A Perfect Game is Rare Indeed

By John McAlpine | Apr 21, 2012
Photo by: John McAlpine

A Perfect Game is Rare Indeed

Obnoxious John



Today's perfect game tossed against the M's, the 21st in the history of the game, is one I'll remember. Remember for not having attended.


I didn't have any obligations that would have prevented me from attending. It was dry today and the game didn't really have a large crowd so traffic wouldn't have been an issue. But when it was time to either put up or shut about regarding the game, well, I shut up and didn't go.


I noticed last week that today's contest was a day game. Having grown up in what could be called a Golden Era of baseball, the 50's and 60's, I will always argue baseball is better played during the day. To lose a fly ball in the sun or high clouds is perfectly natural. To lose a fly ball due to a bank of high powered stadium lights is cold and clinical.


Baseball in the 50's had not yet expanded, so my earliest memories are of 8 teams per league. No divisions, no playoffs at the end of the year and most importantly, games played primarily during the day. By the 60's there were new teams in both leagues but I hadn't been around long enough to cry foul at the (supposed) dilution of the game by expanding the leagues. The pitchers mound didn't get lowered until after the 1968 season when Bob Gibson threatened to make every game he pitched perfect.


So my perspective on the game is shaped by that experience, naturally enough, and my inner baseball god tells me pitching is as important as hitting to the game. It is tremendously difficult to successfully hit a baseball in the major leagues and following that, getting around the bases to touch home plate is equally arduous. Look at last nights game where the M's stranded a bunch (8) of runners total and at least half of those in scoring position (for the uninitiated, that would be second or third base).


Learning to appreciate the degree of difficulty getting on base carries with it, and how valuable and hard earned a runner touching the plate is, make me a fan of well pitched baseball games. In fact, pitchers are judged, albeit not perfectly by a peculiar statistic called Earned Run Average or ERA. It measures, or at least at one time was meant to measure, how effective the pitcher was. A low ERA being the objective (the aforementioned Mr. Gibson's ERA for the 1968 season was 1.12!) and the guide with which we judged a hurler's effectiveness.


Nowadays the Sabermeterics folks (http://sabr.org/ ) have added a pitching stat called WHIP (Walks/Hits/Innings Pitched) which seems to me to really measure how close a pitcher comes to throwing a perfect game each time he takes the mound. ERA really only addresses how many runs, earned, the other team scored.


Going into the game today, the M's faced Philip Humber who has a career ERA of 4.06. That's not so impressive to me. But it must have impressed the M's. I have no idea what his WHIP is. But he whipped the M's today.


By the way, how rare is a perfect game you might ask? Only 21 times since 1901 has this event occurred in the major leagues.



Now get out there and take one for the team!

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