Baseball, a game of strategy and skill, has seen numerous feats over the years. However, one achievement stands out for its rarity and the exceptional skill it requires - striking out four batters in one inning. This feat is so rare that in over 100 years of major league baseball, with well over 100,000 games played, only a handful of pitchers have managed to accomplish it.
The First Four-Strikeout Frame
The first pitcher to strike out four batters in the same inning was Ed Crane. He achieved this remarkable feat on October 4, 1888, while playing for the New York Giants against the Chicago White Stockings. Walter Johnson followed suit in the American League on April 15, 1911, playing for the Washington Senators.
The Mechanics of a Four-Strikeout Frame
A four-strikeout frame occurs when a hitter takes first base after a third strike is dropped by the catcher, provided either first is vacant or there are two outs. This allows the batter to reach first base safely and gives the pitcher an opportunity to strike out an additional batter.
The Rise of Four-Strikeout Frames in the 21st Century
The occurrence of four-strikeout frames has grown exponentially in the 21st century. While there were no such achievements by a pitcher in nearly four decades from 1917-55, the frequency has increased significantly in recent years. For instance, there were four instances in 2017, six in 2016, and five more in 2021.
Notable Four-Strikeout Achievements
Several pitchers have managed to achieve this feat more than once in their career. Chuck Finley was the first pitcher in MLB history to record four strikeouts in an inning more than once, managing the feat three times. Other players who have accomplished this include A. J. Burnett, Zack Greinke, Craig Kimbrel, and Tyler Glasnow.
The Rarity of the Feat
Despite the increase in occurrences, striking out four batters in one inning remains a rare feat. It requires a combination of skill, strategy, and a bit of luck. The pitcher needs strong command over the direction and velocity of their pitches, and the ability to generate foolish swings with off-speed pitches thrown in two-strike situations.