Perfection, and its polar opposite

(Trying out a different format here; let me know how it plays. I can only scratch the surface of all that happened on this crazy day.)

Phil Humber‘s perfect game was the first CG shutout this year by a non-Giants pitcher.

I still haven’t seen a clear angle on that last pitch, but I think Brendan Ryan might be feeling what Dale Mitchell always felt. (Go to the 2:50 mark.)

Red Sox relievers faced 26 batters and got 9 outs. They matched the known record of 5 pitchers allowing at least 1 run in less than an inning, done four times previously (including one that went the other way).

In 107 prior games this year when a team was held to 1 run or less in 6+ innings by the starter, no such team finished with more than 8 runs.

The Yankees had two 7-run innings. Their previous high inning this year was 4 runs. The Red Sox allowed an 8-run inning to Texas last Tuesday.

Potential bad news in Washington, despite the win: Ryan Zimmerman was a late scratch with right shoulder inflammation. Zimmerman’s throwing has been visibly affected since last year’s abdominal injury, and you have to hope the change in his motion hasn’t led to a major injury.

I do not understand how a closer walks a batter when doing so brings up the tying run. Brad Lidge, Frankie Francisco, we’re looking at you…. Lidge walked Hanley Ramirez on 4 straight balls after getting ahead 0-2, then served a game-tying HR to Logan Morrison. Francisco didn’t throw a single strike to Nate Schierholtz.

Another reason to like the way Terry Collins is running the Mets: When Francisco started with a 3-run lead but put the tying runs on base with 1 out, Collins pulled him and played matchups — lefty Byrdak against Hector Sanchez (a young switchy who looks better from the left side), then righty Rauch, who’s been by far the best Met reliever to date. I don’t think Francisco is a bad pitcher, but he’s done nothing in his career to deserve being treated as the sacrosanct closer. If you want the respect of being the “do or die” guy, you have to earn it.

Mark Teixeira had 33 multi-HR games before today — but just one in April. And it was against the Yankees.

Mike Napoli homered in his 5th straight game. The last longer streak was 6 in 2010 by Carlos Pena in 2010. (Mets fans won’t believe this, but Jason Bay once homered in 6 straight.) His slugging percentage after 7 games was .100; after 12 games, it’s .721.

Some winning moves don’t show up in the box score. In the 9th inning, Mets pinch-runner Scott Hairston swept Buster Posey‘s leg with a clean slide at home. Hairston was forced out, but his slide seemed to disrupt Posey’s return throw to 1st base, which sailed wide and allowed the winning run to score.

Humber’s perfecto, in his 56th game (30th start), was not just his first shutout, not just his first complete game. It was his first time lasting 8 innings.

The only modern perfect game within the pitcher’s first 67 career games was by Charlie Robertson of the White Sox on April 30, 1922, in his 5th game. Robertson had a CG in his previous start. Dallas Braden‘s perfecto in his 68th game was also his first outing of at least 8 innings.

Robertson finished with a record of 49-80.

Roy Halladay walked 4 for just the second time in 74 Philly starts, including the postseason. Before this year he had averaged exactly 1 walk per start for the Phils.

No-hitters by former Mets: Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Mike Scott, Al Leiter, Dwight Gooden, David ConeHideo Nomo, Philip Humber.

Alfredo Aceves is the first pitcher this year with 3 games facing at least 2 batters without retiring anyone. He had never done that in 114 games before this year (105 relief games).

Stephen Strasburg’s 6 scoreless innings gave the Nats 11 starts of 6+ IP and 2 runs or less, tops in the majors. The walk-off win kept pace with the 1981 Expos for the best start in franchise history (12-4).

Duane Below‘s 6-goose-egg relief stint was the first such game in the AL since 2007. He also stranded the 2 runners he inherited from Rick Porcello‘s epic fail. Below has not allowed a run in 10 IP this year, tying him with Toronto’s Luis Perez for the MLB lead, and has stranded all 6 inherited runners. Nice.

Am I the only one who has flashbacks seeing the name “DeJesus” atop a Cubs box score? Ivan De Jesus scored 104 runs leading off for the ’78 Cubs, but he never had a .400 OBP like David DeJesus has now.

Matt Kemp, who hit his 9th HR in game #15, is the best player in the world … right now. But let’s not forget how a scorching start in 2010 — through 14 games, he had 7 HRs, 20 RBI and an 1.150 OPS — devolved into the worst year of his career, ending with a .249 BA and his own front office questioning his make-up. (Yeah, I don’t think that’s happening again, either, but it’s my job to remember history.)

Clayton Kershaw + the Astros = recipe for his first win of the year. He’s allowed 2 runs in his last 28 IP against Houston. (I kind of miss the old NL West, when the Dodgers and Astros were rivals. Kershaw has only pitched 6 times against Houston in 4+ years; Fernando faced them 6 times in 1986 alone.)

