An “immaculate inning” is when a pitcher gets all three outs in an inning via strikeout on nine pitches. Reds reliever Drew Storen accomplished the feat to close out last night’s win over the Orioles.
Immaculate innings aren’t super common but they’re not terribly rare either. Storen’s was the first since last July when Juan Nicasio of the Pirates did it. At least two pitchers did it in 2015. Six did it in 2014. It’s been documented 76 times in all, but pitch-by-pitch stats have not been around for all of baseball history, which means it has certainly happened more often than that.
But it’s still cool. At least the to pitcher who does it, his team and their fans. Not so cool to Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy and Hyun Soo Kim of the O’s, who fell victim to Storen’s nine strikes. Watch:
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.