In tonight’s loss to the Tigers, Dellin Betances threw an immaculate inning; such a feat is, depending on how wide your lens, either quite rare or not so much. His is only the 87th immaculate inning in more than a century of baseball. It’s also the sixth this season and the 16th since 2014.
At a glance, this isn’t so surprising—strikeouts are up, so it stands to reason that immaculate innings should be, too. Nearly 22 percent of plate appearances have ended in a strikeout this season, compared to 17 percent a decade ago. But what makes an immaculate inning remarkable isn’t the simple fact of the three strikeouts, it’s how they come together: without so much as one pitch off the mark in a game where even the very best pitchers throw strikes only about 70 percent of the time. And the numbers on this part of the equation haven’t really changed. While strikeouts have increased as a whole over the past several seasons, the rate of strikeouts that come on three pitches has held pretty steady. (It’s 17.2 percent so far this year, compared to 16.9 percent in 2007 and 17.7 percent in 2012.)
Immaculate innings have become more common, then, but not necessarily less impressive—something that looks good no matter how often it’s conceived.