It’s fun to watch Dee Gordon run, and scoring 9 times in 14 games looks fine. But no amount of fancy baserunning can make up for a .295 OBP and no HRs.

Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira are the first teammates with 6+ RBI in one game since the Rangers’ 30-run outburst in 2007. One of the big hitters in that game, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, was on the wrong side of today’s outcome, though he had 4 hits. The Yanks last did it in 2005, with A-Rod & Tino.)

Humber’s 96 Game Score tied Matt Cain for the season high. The last higher Game Score was a 100 in 2008 by Brandon Morrow. Of the 16 perfect games in the searchable era, it was the first 96 Game Score. The only number not filled between 92 (Dennis Martinez) and 101 (Sandy Koufax) is 99, i.e., 12 strikeouts. That’s also the only Game Score between -12 and 100 that has not been done by an active pitcher.

When you’re facing the best team and they’ve bludgeoned their way to 8 straight wins, it sure is nice to have a stopper.

105 thoughts on “Perfection, and its polar opposite

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Raphy says:

    John –
    The stats are great as always, but I prefer the old system.
    I need to digest the stats from one game at a time.

  3. 3

    Who will be the next ex-Met to throw a nono?
    I nominate Bruce Chen.

    • 4
      John Autin says:

      I’ll take Ollie. That would be the perfect dagger in our hearts.

    • 5
      John Autin says:

      But I’d love for it to be Raul Valdes in a 1-0 game where he drives in the only run. He does have a .400 career average, after all.

  4. 6
    John Autin says:

    In A.J. Burnett’s last 60 starts for the Yanks, he never went 7+ scoreless innings. He did it in his first start for the Pirates.

    • 7
      John Autin says:

      Pittsburgh has scored 5 runs in 3 games, yet won twice. Pedro Alvarez doubled his season hit total tonight, now 4 for 34. Andrew McCutchen is hitting .377, all from the #3 spot, but has 2 RBI. Jose Tabata has 46 PAs but has yet to score or drive in a run; he’s also just 2 for 5 in SB attempts.

  5. 8
    Doug says:

    Two players with 6+ RBIs. Today was the 20th time that has happened since 1918 – more often than I would have guessed.

    Interestingly, 11 of the 20 have occurred in the span of just 13 of those years since 1918 – 4 in 4 seasons (1922-25) including thrice in less than a year (Aug 1922-Jun 1923), 3 in 4 seasons (1949-52), and 4 in 5 seasons (2003-07).

    Longest span between occurrences – 15 years from 1962 to 1977.

    • 19
      Richard Chester says:

      I can think of at least one other game at Femway where the Yankees overcame a 9-run Red Sox lead for a victory. On Opening Day April 18, 1950 they grabbed a 9-0 lead early in the game and their ace, Mel Parnell, took a 1-htter into yhe 6th inning. The Yankees got to Parnell for 4 runs in the 6th. In the 8th Parnell and the Sox relief staff imploded and the Yankees scored 9 runs. Final score was 15-10. Billy Martin made his ML debut in that game in the 6th inning. In the 8th he had his first 2 AB and got 2 singles that inning. He was the first player to get 2 hits in an inning in his first game. I don’t know if it has been done since.

    • 99
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      When it was 12-9 Yankees, Tex and Swisher was the ONLY two players to drive in the Yankees runs, with six apiece.

  6. 9
    John Autin says:

    The leadoff hitters in the Jays/Royals game were named Yunel and Yuniesky. Jose Bautista went 0 for 5, the first time since 2010 (69 games) that he had 5+ PAs without reaching safely.

    Alas, the P-I just went down. Was it me, or Humbermania?

  7. 10
    Doug says:

    3 games facing 2 batters with none retired.

    Aceves is well on his way to matching or breaking the season record of 7 such games, by Doug Creek of the Giants in 1996.

    45 pitchers (none more than once) have 5 or more such games in a season, none before 1961 and 31 times since 1990. Most recent were Marc Rzepczynski and Joe Beimel last year.

  8. 12
    Doug says:

    Humber had no 3 ball counts until the 9th inning. He started the frame going 3-0 to Michael Saunders, then struck him out on 3 more pitches. Ryan struck out on a full count to end the game.

    Humber got through the middle 3 innings on only 20 pitches.

    • 13
      bstar says:

      Humber completed his perfect game in 96 pitches, the second lowest total ever. David Cone needed only 88 pitches to throw his perfect game against the Expos on 7/18/1999. Cone had zero 3-ball counts in that game and only reached a 2-ball count five times.

      • 95
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        How far back do pitch-count totals go on B-R? Addie Joss’ 1908 perfect game took only 74 pitches (Wikipedia). I’m going to guess Cy Young’s 1904 perfect game also took less than 96 pitches.

        • 96
          Doug says:

          I believe B-R has pitch-count data for almost all games back to 1988. Sporadic before that – lots of earlier Dodger games have those counts because Dodgers were tracking these data.

