It’s like choosing between Christmas and 4th of July. Or Batman and Spiderman. The most badass actor in The Expendables. Coffee cake or angel food cake. Bieber or Miley!
The point is, both Felix Hernandez’ perfect game, and Matt Cain’s perfect game…were equally, legitimately, epically, incredibly awesome.
But which was more impressive?
Let’s break it down:
Hernandez was untouchable. One would have to be to throw one of only a couple dozen perfect games in the 140-something year history of Major League Baseball.
But striking out 12 batters on 113 pitches (77 for strikes) with a 1-0 lead has to count for something, regardless of how bad the opposing team’s offense is. And that opposing team’s offense just dropped 36 runs on an Angels team widely-hailed for having the best pitching staff in the league. And swept them in four games. On the road.
Hernandez had the 1-0 lead which adds a ton of pressure to the pursuit of perfection. Having a one-run lead will add pressure to the pursuit of anything. Although Felix probably takes the mound every day expecting he will have to toss a no-no just to get a win, the fact that he had to be flawless also garners extra consideration.
The stadiums in which the perfect games were thrown is a wash – AT&T Park and SafeCo Field are two of the best parks for pitchers in all of baseball. We can toss that factor out. But one stat that really stood out to me about Hernandez’ perfect game is that he struck out the side in the 6th and 8th inning, and had 8 of his 12 strikeouts in the last four innings.
That tells me that Felix realized part way through the fifth (he would later say he realized he had a shot at it in the fourth inning) that in order to maintain perfection, retain a shutout and win the ball game, he would have to turn up the after burners and go all Verlander on the Rays.
There is one big negative – the new trend of “Felixing?” Not cool. Not cool at all.
Matt Cain – Wednesday, June 13, 2012 – SF 10, HOU 0
Let’s start with the basics. Naturally, there were 27 up and 27 down. So like nine of us. Nine 3 up, 3 downs. No hits, no walks, no runs, no base runners, no errors (errorless…also like us!).
Cain struck out 14, so two more than Hernandez, and used an extra 12 pitches (125 in total, 86 for strikes) to do so. That being said, he had a 10-0 lead. The score differential both works for and against Cain. It means he had to sit in the dugout thinking about the perfect game, getting cold, etc. for much longer between innings. It also means that the only pressure-packed part of that performance was finishing the perfect game.
He didn’t have to worry about securing a win with such a big cushion. And why was the cushion so large? Let’s just say the Astros aren’t as…um…”offensively proficient”…as the Rays are.
Also, factor in the fantastic running, diving catch Gregor Blanco made in the 8th inning to preserve the perfecto, or the ball that was hit about 550 feet in the later innings that hit a wall of wind in deep left and nestled into Melky Cabrera’s mitt on the warning track.
Both pitchers were brilliant in their respective, historic outings. Hernandez threw more first-pitch strikes and got more swings-and-misses. Cain induced more foul balls, meaning the hitters likely were just more terrible at squaring pitches up in general. But they were close.
That being said, the Cain perfecto featured two more strikeouts overall, and there wasn’t as consistent a flow to the game.
In King Felix’s perfecto, he struck out the side in the sixth and eighth and still had less K’s than Cain. Also, Hernandez didn’t have to hit for himself and waste energy getting ready to hit, swinging in the on-deck circle, or having at-bats.
So you be the judge. Keep personal emotions out of it, people. Mariners fans, contemplate everything. Giants fans, be impartial and look at just the numbers and quality of competition.
Which perfect game was better. Felix Hernandez? Or Matt Cain? (sorry Phil Humber – just didn’t make the cut this year, buddy)
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– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)