What is the lowest scoring baseball game?

The lowest score in the modern era of baseball was Allan Travers' 26-hit, 24-run start for the Detroit Tigers. This performance only came about because regular Tigers players organized a strike in protest of the suspension of Ty Cobb. In short, there were 20 runs scored in this series, 12 by Cleveland and eight by the Blue Jays. This makes it the lowest of all ALCS since it moved to a best-of-seven format.

The only series coming up is the 1990 ALCS, when the A's scored 20 runs against the paltry four of the Red Sox. It's also easily the lowest of any series in terms of runs per game. There have been several times since 1871 when teams have scored in every inning at bat, mostly by local teams, which then don't have to bat at the end of the ninth. I thought the Philadelphia A's of 1871 were the same A's that became the Oakland Athletics, but the wisest minds in baseball corrected me.

The scores in the boxes reveal striking statistics that are too extravagant for a video game, and many occurred long before that technology emerged. For games in general, this was, adjusted to the average number of runs scored per game in the regular season, the ALCS with the lowest score in history. The question of how often this could have occurred throughout the history of baseball first came to my attention some 20 years ago, when I was standing in the parking lot of Kauffman Stadium, the baseball stadium of the Kansas City Royals. Starting in 1909 (since Retrosheet's annual data is not interrupted), the percentage of entries in which a race was scored was generally just under 30 percent.

This year, the average American League game produced 8.9 runs in total, which is actually in the middle of the list in the ALCS years (6.9 in 1972 was the lowest and 10.8 in 1996 is the highest). You can see that 4.0 races per game (that is, for the entire game, not just for a team) is the lowest on this list. Now, there's a site called Retrosheet, which uses an army of volunteers to compile as complete a dataset as possible about professional baseball games. It seemed historic to me after the second game when I noticed that the Blue Jays had scored fewer runs in those first two games than any other previous ALCS competitor and, without a doubt, it all ended that way.

I was there with my father, Lary Bump, a sports journalist and member of the American Baseball Research Society. Despite leading the National League in runs scored (79), they finished one spot ahead of the Cubs in sixth place out of eight teams. The two teams didn't combine to achieve the lowest total of runs scored, but they were close and, considering the regular season racing environment, they historically scored few runs both at the individual team level and at the overall level of the game. Keep in mind that, particularly in recent decades, the likelihood of runs scored in one inning decreases in the eighth and ninth innings, probably a function of specialized closers.

What I did was divide the runs scored per game for each team in the history of the ALCS with the average number of runs scored per game in the American League in a given season. The outstanding score of the baseball Giants is even more surprising if you take a look at the numbers for the season.

Rosanne Fajardo
Rosanne Fajardo

Lifelong bacon evangelist. Professional pop culture expert. Extreme social media evangelist. Total food guru. Hardcore travel junkie. Extreme reader.

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