    • 69
      DaveR says:

      Would that have been a painful way to lose a perfect game if Ryan had actually RUN to first, instead of arguing the call?
      Worst way, except maybe for Gallaraga’s in 2010.

  9. 14
    bstar says:

    John, the last pitch to Dale Mitchell in Don Larsen’s game was a called strike, which would differ from Brendan Ryan’s questionable swinging strike. It does look like Dale check-swung at the final pitch, but ump Babe Pinelli did not point to Mitchell to imply he was out on a swinging strike. Wikipedia verifies the pitch as a called strike:
    scroll down to “Perfect Game”

    Or maybe you were implying that Mitchell always said the pitch was a ball?

    • 23
      John Autin says:

      bstar — I’d always thought that Mitchell was ruled to have swung, so thanks for the correction.

      The pitch to Mitchell looks a bit outside to me, but the view isn’t good enough to have a strong opinion.

  10. 15
    sjhax56 says:

    Somewhere Armando Gallaraga may be thinking, where was Brian Runge when I needed him for the 27th out? No, of course Jason Arnold was clearly out, and that last pitch to Ryan yesterday was probably a checked swing ball four.

    • 16
      Neil L. says:

      Sjhax, even the umpires want to be a little part of baseball history too, don’t they? The strike zone is going to expand greatly on that last batter in a no-no.

      • 85

        Which is why I have the ultimate respect for Jim Joyce. Even though he obviously got the call wrong, he still called it as he saw it, and didn’t just knee-jerk the call that would have cinched the historical moment, regardless of what he actually saw. The last out of Anibal Sanchez’s no hitter was quite questionable as well, and I think a forced call by that umpire (can’t recall who it was now)… not very professional of the men in blue (or black now, I guess) to do that….

  11. 17
    Tristram12 says:

    Dee Gordon = Juan Pierre – 10 years

  12. 18
    Phil Gaskill says:

    I sure wouldn’t call that Hairston slide “clean.”

    • 24
      John Autin says:

      Phil, do you think Hairston’s slide was a rules violation, an unsportsmanlike act, or what?

      • 54
        Phil Gaskill says:

        John, sorry; I was away for a few hours and the discussion has proceeded very satisfactorily without me IMO, but I still don’t want to end up ignoring your question. So: to me it *should* be a rules violation (and, yes, the MLB rules are terribly, terribly poorly written, so who the hell knows whether it is an actual rules violation or not), and it *is* an unsportsmanlike attempt (and probably an illegal one too, although I don’t particularly want to open up that can of worms) to injure another player.

    • 27
      John Autin says:

      I submit that there has never been an interference call on a slide such as Hairston’s.

      The MLB Rules are in general poorly written — a contract attorney would have a field day — and the ones on interference are no exception. The most applicable interference rule I can find is 7.09(e), stating:
      7.09. It is interference by a batter or a runner when–

      (e) Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;

      I used to think there was a rule requiring that a runner attempting to break up a double play who makes contact with the fielder must finish in a position from which he can reach the base. This was informally known as the McRae Rule, from Hal McRae’s aggressive DP-busting body rolls. However, I cannot find this in the current rules.

      So, if 7.09(e) is the relevant rule, just what does it mean to “hinder[] or impede[]” the following play?

      I find no guidance in the rules, but common sense and baseball experience tell me that no umpire would call interference on a slide that could plausibly occur absent any intent to contact the fielder. And I think that is quite plausible in Hairston’s case. He reasonably could have made that exact same slide if he were merely attempting to score himself and had no thought of the catcher making another play.

      That’s how I see it, anyway.

      For those who think Hairston’s slide was wrong, what would you have called if you were the ump, and on what grounds? Again I link to the rules; those addressing runner interference are in section 7:

      • 32
        Mike L says:

        If the slide was within the rules, then the rules elevate cheating. Posey was already out in front of the bag and to the first base slide. Hairston’s foot clearly kicks at Posey’s back leg. There’s absolutely no reason for his foot to be there, except to interfere. Posey was no longer near the plate, there’s no chance for Hairston to save his own out, the intent to contact was clearly there. I don’t have a dog in this argument, but Hairston got away with one.

        • 34
          John Autin says:

          But if you say that, Mike, then most runners who slide into a base on a potential DP are also guilty.

          • 38
            Mike L says:

            John A, I see this play as fundamentally different. In the play at second base, the second baseman sees the runner coming at him and can try to adapt, either by twisting or jumping. In this play, the runner is out of Posey’s sight line. Posey has already moved forward and away from the runner. He can’t know that the runner will kick at his leg. Ask yourself, if this was a suicide squeeze, and Posey went out to field the bunt, moving his body in exactly the same way, would it have been all right for the runner to knock his foot out from under him? He’s not in the runner’s base path.

        • 35
          Ed says:

          Agree 100% Mike L. At the 7 second mark of the video, Posey’s already caught the ball, and Hairston hasn’t even started his slide. The slide itself wasn’t even necessary except as a reason to disrupt Posey.

