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.
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
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.
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.