That was the only word I could utter after watching Matt Cain finish off the Houston Astros last night in his perfect game for the San Francisco Giants. I’m a die-hard Dodgers fan who lives in the Bay Area, so two thoughts immediately crossed my mind, and one might surprise you:
1. WHY DIDN’T I GO TO THAT GAME?
2. Congratulations, Matt Cain!
The first is easily explainable. I live 30 minutes east of AT&T Park, but I don’t just empty the bank on random nights to go to a Giants game. And why in the world, out of every Giants game I could attend, would I pick one against the lowly Astros?
My second statement is the one that might surprise you – why is a Dodgers fan congratulating a rival pitcher on a historic feat, let alone on a night that saw his team lose one game of their division lead to said rivals? Because I’m a classy baseball fan! That’s what we do here at Three Up, Three Down, and you’d be hard pressed to find me ever dismiss a historic moment, no matter the jersey being worn.
And you know what else we do at Three Up, Three Down? We make lists. Because they are awesome. So without further adieu or desperate justification to save face with my Dodger fan buddies, let’s move on to the list du jour:
There have been 22 perfect games in Major League history, including two in 2012 (only the third year ever that two perfect games have been thrown in the same season – also done in 1880 and 2010), but few have been more dominant than Cain’s last night.
As if just tossing a game in which 27 batters come to the plate and make an immediate U-turn back to the dugout wasn’t enough, we have to split hairs and discover the best of the best. So here’s my list, in order of the most impressive perfect games ever hurled:
22. John “Monte” Ward, Providence Grays, 1880
Yes, it counts if it was before cars were invented. This is an early era of baseball that a lot of fans don’t appreciate, but pitchers consistently threw every inning of almost every game and the ones who did it well deserve respect, even 132 years later. Ward, 20 at the time, struck out two Buffalo Bisons (if anyone knows where I can get a Bisons jersey, please let me know ASAP @Jamblinman on Twitter…seriously!) players en route to being the youngest perfect pitcher in MLB history.
21. Dallas Braden, Oakland Athletics, 2010
How can you not love what Braden did on Mother’s Day in 2010, unless your name is Alex Rodriguez? Braden’s first career complete game was surely the crowning moment of what is slowly becoming a less and less relevant Major League resumé. He perfected the Tampa Bay Rays who were an MLB-best 22-8 coming into the game, and accentuated it with a huge fist pump coming off the mound.
20. Lee Richmond, Worcester Ruby Legs, 1880
Would you believe that a mere five days before Ward tossed his gem for Providence, Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs (why can’t we still have awesome team names like this??) got things rolling with the first recorded perfect game in baseball history? He K’d five batters in a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Blues.
19. Philip Humber, Chicago White Sox, 2012
Humber struck out nine batters, including Brendan Ryan for the final out, on what may or may not have been a check-swing ball four. We’ll let it slide and give Humber the benefit of the doubt. One thing I don’t doubt is that this was an incredible, albeit fluky performance from Humber, who accomplished this feat on just 96 pitches.
18. Dennis Martinez, Montreal Expos, 1991
To further prove my aforementioned classiness, I will forgive Martinez for making my Dodgers look foolish in this game. I’m sure he is breathing a sigh of relief. But Martinez was already having a fantastic season in ’91, and adding a perfect game against a team that was 15 games over .500 was the peak moment for him.
17. Tom Browning, Cincinnati Reds, 1988
Another pitcher who victimized my Dodgers nearly became the first pitcher to throw two perfect games when he retired 24 in a row against the Phillies one year later. Alas, the poor guy had to settle for just one perfect game, and it was a doozy. On 100 pitches, Browning struck out seven batters on the first-place Dodgers.
16. Kenny Rogers, Texas Rangers, 1994
The pitcher, not the singer. And if you had them confused, please kindly exit this blog right now, close your laptop, undress, and apply 20 lashes to your own back. Trust me, it’s better than what @RangerfanBrian would do to you for disrespecting Kenny like that. Rogers threw a gem against the California Angels here, ringing up 8 batters on 98 pitches along the way.
15. Charlie Robertson, Chicago White Sox, 1922
Robertson’s perfecto is pretty mind-boggling for a few reasons. First, it was only his fourth career start and fifth game in the big leagues. Second, he perfected a Detroit Tigers lineup that was boasting a mind-boggling team on-base percentage of .373 at the time. And finally, he only had 49 career wins! But he can count this one as his most memorable, I’m sure.
14. Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox, 2009
I still can’t decide what was more impressive – Buehrle’s perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays (who were also perfected by Braden in 2010), or this ridiculous play on Opening Day of 2010. Just kidding, the perfecto is obviously better, but still. Pure athleticism. Buehrle, one of baseball’s good guys, struck out six batters in this game.
13. Mike Witt, California Angels, 1984
Witt’s perfect game came on an efficient 94 pitches against the Texas Rangers. The Angels and Rangers are the only teams to throw perfect games against each other in MLB history. Among those 94 pitches, Witt was able to snag 10 strikeouts. He was also the losing pitcher in Rogers’ 1994 perfect game, and is the only pitcher ever to start and finish a no-hitter (he was the closer for a no-hitter in 1990, started by teammate Mark Langston).
