Everyone knows about Barry Bonds' 762 career home runs, Cal Ripken, Jr.'s 2,632 consecutive games played and Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak. But there's a record that I don't think gets enough respect or attention.
From the sixth inning of a game on Aug. 30th to the 10th inning of a game on Sept. 28th, Orel Hershiser pitched 59 innings without allowing a single runner to cross the plate. He broke the previous record - held by former Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale - by 1/3 of an inning.
The streak officially only includes regular season starts, so after taking into account Hershiser's Game 1 start in the NLCS, the streak extends to 67 scoreless innings.
In that time, Hershiser pitched five complete game shutouts, just one shy of Drysdale's record of six-straight. In the final game of his streak, he pitched 10 scoreless innings in what would eventually be a 16-inning game.
The scoreless streak was the best stretch of Hershiser's 1988 season that culminated in his only Cy Young Award. After leading the Dodges to the postseason, Hershiser won both NLCS MVP and World Series MVP.
His performance in 1988 also earned him the second of three career All-Star selections and a Gold Glove Award while he led the National League in wins. He finished the year 23-8 with 178 strikeouts and a 2.26 ERA.
When people talk about baseball's unbreakable records, the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this post are the ones you usually hear. Maybe throw in Pete Rose's 4,256 hits and Cy Young's 511 wins, but no one ever talks about Hershiser's 59 consecutive scoreless innings.
When you think about the streak in context of the top-10 scoreless inning streaks in baseball, its even more impressive. Hershiser and Drysdale are the only two pitchers to throw more than 50 consecutive scoreless innings. Two other Dodgers pitchers have put together significant streaks, but neither have come close to Hershiser's record.
Zack Greinke pitched 45 2/3 innings without allowing a run in 2015 while Clayton Kershaw tossed 41 scoreless innings in a row in 2014.
If Hershiser's streak is ever matched, it probably won't be as impressive. In today's game, pitchers don't usually pitch as deep into games as they used to - averaging 5.2 innings per start in 2019 compared to 6.4 in 1988 - so we would be unlikely to see five straight complete game shutouts during a scoreless inning streak.
That, combined with higher offensive production, make it hard to believe that we will see another 59-inning scoreless streak.
Hershiser's 1988 season was the best of his career, but it wasn't the only good season he had. He struck out 150 or more batters six times in his career. He led the league in innings pitched three times and in 1989 led the league in ERA+ and FIP.
Despite these accolades, Hershiser's career numbers come just short of an average Hall of Fame pitcher. In his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2006, he received just 11.2 percent of the vote. The next year, he received 4.4 percent, falling below the 5 percent threshold required to stay on the ballot for the next year.
Hershiser has twice been considered by the Today's Game Committee to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but has not received enough votes either time.
As a result of this, and as per Dodgers policy, Hershiser's number cannot be retired by the team.
A man with as impressive a career as Hershiser and with a record-breaking season deserves to be honored. Whether he eventually makes it into the Hall of Fame remains to be seen, but what is for certain is that his 1988 scoreless inning streak deserves to be considered among baseball's unbreakable records.