The new baseball season is upon us and that leads to today’s brainteaser: What is the absolute fewest number of pitches a starting pitcher could conceivably throw in a complete baseball game? The game is not rain-shortened or called early for any other reason. In addition, no runners advance due to a balk.
Think about it.
What is your answer?
Is it 27 pitches? Is that correct or is there is another answer? Let’s examine the situation.
Inning One: The Toledo Mudhens versus the Secaucus Sluggers
Top of the First: The Toledo Mudhens are the visiting team; that means they bat first or at the top of the inning. The pitcher for the Secaucus Sluggers is Billy “Sticky Fingers” Killigrew and he retires the side without anyone scoring.
Bottom of the First: Jack “Nine Fingers” McDougal is pitching for the Mudhens. Here’s what happens when the Sluggers come to bat:
- The first pitch is to Ernie “Iron Arms” Ferbisher who hits it out of the park for a home run. The score is 1 – 0 in favor of the Sluggers.
- McDougal’s second pitch is to Bill “Wide Bottom” Jackson who flies out.
- McDougal’s third pitch is to Reggie “No Nickname” Eldorado who grounds out to the shortstop.
- McDougal’s fourth pitch is to Etrius “The Gladiator” Demiskey who flies out to center.
The side is retired and McDougal has thrown four pitches.
The score is 1 – 0 in favor of the Secaucus Sluggers.
Top of the Second: Killigrew pitches the top of the second, facing four batters from the Mudhens. No runners score.
Bottom of the Second: McDougal pitches the bottom of the second inning as follows:
- One pitch to Harmon “Burpmeister” Pinella who grounds out.
- One pitch to Stevie “Fuel Injector” Torre who flies out.
- One pitch to Harry “Dust Mite” Ferrigno who also flies out.
McDougal has thrown seven pitches so far.
The score is still 1 – 0 in favor of the Secaucus Sluggers.
Innings Three through Eight
At the top of each inning: Killigrew continues to shutout the Mudhens.
At the bottom of each inning: The pattern repeats as McDougal continues to throw but one pitch to each batter (who either flies out or grounds out).
At the end of eight innings McDougal has thrown faced 25 batters (remember the leadoff homerun) and thrown 25 pitches.
The score is still 1 – 0 in favor the Secaucus Sluggers.
Top of the Ninth
The Mudhens come to bat. They must score at least one run or the game is over (the home team doesn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth if it is leading). However, Killigrew retires the side – the Mudhens have been shut out and the game is over.
Therefore, McDougal does not throw any pitches in the ninth inning. He has faced 25 batters and thrown 25 pitches!
The final score is 1 – 0 in favor the Secaucus Sluggers.