          • 36
            John Autin says:

            The slide itself wasn’t necessary? What would you have him do, then, Ed?

            You certainly could make a reasonable argument that a forced-out runner should avoid contact if he can. But you have to at least acknowledge that all of baseball tradition points the other way.

            Meanwhile, as reported on ESPN:
            Posey … found no issue with Hairston’s slide. The catcher merely tried to briefly protest to plate umpire Doug Eddings that Hairston may have been out of the baseline when he made contact with Posey’s right leg. Hairston wasn’t, and even Posey admitted he was just arguing for the sake of doing so.

          • 39
            Ed says:

            John – Why would a player slide after they’re out? Unless their intent is to interfere with the subsequent throw (regardless of whether they’re successful in doing so)? And as Mike has pointed out, Hairston clearly tries to hook Posey’s leg which was nowhere near home plate.

          • 41
            Ed says:

            John (and Mike) – check out this video from the ESPN recap. After the initial play through, they show a close up of the slide. In my opinion, it’s pretty egregious. Posey could have been seriously hurt on that play.


          • 42
            John Autin says:

            Ed @41 — I’ve looked at the replay you supplied. It has not changed my assessment of the play.

            I agree that Hairston meant to contact Posey’s foot and disrupt his throw. I do not agree that it was “egregious”, or that Posey was in serious danger of being injured.

            I maintain that the slide was 100% within MLB custom for such plays.

            I think the slow-mo replay exaggerates the distance by which Hairston was out.

            I disagree with the statement that Posey’s foot was “nowhere near home plate.” It is less than 2 feet away from the plate at the point of impact, which I think is further evidence that Hairston did not have ample time to change his mind about sliding.

            Finally, I feel certain that if Hairston had deliberately avoided contact with Posey and the DP had been completed, THAT would have become a story unto itself.

        • 37
          John Autin says:

          BTW, I do get your point, Mike, but the phrase “the rules elevate cheating” is an oxymoron.

          • 40
            Mike L says:

            It is an oxymoron in the literal sense, but an intentional one. When the rules permit what amounts to a blind-side trip, then they elevate cheating. I’m not arguing against all take-out slides-just this type. How far would Posey have had to go up the line before he could count on throwing without being obstructed?

          • 46
            Timmy Pea says:

            I submit that there has never been an interference call on a slide such as Hairston’s. That’s a bold statement.

          • 47
            John Autin says:

            Timmy @46 — It’s bold, but I’ve yet to be contradicted. Can anyone honestly remember an interference call on such a slide?

          • 48
            bstar says:

            Wasn’t Hairston simply trying to break up a double play? I’ve seen countless hundreds of instances of slides nowhere near second base that umps have not called interference on. The fact that Posey could have gotten hurt on the play does not make this “cheating” in my opinion. After all, watching the video @41 proves Hairston wasn’t that far inside home plate when he made the slide–he touches home plate easily with his hand.

          • 49
            Timmy Pea says:

            I watched it several times and I believe it was a legal, non-dirty play. But saying there has never been an interference call on such a play in the history of baseball is statistically unlikely.

          • 52
            bstar says:

            For it to be interference, Timmy, doesn’t the runner need to be far enough off the base to where he cannot tag the base with his hand? Watching the video, Hairston is nowhere near this threshold.

          • 53
            John Autin says:

            bstar @52 — FWIW, I’ve looked through the MLB Rules in search of that — we used to call it the McRae Rule — but I can’t find it.

          • 55
            Timmy Pea says:

            @52 Bstar – I agree with you he was in the base path and it was a legal play. I hate to see a game end that way on the wild throw, but that’s baseball. I believe Hairston has the right to slide and as JA said earlier he would have looked bad not attempting this play at all.

          • 58
            Shping says:

            I also agree. The common ruling is that as long as the sliding runner is within hands-reach of the bag, he can legally take-out the fielder — and should. Hairston was doing his duty as a baserunner. Posey had no problem with it, so why should anyone else?

            @38 — the pivotman on a DP might not always fully see the runner, either, but that doesnt make those slides any less legal

            But i also agree that it’s a pretty bold statement to say that a runner has never ever been called for interference on a play like this. In the long history of this grand game, almost everything has happened before.

            For a random example, i’m thinking of 1968 when Drysdale almost lost his consec. scoreless streak by hitting Dietz(?) with the bases loaded. But the ump ruled there was no HBP because Dietz didnt make a true effort to avoid it. Most of us would like to say, that never happens. But it did.

      • 59
        Mark in Sydney says:

        I’ll have to disagree with you on this one, John. 7.08(b) covers this. In fact the comment to that rule states

        “A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.”

        If you look at a stop-frame of that play, you can see Posey’s back foot outside the batter’s box, Hairston 2ft on the inside of the line with his left-leg (outside) cocked, with his focus is on Posey’s back foot (not the plate). The Ump is looking right at the Hairston with his fist up and clenched.