12. Addie Joss, Cleveland Naps, 1908
Joss only struck out three batters in his perfect game against the Chicago White Sox. But the most mesmerizing statistic in the box score is his pitch count. An unbelievable total of 74 pitches were used over the nine innings, averaging less than three per batter. Joss later threw another no-no against the White Sox, becoming the only Major Leaguer to ever no-hit the same team twice.
The guy that certain award is named after holds the career wins record with 511, a mark likely to never be approached for the rest of time. But only once was Cy perfect. He beat the Philadelphia A’s 3-0, recording eight K’s along the way, and contributing to a scoreless innings streak that eventually reached 45 total.
10. David Wells, New York Yankees, 1998
Many questions swirl around this perfect game, and none have to do with close calls or potential ball-doctoring. But after Wells perfected the Minnesota Twins, striking out 11 batters on 120 pitches, he told the media he was “half-drunk” on the mound that day, from partying too hard the night before. Fun fact: Wells attended the same high school in San Diego as Don Larsen, who will be making an appearance later on this list.
9. David Cone, New York Yankees, 1999
Only 14 months after his teammate was perfect, Cone doubled the Yankees’ pleasure, tossing a gem against the Montreal Expos. In the 6-0 win, no Expos batter reached a three-ball count, and Cone struck out 10 batters on just 88 pitches. Before the game, Don Larsen threw out the first pitch to Yogi Berra. Cone’s catcher was current Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
8. Len Barker, Cleveland Indians, 1981
Just like Cone, Barker never reached a three-ball count on anyone in this game, a 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the first time a team in the designated hitter era was perfected, so Barker had one extra real hitter to deal with. Something I was very impressed with upon my research, was that all 11 of Barker’s strikeouts were swinging.
7. Jim Bunning, Philadelphia Phillies, 1964
Bunning struck out 10 batters on just 90 pitches in this 6-0 win over the Mets at Shea Stadium. His was the first National League perfect game in 84 years, since Ward’s in 1880. He pitched it on Father’s Day, which is just a cool nugget, but the real story is that he completely bucked the voodoo tradition of not talking to a pitcher during a no-hitter. He kept talking to his teammates to keep them loose and relaxed along the way.
6. Catfish Hunter, Oakland A’s, 1968
The future Hall of Famer went 3-for-4 at the dish in this game with 3 RBI in a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Oh, and he also just happened to allow no runs, no hits, no walks and faced the minimum 27 batters. What’s that you say? A perfect game! Just after the A’s moved to Oakland, too. What a welcome to California for Hunter and the A’s fan base.
5. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies, 2010
Just 20 days after Braden’s unlikely perfecto, Doc Halladay surprised nobody and finally threw his first career perfect game. We all know he’s the mastermind of a playoff no-hitter the same year, but this 1-0, 11 K gem against the Florida Marlins was still his best overall performance of the season. Halladay was the obvious choice for 2010 N.L. Cy Young.
4. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2004
It was always a “when,” not an “if” The Big Unit would toss a perfect game as soon as his flowing, golden mullet cracked the scene in Montreal. Nobody could have guessed it would take him until age 40 to get there, becoming by far the oldest pitcher to ever throw a perfecto. The Braves, who he beat 2-0, had a very solid .593 winning percentage at the time, too. His 13 strikeouts are second most ever in a perfect game, behind the next two on my list. Must know: Randy was born in Walnut Creek, CA; the same hometown as yours truly!
3. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants, 2012
I promise you this is not a case of “it just happened, it must be the greatest.” Comparing his to the rest of the perfect games on this list, there is no way he and his 14 strikeouts are out of the top three. Cain tossed the first perfect game in the Giants’ extensive franchise history, and was of course helped by this unbelievable catch by Gregor Blanco in the 7th inning. Fun fact that you probably already know: Ted Barrett, the home plate umpire, was also behind the dish for Cone’s perfecto in ’99.
2. Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1965
Koufax’s perfect game almost didn’t happen – the opposing pitcher, Bob Hendley of the Chicago Cubs only gave up one hit, but eventually his fine performance was forgotten by Koufax’s incredible start. Sandy struck out 14 batters, and recorded his fourth career no-hitter (one in each season from 1962-1965). Perhaps most impressive in this perfect game is that future Hall of Famer, and one of the best players of all time who didn’t win a ring, Ernie Banks, was held to 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
The Yankees absolutely terrorized the late 1940’s and all of the 1950’s, playing the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series seven times in a 10-season span, and winning six of them (1955 being the exception). Undoubtedly, the most amazing moment of any of those championships was when Larsen fanned seven Dodgers en route to winning Game 5 of the World Series. The intensity and stakes involved in the playoffs skyrocketed this one to number one on my list, and there was no hesitation. Larsen’s gem was, and still remains, the only perfect game in postseason history.
