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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Barret Browning’s historic perfect start

Though the St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly looking for left-handed relief pitching, December 2011 minor league Rule 5 pick Barret Browning has proven to be more than most probably expected since his arrival from Triple-A Memphis 10 days ago.

In fact, the 27-year-old has been perfect. Historically perfect.

Over his first four major league outings, Browning has yet to allow even one baserunner. That ties him with four others for the longest perfect beginning in games to a career in major league history, reports researcher Tom Orf.

By definition, one might think that using games as the measurement rather than innings skews this analysis away from starters and toward relievers, but either way, the accomplishment is impressive.

Upon my request, Orf found the longest perfect starting debut in terms of innings and Browning’s total is right there. The 4 1/3 innings of work by Arizona starting pitcher Max Scherzer in his MLB debut on April 29, 2008 has already been tied by Browning’s perfect 4 1/3 frames over the latter’s initial four outings as a major leaguer. 13 up and 13 down.

With his next outing, if perfect, Browning would have sole possession of the career-opening game record and most likely, the batters/innings-pitched record, too.

Most career-opening perfect outings, MLB pitcher

Pitcher Strk Start End G W L GF SV IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA HBP WP BK Tm
Barret Browning 6/30/2012 7/8/2012+ 4 0 0 0 0 4.1 0 0 0 0 3 0 0.00 0 0 0 STL
Chris Mears 6/29/2003 7/6/2003 4 0 0 4 0 4.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.00 0 0 0 DET
Jeremy Fikac 8/16/2001 8/22/2001 4 1 0 0 0 4.1 0 0 0 0 3 0 0.00 0 0 0 SDP
Dale Polley 6/23/1996 7/2/1996 4 1 0 0 0 1.2 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.00 0 0 0 NYY
Cliff Ross 9/11/1954 9/20/1954 4 0 0 3 1 2.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 0 0 0 CIN

Even so, this feat does not necessarily signal future success. Check out the career MLB summaries of the other names on the first-four-perfect-outing list.

MLB Career Yrs ERA G IP
Chris Mears 1 5.44 29 41.1
Jeremy Fikac 4 4.49 121 136.1
Dale Polley 1 7.89 32 21.2
Cliff Ross 1 0.00 4 2.2

Clearly Cliff Ross’ case is the most interesting. The right-hander was called up by a below-.500 Cincinnati club going nowhere in September 1954, despite him having no Triple-A experience. Ross faced just eight batters in his MLB career and retired every one.

Yet, that brief fit of perfection wasn’t good enough to help him stick. Ross did not make the 1955 Reds. He went on to pitch three more years in the minors, but never returned to the bigs.

Perhaps Browning’s story will have a happier ending. The start certainly can’t be beat.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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22 Responses to “Barret Browning’s historic perfect start”

  1. Bw52 says:

    Ross reminds me of a story i read in baseball digest years ago about playeers who played only 1 game in the majors and where good.Tom Paciorek`s brother played for the Colt 45`s on the last day of the season in 1963 or 1964 and he went 4 for 4 at the plate in his only game.The next spring he injured his back and never got another chance at the big leagues .May Brians stat wiz Tom Ord can look this up for sure.Pulling this from memory years ago.

  2. blingboy says:

    Notice how Street is standing next to the Cards in the player intro? Uh-huh.

  3. blingboy says:

    Small sample size, yes, but as long as Browning waited to finally get is shot, he handles a potentially high stress situation quite well. Icewater. A good quality in a reliever.

    That same factor seems to have been a part of Lynn’s and Mighty Joe’s early success as well.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    On Browning’s behalf, he has been good the entire season for Memphis. He says he has improved one or two of his pitches, so there are reasons why he has improved, it seems not just random luck.
    Someday Browning is going to, horrors, surrender a walk. And someday yield a base hit. And someday runs, because no pitcher is invincible.
    But if he stays healthy, he has a good chance of being relatively effective and that would be a nice blessing.

  5. Nutlaw says:

    So it was nice to see the National League destroy the inferior AL tonight. It was nice to see the Cardinals players contribute positively. It was nice to see Lance Lynn protected from the game. It was especially nice to see La Russa get one more chance to play a Cardinal out of position (Freese at 1B).

  6. blingboy says:

    Real baseball fans take a few days off for the AS break right along with the players. So I’ve had a little time to catch up.

    Shelby isn’t the only highly rated Cards pitching prospect stinking it up this year. Tyrell Jenkins, rated #8 by TCN, and highly rated nationally, got promoted to high A this year, got blasted, went on the DL, came off the DL, and is still getting blasted.

    I can’t find too much recent info. Harder to find out about lower level guys however highly rated. Anybody know anything?

    • Brian Walton says:

      Jon Popham was at Jenkins’ last start and talked about it in the Quad Cities Notebook, which was posted on the main site on Monday.

      • blingboy says:

        I was thinking Palm Beach for some reason, even though I was just looking at his recent performances. Jeesh. Better take a few more days off.

      • blingboy says:

        Sounds like his velocity is close to normal, and he’s mixing pitches, changing speeds, but the hitters are teeing off. I guess if his problems persist there will be some bits of info leak out as to the org’s thinking.

  7. blingboy says:

    Tidbit from today’s Strauss chat:
    ” . . . The same group that was not impressed by Miller’s spring training vibe embraces Kelly and Rosenthal. There are players in the Cards clubhouse who would be very disappointed to see Kelly moved. That should confirm his value.”

  8. WesPowell says:

    Tony’s last 3 games. The miracle mulitple rallies in game 6 of the series. The game 7 win to get the championship. And then the shellacking of the American League in the All-Star game.

    He’s got to be sleeping well.

  9. WesPowell says:

    I’m just out here on the periphery, and the alarm clark has to buzz for 5 minutes to wake me up.

    • kray66 says:

      Thought that was hilarious. I watched a few minutes of the ESPY’s. Saw the Cards get screwed out of Best Game to a regular season NFL game. I guess I just don’t appreciate the NFL enough. Did see the Pat Summit tribute, which was really good.

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