        Regardless of whether it is intentional (clearly it was, he was trying to breakup the play and succeeded), he interfered. Given that this was a force to 1B, the ump should also have given that runner out.

        Poor umpiring resulting from a mindset that thinks that this kind of contact is a legitimate part of baseball. Personally, I don’t think it is and would like to see this rule enforced, perhaps with bans for “unsporting behavior”. Something like 5 games for both the player and the manager.

        Don’t get me wrong. Contact is part of the game. Poesy’s injury play was legit and I wouldn’t consider it outside the spirit of the game. This play, however, clearly is and should be treated accordingly.

        Yeah, and easy for me to say with stills and slo-mo. 😉

        • 62
          bstar says:

          Mark, I disagree that 7.08b is referencing what happened here. Posey was fielding a throw, not “attempting to make a play on the ball”. It sounds like 7.08b covers when a baserunner interferes, for instance, with the shortstop’s ability to field a grounder while the runner is on his way from second to third.

          If what you say is true, almost every single time a runner slides into second base to break up a double play interference should be called. After all, isn’t that what Hairston was doing?

          • 64
            Mark in Sydney says:

            bstar, there is lots of vagueness in the rules, though I agree that 7.08b is more for that in-field kind of play.

            How about 7.09(f)?

            “If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes
            with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious
            intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner
            out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his
            teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a

            willfully and deliberately for Hairston? Sure. This also speaks to the break-up.

            Back to ump enforcement. Or we can rule-lawyer over whether “batted ball” means “ball in play” (this would apply to Hairston) or only the ball directly hit from the bat (it wouldn’t). My desire is for the “ball in play” interpretation, but I think that puts me on the wrong side of the debate. Oh well. 🙂

          • 67
            bstar says:

            But, Mark, other than being at home plate, how does Hairston’s play differ from every runner who attempts to break up a DP at second base? Doesn’t this happen multiple times a game in a normal MLB affair? And aren’t all but the most egregious slides into second deemed acceptable by the umpires?

            Hairston’s slide doesn’t appear to be that egregious when you look at it in this context. The usual rule, as referenced above, is if the runner can touch the base with his hand on the slide then it’s not interference. And Hairston did in fact drag not just his hand but his entire forearm over home plate.

          • 68
            Shping says:

            Anyone remember the infamous Reggie Jackson interference play during the 78 W.Series? When he stood in the way of the relay throw from 2nd to 1st? (I tried to find the video but the link didnt work)

            That play still ticks me off and I’d love to see us debate that one!

            Actually, i still say Reggie shouldve been out but that Hairston was ok yesterday — with Mark’s comments dutifully noted but still disagreed with due to the “batted ball” aspect.

        • 66
          John Autin says:

          Hi, Mark — I appreciate your perspective. But I find 7.08(b) inapplicable, as it specifically addresses interference with a fielder trying to field a thrown or batted ball.

          You’ve already posted the comment; here’s the rule itself:
          7.08. Any runner is out when–
          (b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball;
          I don’t think this applies to what Hairston did. I still think 7.09(e) is the guiding authority, and the question how to interpret “hinders or impedes.”

          • 70
            Mark in Sydney says:

            Hi, John. Yup, though 7.09f & 7.09g both refer directly to it being illegal to having “intent to breakup a double play”.

            And as bstar@67 points out, what Hairston did was a perfectly normal play breakup. Iit does happen all the time and it is (tacitly) condoned. Otherwise the umps would have instructions to enforce the rules.

            The good side is that it is exciting to watch. The bad is someone is going to get hurt. Risks of the game.

            Times change. Wasn’t Ty Cobb widely criticized for his aggressive base running and coming in with spikes up? That’s standard and expected today.

            I guess I am a bit of throw back and see these breakups as unnecessary. Like Saves, Double Plays have very little overall impact on a season so enforcing this rule would have little to no effect except to remove the chance of injury. That is a price I am willing to pay.

          • 73
            John Autin says:

            Mark @71 — I would not mind if MLB decided to eliminate all forms of “takeout slide.” It would be a big cultural shift, though.

            I can’t agree with you about the impact of double plays. I think they’re pretty big.

          • 88
            Timmy Pea says:

            It does leave me curious as to a play where a runner is out by force but doesn’t vacate the base paths and ends up causing a fielder to miss a catch or make a bad throw. Say Hairston had tripped about 5 feet from third base. Same play happens except Posey throws to first and the first baseman drops the ball. Hairston, still in the base path after his slip decides to run interference for the man on second that is now trying to score. Hairston is still in the base path slides into Posey just before the man that was at second slides into home.