We’ve seen five no-hitters in 2012 now, of all shapes and sizes. There have been two perfect games, a no-hitter marred by controversy, a no-hitter for the ages from Jered Weaver, and one collaborated on by six different Seattle pitchers. But there is no doubt that Cain’s was the best of the bunch so far, and one of the greatest of all time.
This season has already been one of the most incredible, legendary seasons in any sport in any era. Here’s to hoping it continues to trend that way! I think it’s officially time to re-name 2012 the Year of the Pitcher.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
As the past few weeks have panned out in Major League Baseball with multi-HR games, a cycle, a perfect game, and a no-hitter, it got me thinking as to what people like to watch: Offensive Thrills? or Pitching Skills?
I looked up a few stats and made some comparisons based on rarity and difficulty.
No Hitter vs. Hitting for the Cycle
There have been 274 no-hitters in MLB history (including Perfect Games). Watching Jered Weaver go through the flimsy Minnesota Twins offense in just under 2.5 hours with 121 pitches was masterful to say the least. Obviously throwing a no-hitter is magical. The other team is forced to sit there and watch the pitcher mow down batter after batter with that big goose egg sitting on the scoreboard. Some days the pitcher just has “it” and there’s nothing you can do about it. Line drives are hit right at people and your deep fly balls always seem to run out of steam at the warning track.
On the flip side of the comparison, there have been 293 players to hit for the cycle, a mere 19 higher than the no-hitter total. People don’t seem to get quite as excited for this feat, yet it is almost just as rare as shutting down an entire team. Scott Hairston was the first to accomplish it this season on April 27. I might play devils advocate here, but I think that hitting for the cycle needs to be celebrated a lot more. Arguably the hardest part to get is the triple, and rightfully so, not many players have the speed to get that elusive extra base hit. There have been 147 triples hit this year by 108 players. That list is quite small and will continue to be small year after year. That means that while one of those players hits the elusive triple, they also have to compile the other three parts of the cycle. Not an easy feat and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
Perfect Game vs. 4-HR in One Game
Philip Humber took on another lowly offense against the Seattle Mariners and set down 27 straight in 2:17 only using 96 pitches. Not a single Mariner got to set their foot on that pearly white square down the first base line. They hardly deserved to after Humber made them look silly through 9 innings of incredible pitching prowess. Humber had great defense behind him and showed the rest of the MLB how it’s done and got his name onto the elusive list with 20 other Perfect Games.
Ryan Braun’s onslaught at Petco Park last week with 3 Homeruns in that park made this argument come about. His deep triple to the right field fence as his fourth hit almost put him in an elite club of people that have hit 4 home runs in one game. There have only been 15 batters to ever accomplish this feat, most recently being Carlos Delgado in 2003. To argue these two points is more of an opinion matter. I think seeing a pitcher calmly set down 27 in a row is peaceful, while having a batter mash balls 4 times over 350 feet is quite aggressive and violent, however both are quite incredible.
I’m curious to see what you think about these offensive/defensive comparisons. Fill out the poll, comment below, and let me know why on Twitter (@FalconKP)
I’m back with the 4th installment of “Five Things I Think I Think.” Here’s what’s in my brain right now!
1) I have no words to describe what Matt Kemp is doing right now. NINE home runs on April 21st? No one saw that coming. Kemp has evolved into the best player in the game. If you have seen his workout videos during the offseason then you’ll know how dedicated he is to his craft. There might not be a player in the game that deserves the accolades he’s gotten so far.
2) Philip Humber will have the best pitching performance of the 2012 season. A perfect game is special in itself. A perfect game in 96 pitches is nothing short of amazing. My favorite stats from the game? There have now been 21 perfect games in the history of MLB, the White Sox have three of them, Charlie Robertson in 1922 and Mark Buerhle in 2009 are the others. Secondly, Humber became the 7th different former New York Met to throw a no-hitter, the Mets have zero no-hitters in their franchise history.
3) Cliff Lee vs. Matt Cain is probably going to be the best pitchers duel of the season. There were 19 scoreless, efficient innings between the two aces and you’re watching it thinking that Lee could have gone into the 11th inning if needed. Both finished the game with Bill James game scores over 85. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing Cliff Lee for a while as he was put on the 15-day DL with a strained oblique.
4) I’m way too excited for this one. The Atlanta Braves are the hottest team in baseball. Since starting off 0-4 and making me already plan to 2013, Atlanta has gone 10-1 since and swept the Brewers and taken the first three games of a four-game set against the Diamondbacks. Braves and Dodgers have a 3-game series starting Monday in a matchup between two of the hottest teams to start the season. Brandon Beachy looks like an ace in the making, as he has a sparkling 0.47 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over his first three starts.
5) Ivan Rodriguez is the greatest Texas Ranger of all-time. He helped mold that team in the mid 90’s from a laughing stock into a playoff team. He has more Gold Gloves than any catcher in baseball history and won an MVP award in a Rangers uniform. There are a few players on the current roster (Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young) that can make a run at this title. For now and probably for long time, Pudge will be the greatest Ranger.
What are you thinking about right now in this MLB season?