i could remember when it was, but i once saw kenley jansen throw an immaculate inning against the mariners, and the third out was ichiro, swinging, to end the game.

it was one of the coolest things i ever saw.
   10. Jay Seaver Posted: August 27, 2021 at 03:36 PM (#6036757)
I guess, compared to normal strikeouts and walks, but contact, and men on base, and good defense are more fun. If I were to describe the most fun inning, it wouldn't be three K's, or three quick outs, of any sort.


If we were seeing immaculate innings every day from less dominant pitchers, sure, but the fact that this is a relative outlier and that Sale is an outlier for having done it three times is part of the fun, especially considering that he's just come back from surgery etc. It's fun because, like the cycle and 500-foot home runs and steals of home and successful knuckleballers and 18-inning games, it's out at the far side of the bell curve and you feel lucky to watch it.

It may not be your favorite kind of high-variance play, but I tend to feel that half the actual problem with the game evolving is not just the specific direction it's going, but that the events are less varied. It's part of why I hate the no-pitch IBB and zombie runners, because they make weird events less likely.
   11. pikepredator Posted: August 27, 2021 at 03:40 PM (#6036758)
Sale is an outlier for having done it three times is part of the fun


yes I'm glad it's Sale and Koufax and there's no Bumpus Jones in the mix. It's an impressive accomplishment but as I don't track every pitch so I wouldn't necessarily know I was about to witness one, so it definitely lacks that in-the-moment excitement. I'd know "sweet he's about to strike out the side!!" but that's it unless I was clued in. And I certainly don't start every inning thinking "will THIS ONE be the one?"
   12. The Duke Posted: August 27, 2021 at 04:01 PM (#6036767)
Who cares ? Why is this meaningful ? The best result is three outs on three pitches
   13. Jay Seaver Posted: August 27, 2021 at 04:30 PM (#6036770)
yes I'm glad it's Sale and Koufax and there's no Bumpus Jones in the mix


I dunno, it'd be kind of fun if there was some relatively random guy in there, where you can say he obviously wasn't always as good as Sale and Koufax but certainly had days when he could reach the same peak.

Who cares ? Why is this meaningful ? The best result is three outs on three pitches


For some values of "best", I guess. It's the quickest and most efficient, but while predictable and effective results are what GMs and coaches strive for, what's good for them isn't necessarily great for people watching the game as entertainment who want highs and lows, build-ups and climaxes, etc., rather than just positive end results.

Like, there are contexts when three pitches, three outs is exciting, I guess, but in context - Chris Sale still building up to his best but showing that he can just absolutely leave hitters with no chance - it's kind of fun, y'know?
   14. villageidiom Posted: August 27, 2021 at 04:56 PM (#6036778)
I mean, from a team perspective the "best" outcome is a forfeit where the opponent doesn't show up. The players get a win, and a day of rest. For a fan, that outcome sucks so hard.

Here we are, as fans, talking about stuff that's fun for at least some fans, and it's getting shot down because it's suboptimal for the players or because it's not the *most* fun thing. What's the opposite of schadenfreude? Like, y'all seem miserable about other people's joy.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: August 27, 2021 at 05:59 PM (#6036792)
It's the most dominant outcome.
   16. cookiedabookie Posted: August 27, 2021 at 05:59 PM (#6036793)
I wonder if anyone has had a four strikeout immaculate inning (12 pitches, 4K)?
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: August 27, 2021 at 11:39 PM (#6036821)

How many innings have there been with 3 pitches = 3 outs? I'm guessing there's a fair bit more of those by comparison, but also that this also was never really tracked before maybe the 1980s (unless Retrosheet has such data).


I don't know how often it would have happened. If the first two guys make outs on two pitches, it's long been the rule the third guy takes one.
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: August 28, 2021 at 07:42 AM (#6036839)
It's looking very likely that Wainwrights hold on "highest career cy young shares and having never won it" is going to be challenged by Sale if his performances this year is any indication of what he is capable of the next few years.... (I'm hoping that Waino gets at least one vote for Cy this year... even if it's the first time he gets a vote less than third place)
   19. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2021 at 09:18 AM (#6036844)
How many innings have there been with 3 pitches = 3 outs?

I wonder what the record is for the fewest number of pitches thrown in a 9 inning complete game win. That'd be about the most impressive record I could think of, since it would likely involve a pitcher's being able to trick lots and lots of batters into thinking they could drive balls that it turned out they couldn't.