          • 90
            Evan says:

            I was reading 7.09 (f) & (g) last year because of a question I had about why runners don’t intentionally run into the batted ball on obvious double play situations, e.g. 1st and 2nd one out, sharp grounder hit right to the SS – the runner could allow himself to get hit, causing a dead ball and just one out (runner is out, batter to 1st, forcing runner on 1st to 2nd) instead of allowing the defense to record 2 outs. I believe this is what these rules are designed to deal with – intentional attempts to get hit by the batted ball or intentional interference with a fielder fielding a ball. Similarly a batter/runner can’t intentionally touch a foul ball when it would be advantageous to do so (e.g. grounder that will produce an easy out if it goes fair or using his hand to knock a popup away from a fielder waiting to catch it).

  13. 20
    Neil L. says:

    JA, it was certainly a bizarro afternoon at Fenway. Your interesting factoids regarding the Yankees’ comeback and the Red Sox collapse got me all juiced up to try and see just how bad the relievers were. Thanks for the juicy details.

    The pitchers for Boston accumulated a WPA of -0.787, kept from being even worse by Felix Doubront’s very decent 6-inning outing with a WPA of 0.150.

    I thought such poor team pitching performances would have been really rare, historically speaking, but was surprised to find that since 2000, in 9-inning games or less, the Red Sox pitching was only tied for 535th worst. (The list below only shows the “best” 300 of the 537 games found)

    Now if only the Red Sox batters had been able to respond late by keeping the game close, then the bullpen’s ineffectiveness would have hurt even more, in a WPA sense. 🙂

    I don’t know why the optics of the Bosox pitchers’ body of work yesterday seemed so bad to me? Perhaps by the seventh inning, I had already conceded the game to them and was counting it as a loss for the Yanks.

    So cheer up, Red Sox nation, although it was painful, the collective performance of your hurlers was no where near historically bad. (Although it does raise difficult questions about the state of the pen long-term.)

    An interesting sidelight, for me, of generating the large-negative-WPA list for a single game was the “top” game on the list, a 2000 stinker by the Cubs at Stade Olympique in which they lost in an wild, 16-15, see-saw affair.

    Interesting that this game features the two worst collective, single-game pitching performances since 2000, at least in terms of trying to give the game away.

    The hurlers combined for an astronomical -3.690 WPA, 4 blown saves and more pitching carnage …..

    • 25
      John Autin says:

      Neil — A game that’s both high scoring and see-saw is the kind most likely to produce such high negative WPA by the pitchers.

  14. 26
    ATarwerdi96 says:

    Strasburg has now gone 10 straight starts (dating back to 2010) in which he has not allowed a home run, the longest active streak. Kyle Lohse and Ted Lilly have 8 straight starts.

  15. 29
    John Autin says:

    Sidebar: Here’s a P-I query that bstar posted in the Chat, which I will try to answer:
    I want to search how many players in history have 9 HR in their first 15 games like Kemp does. How would I approach this?
    P-I … Game Finders … Player Batting
    Find Players with Most Matching Games in a Season
    Select Additional Criteria: HR greater than or equal to 1
    In team’s first _15_ games
    Get Report

    That will return those with the most games with a HR (in the “#Matching” column), which is not exactly what you want, but you can then sort on the HR column.

    The first page of results contains all of those who had 6 or more such games; it has some but not all of those with 5 such games. If you think it’s conceivable that someone with 5 such games could have 9 or more total HRs in those games, then you look at the next page of results.

    • 43
      bstar says:

      Thanks, John, I spent the hour proceeding my question eye-scanning all the game logs of the greatest HR seasons of all-time instead. It was actually informative, as I learned a lot of those seasons did start out well(except for Roger Maris in ’61, who had only 1 HR in April) and almost all seasons with HR greater or equal to 58 included at least one streak similar or better than Kemp’s start. Way, way to early in the season to be looking at this? Absolutely, but it’s still fun.

  16. 30
    John Autin says:

    Another notable bstar chat comment: “Venters strikes out side in the eighth and Kimbrel does the same in the ninth as the Braves hold on in the desert 3-2 over AZ.”

    I searched for teammates in a game with 3+ SO and Batters Faced = SO, for 2011-12.

    All 3 games with 2 such teammates were by the Braves and Kimbrel:

    For the 2000s:
    – 1 such game in 2000;
    – none from 2001-06;
    – 1 each in 2007-08;
    – none in 2009;
    – 1 in 2010;
    – 2 in 2011; and
    – 1 in 2012.

    There were no such games in the 1990s, 1 in the ’80s. There were no such games before 1985, so here’s the earliest known instance:

    The paucity of such games might be explained by this hypothetical question from an old-school manager: “Why take the guy out when nobody can hit him?”

    • 57
      James Smyth says:

      Interesting post here. It got me wondering what’s the longest outing where a pitcher struck out every batter he faced. To the Play Index!

      The record is six outs, and it’s happened six times:

      Willie Hernandez 1983 PHI
      Roberto Hernandez 1996 CWS
      Scott Williamson 1999 CIN
      Rafael Soriano 2003 SEA
      Chris Schroder 2006 WAS
      Tyler Clippard 2011 WAS

      • 60
        bstar says:

        Nice find, James. It’s interesting that four of these events happened in the last fifteen years, what with the decrease of elite relievers going more than 1 inning at a time. It does speak volumes about the relatively recent increase in strikeouts across the board.

