How rare were Minor's 3 outs on 3 pitches?

September 27th, 2019

One of the greatest things about baseball is the sheer quantity of possible outcomes at any given moment within a game, and how frequently different things that can be termed "rare" occur. One such rarity is the immaculate inning. You’ve probably heard of it -- an immaculate inning is when a pitcher strikes out all three batters in an inning, on three pitches each. The immaculate inning used to be very rare -- there were none from 1929-52. But in 2019, there have been seven.

Something more rare? How about recording three outs on three pitches in an inning? did it on Thursday in the eighth inning of the Rangers' 7-5 win vs. the Red Sox.

The first batter was Brock Holt. He grounded out to the first baseman on the first pitch from Minor in the inning, a 77-mph knuckle curve. Then, Gorkys Hernández grounded out to the shortstop on the first pitch he saw. Two away, and two pitches thrown. The third batter of the inning was Jackie Bradley Jr., who popped up to shortstop on the first pitch Minor threw him in the inning. And just like that, Minor had three outs on three pitches.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that it’s the third time that’s happened this season, that a pitcher has gotten three outs in a half-inning on three pitches -- including relievers who entered the game with no outs but didn’t start the inning. The other pitchers with a three-pitch, three-out inning this year were Adrian Houser on July 1 and Drew Anderson on April 15. That’s it.

Overall, there have been eight instances of a three-pitch, three-out inning since the start of 2015 according to Elias. In that same span, there have been 22 immaculate innings.

Based on trends we’ve seen in the game, it makes sense that such an inning -- which by definition cannot include a strikeout -- has become more rare, especially in contrast to immaculate innings, which require three strikeouts. On Tuesday, the league-wide strikeout record was set for the 12th season in a row. Each year since 2008, the league-wide strikeout total has surpassed the prior record. Given the proliferation of strikeouts, it makes sense that a specific, rare kind of inning that involves no strikeouts would become even more rare.