Just about the best pitched game along those lines that I can remember was Ben McDonald's debut as a starting pitcher. He shut out the White Sox on 4 hits and used just 85 pitches,** in a game that took only 2:23. I don't think he ever had a better start in his entire 9 year career.

** By contrast, Don Larsen threw 97 pitches in his perfect game.
   20. CStallion Posted: August 28, 2021 at 09:57 AM (#6036848)
Re 16 and 17

3 pitch innings are indeed more unusual at around 2x a year

https://www.baseball-almanac.com/feats/3_pitch_inning.shtml
   21. TJ Posted: August 28, 2021 at 10:28 AM (#6036850)
Immaculate innings are certainly impressive and eye-catching, but last night Detroit Tigers rookie Matt Manning had both a 5-pitch and 7-pitch inning, which for a team has to be more useful.
   22. Mefisto Posted: August 28, 2021 at 10:50 AM (#6036856)
I wonder what the record is for the fewest number of pitches thrown in a 9 inning complete game win.


I believe the answer is 51. Don't have a cite though.
   23. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2021 at 12:40 PM (#6036866)
Mefisto,

I just googled the question, and according to Baseball Almanac, the record is 58, set by Red Barrett of the Boston Braves in a 2-hit shutout of the Reds on August 10, 1944. Not too surprising that he had neither a single walk nor a single strikeout, and that the game was completed in an hour and 15 minutes.

Box score and details

In the 20 perfect games where pitch counts are known, the number of pitches has ranged from Addie Joss's 74 in 1908 to Matt Cain's 125 in 1912. The Time of Game has ranged from Cy Young's 1:25 in 1904 to David Wells' 2:40 in 1998. Larsen's and Wells' perfect games attracted the largest crowds, while only 6,298 witnessed Catfish Hunter's gem in 1968.
   24. Mefisto Posted: August 28, 2021 at 04:31 PM (#6036881)
The record I was remembering was the shortest game time (51 minutes).
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2021 at 05:37 PM (#6036884)
Right, and that game had 18 hits and 7 runs, but only 3 strikeouts. It was the final day of the season and a meaningless game, which suggests that a lot of batters were swinging at the first pitch.

Box score and play-by-play

Newspaper account of the game
   26. Brian C Posted: August 28, 2021 at 08:19 PM (#6036896)
Immaculate innings are certainly impressive and eye-catching, but last night Detroit Tigers rookie Matt Manning had both a 5-pitch and 7-pitch inning, which for a team has to be more useful.

It seems highly doubtful that there's any meaningful difference in "usefulness" between a 5- or 7- or 9-pitch inning.

Or a 3-pitch inning, for that matter. What if on the first pitch, the CF makes an amazing running catch but hurts himself slamming into the wall? That's not good for the team!
   27. BDC Posted: August 29, 2021 at 11:19 AM (#6036954)
It'd be kind of fun if there was some relatively random guy in there, where you can say he obviously wasn't always as good as Sale and Koufax but certainly had days when he could reach the same peak

Although if Wikipedia is correct & I'm reading it accurately, the guys who have thrown two immaculate innings are Koufax, Sale, Lefty Grove, Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Max Scherzer – and Kevin Gausman.

It's my vague impression that that's the way with quite a few "signature" achievements. 8-game HR streak: Mattingly, Griffey, Dale Long. 4 HR in one game: Gehrig, Mays, Schmidt, etc., Pat Seerey, Scooter Gennett. Perfect games: Young, Koufax, Halladay, etc., Dallas Braden, Philip Humber.
   28. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 29, 2021 at 05:08 PM (#6036993)
The Rockies' Antonio Senzatela just had a four-pitch inning against the Dodgers. Ground out, called strike, fly out, failed bunt.
   29. Mefisto Posted: August 30, 2021 at 11:03 AM (#6037100)
Logan Webb had a 3 pitch inning against the Braves this weekend.
   30. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 30, 2021 at 12:02 PM (#6037122)
It'd be kind of fun if there was some relatively random guy in there, where you can say he obviously wasn't always as good as Sale and Koufax but certainly had days when he could reach the same peak

Although if Wikipedia is correct & I'm reading it accurately, the guys who have thrown two immaculate innings are Koufax, Sale, Lefty Grove, Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Max Scherzer – and Kevin Gausman.

Though apparently Gausman's newly discovered splitter is being called "the most dominant pitch in baseball". Maybe at 30 he'll blossom into the next Dazzy Vance, whose entire HoF career was based on what he did beginning at the age of 31.

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