MLB Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training today and it seems like as good a time as any to get those score books out of the closet and settle in for a refresher course. Last spring I wrote an article about the 4 Strike-Out Inning and asked you if anyone knew how to score it. No one did, at least no one responded. Robert Bulka to the rescue! Robert’s written a book and several articles on how to go about scoring a ballgame and he’s generously offered to give us a lesson on the subject. I love this stuff!
How To Score Baseball – The Four Strikeout Inning
It’s one of the most peculiar situations in all of baseball, a pitcher striking out four players in one inning. Not only is it an odd situation, it’s one of the rarer baseball situations you would record in a baseball scorebook.
The four strikeout inning occurs when a batter swings and misses on strike three but the catcher misses the ball. The batter then runs and reaches first base before being tagged out.
Two conditions must be met for a pitcher to strike out 4 batters in one innings: 1) with less than two outs there cannot be a runner on first base and 2) the catcher makes an error catching the third strike and the batter reaches base safely. Technically, a 4 strikeout inning could occur if a batter swings at a wild pitch on the third strike, and reaches base safely.
When scoring the 4 strikeout inning in a baseball scorebook, the pitcher is still credited with a strikeout, and an error is charged to the catcher (if the catcher missed the third strike “E2”) or the pitcher (if the third strike was a wild pitch “E1”).
This at-bat would be recorded as a “K” (swinging strikeout) and E2 (error on the catcher) in the scorebox of the batter.
So let’s take the situation where the first two batters in the inning strikeout swinging and the third batter strikes out swinging but reaches first base and the fourth batter strikes out swinging to retire the side.
1st batter: Jones strikes out swinging on 1 ball 2 strike pitch.
Write a “K” on the baseball scorecard to denote a strikeout swinging. In the top right hand corner enter “1” and circle it to denote the first out. The dots in the boxes represent the count on the batter at the end result of his at-bat.
2nd batter: Adams strikes out swinging. Write a “K” in the box to denote a strikeout swinging. At the top right had corner enter “2” and circle it, to denote the second out of the evening. Again, the dots represent the count when the batter struck out.
3rd batter: Smith swings at third strike but the catcher misses the ball and the he reaches first base safely. Write a “K” in the scorebook AND “E2” to denote that the ball passed the catcher; hence the reason for batter reaching 1st base safely. Draw a diagonal line from Home to First “/” to denote the batter reached first base. The dots represent the fact that he swung and missed on a full count (3 balls 2 strikes).
4th batter: Odom strikes out swinging: Write a “K” on the baseball scorecard to denote a strikeout swinging. Draw a diagonal the under the player at-bat box to denote he made the last out of the inning. The dots represent he struck out on an 0-2 pitch.
A Little History About the Four Strikeout Inning
The first Major League player to be credited with this rare feat was Ed “Cannonball” Crane of the New York Giants on October 4, 1888.
The last player to achieve this feat was Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers, who struck out four batters in the fifth inning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds on September 17, 2011.
There have been a total of 57 4 out innings recorded in MLB history, 24 in the American League and 33 in the National League.
A five strikeout inning has never been recorded in MLB. However, it has happened in the minor leagues 3 times; and you can even begin to count how many times it has happened in amateur baseball.
Written by: Robert Bulka, author of How To Score Baseball – Advanced Edition