  17. 31
    Ed says:

    Haven’t seen anyone mention this but back on Friday night road teams went 12-2. The only home teams to win were Washington (2-0 over Miami) and the Angels (6-3 over Baltimore). Not sure how to approach that as a potential record but it seems like a pretty remarkable occurrence.

    • 44
      AlbaNate says:

      The odds of this happening should be fairly simple to calculate. It’s a binomial distribution problem. Let’s say that the visiting team has a 45% chance of winning. (Don’t know if this is the actual figure–just guessing here) The odds of the visitors winning 12 or more of 14 games is a bit higher than .2%, which means that it should happen once every 500 days, or about once every three seasons.

      • 45
        Neil L. says:

        Alba, nice calculation. The simple answer is it shouldn’t happen very often.

        I have no idea what the exponent should be in the binomial distribution calculation, but 0.45 seems fair enough.

        I assume the home field/court is greater in the NFL or NBA than in Major League baseball.

        • 84
          Ed says:

          Thanks guys! It’s been too long since my advanced stats classes so I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the calculation. I found an post on the old B-R blog where Andy posted home-road win records by season. The .45 assumption seems reasonable based on that post.

  18. 33

    Brendan Ryan gets screwed out of an infield triple, and now he’s called out on a pitch three feet outside. But sorry Buddy, you need to swing the bat there. That ump wasn’t going down in infamy, period.

  19. 50
    Neil L. says:

    A random observation with no connection to JA’s nightly recap. Looking at the standings, it seemed to me that division races might already be in jeopardy. 🙂

    At this early date in the season, as of last night, the six division leaders have a combined 16.0 gamne lead over their nearest rivals. This seems like a large cumulative total for so early in the season, suggesting that teams are starting to run away with their divisions.

    A quick eyeball on year-after-year April 21st standings shows that this is the largest cumulative lead since the current divisional format was instituted in 1994. Data below.

    2011 8.0
    2010 9.0
    2009 10.5
    2008 13.5
    2007 7.5
    2006 9.0
    2005 11.0
    2004 7.0
    2003 14.5
    2002 10.5
    2001 15.0
    2000 8.0
    1999 9.0
    1998 14.5
    1997 14.5
    1996 8.5
    1995 work stoppage
    1994 9.0

    Texas, the LA Dodgers, Washington, Detroit …. what’s going on this year?

  20. 51
    Timmy Pea says:

    The Rangers look good winning small today against a good Tigers team. The Phils look rough.

  21. 56
    James Smyth says:

    In Humber’s perfect game he had 13 flyouts and only five groundouts. I thought that was unusual for a perfect game. Until I looked up the others that have PBP data:

    Pitcher K GO FO
    Philip Humber 9 5 13
    Roy Halladay 11 8 8
    Dallas Braden 6 7 14
    Mark Buehrle 6 11 10
    Randy Johnson 13 7 7
    David Cone 10 4 13
    David Wells 11 6 10
    Kenny Rogers 8 7 12
    Dennis Martinez 5 17 5
    Tom Browning 7 10 10
    Mike Witt 10 13 4
    Len Barker 11 9 7
    Catfish Hunter 11 7 9
    Sandy Koufax 14 3 10
    Jim Bunning 10 6 11
    Don Larsen 7 6 14

    Guess it’s not that unusual. Nine of the 16 have more flyouts than groundouts. Four have more groundouts than flyouts. The perfect games by Halladay, Johnson and Browning had the same number of both.

    Humber’s 2.6 ratio of air outs to groundouts is only surpassed by Koufax (10/3, 3.33) and Cone (13/4, 3.25).

    Common sense says the more strikeouts you have, the better chance you have of retiring all 27 hitters, since luck and randomness have a lot to do with where batted balls end up. But note that in only nine of these 16 gems did the pitcher rack up double-digit strikeouts. More than half, but not as many as you’d expect. The lowest K total is by Dennis Martinez, whose 17 groundouts dwarf anyone else’s total.

    • 71
      no statistician but says:

      Doesn’t anyone else find it a little strange that over half of the perfect games are clustered so recently in the timeline?

      And that so many of those came in a hitter’s era?

      Larsen’s performance seemed like a miracle not only for being in the World Series but also for the fact that nobody had pitched one in 34 years.

      The fact that the previous one to Humber’s was two whole seasons ago, by golly, and the one before that was way back 20 days earlier and the one before that the previous year—I’m skeptical without knowing why or what to be skeptical about.

      • 72
        Shping says:

        No, you’re not alone in wondering about that. It seems to be the complete opposite of what you’d expect, for all kinds of reasons (including the slow demise of the complete game).

        Can’t think of any similar “patterns” — or actually “anti-patterns” — in baseball either. Weird.

        • 74
          John Autin says:

          Expansion to 30 MLB teams is obviously one cause for the increase in no-hitters & perfect games, but not a very interesting one.

          Hypothetically, the steep increase in strikeout rates over the past 30 years or so could be another big factor in the rate of perfect games. But the 12 PGs since 1981 have averaged a modest 9 strikeouts.

          • 79
            Shping says:

            John — While thinking about the possible reasons for more frequent perfect games, i followed your same train of thought with strikeouts: maybe that’s a partial explanation, but then again, maybe not.

            I’m not sure if i agree with your expansion-team theory/comment tho. I appreciate the perspective — i was just cautioning a pro-expansion friend of mine the other day about the downside of diluting the talent — but aside from the short-term impact for particular expansion years, I wonder if the expansion-team-theory is really much of a factor for anything in the long run?

            Let’s say, for instance, with a totally random number, that .00001 percent of the population is historically good enough to be an effective mlb pitcher, and that in 1920 that worked out to be a pretty good supply of “good” pitchers for 16 mlb teams (maybe 7.3 per team, for example) . Now, in 2012, of course the number of teams has almost doubled, and roster size increased as well, but the population base has increased by even more than that, hasn’t it? Especially when you factor in the addition of African-Americans, Latinos, Japanese, etc. that weren’t part of the talent pool in 1920. So maybe now it actually works out that there are 9.3 “good” pitchers per team.

            It would be interesting to know how these ratios actually play out. And what about true, mlb-quality batters? I suspect that population growth probably means there are probably more “stars” per team on offense as well these days, but has this increased more or less than the rate for picthers? (after all, a team needs more batters than pitchers).

            Don’t we always tend to assume that “expansion-team-effect” means an increase in hitting stats, due to diluted pitching? I think you are actually stating the opposite, that it means a decrease/dilution of good hitters.

            But i don’t know that either one is true in the long run.

          • 83
            Fireworks says:

            Shping, the expansion comment by JA *is* accurate. JA isn’t necessarily talking about talent dilution. There are, for instance, 3 times as many Americans now as during Babe Ruth’s heyday, and of course in Ruth’s day there were no blacks, or Latinos, or Asians… that is in addition to a myriad of other factors that support the idea that the pool of talent is stronger now.

            But JA wasn’t talking about pool of talent. He was talking mere opportunity (I’m almost certain that’s what he meant). There are now 30 teams that play 162 games. 30 * 162 / 2 = 2430. During the classic original sixteen team era the games played eventually settled at 154 per season. 16 * 154 / 2 = 1232.

            So all other things being equal, perfect games should be roughly twice as likely now as opposed to the 60 years of the original sixteen. That’s the bigges factor.

          • 91
            Evan says:

            High K games are more likely to increase pitch counts which, all things being equal, increases the likelihood that the pitcher tires and loses the perfect game in the late innings. High K games also probably increase the likelihood of walks as the two are usually related because of more pitches being thrown per at bat (see e.g. JA’s post a couple weeks ago).

          • 102
            Shping says:

            Thanks, Fireworks. A good, simple explanation for the expansion-factor that i somehow overlooked. Lessens the mystery quite a bit, at least until about 1969.

      • 77
        MikeD says:

        My first reaction is the increase in perfect games is simply randomness at play, but now I’m pretty sure it’s not. Heading into 1994 there were only 14 perfect games tossed in the prior 120 or so years of MLB history. Since then, another seven have been thrown, or 50% of that number, in a little less than 18 years. (It’s really even higher if Armando Galarraga’s game was included, which would have been the third perfect game tossed in less than a month’s time.)

        So why the increase? Let’s call it the new ballpark effect. No, I’m not really suggesting that new ballparks are the main reason leading to more perfect games, but I do believe what the new ballparks signify has lead to an increase in perfect games, and that’s mainly much better playing conditions and much better equipment, both of which help contribute to perfect games, which requires zero runners to reach base.

        New ballparks and all the things affiliated with them are part of that trend. Better lighting allows fielders to better track the balls off the bat, better field conditions allow for better traction and truer infield hops, padded and more forgiving fences allow outfielders to run at full speed without fear for their lives. Think of DeWayne Wise’s great catch in Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, and now juxtaposition that image with the rather famous one of an unconscious Babe Ruth, on the ground flat on his back, appearing almost dead, after he collided with a concreate OF wall trying to make a catch. Making spectacular catches is “easier” today because of the improvement in conditions and equipment. These improvements, helping to preserve perfect games, extends out to near form-fitting gloves allowing for greater catches, better cleats, and the greater use of video and computer programs to better position OFers and infielders. A ball hit right at a fielder today might have gone for a single or a double a generation earlier if the fielder was positioned a few feet in another direction.

        So it’s not really just new ballparks, but everything that comes with it, mainly improvements in playing conditions and equipment. They increase the odds that a pitcher can be perfect, and that’s why we started to see a tick up on perfect games in the 1960s, and a rapid increase through the 1990s to today. It will continue.

        • 81
          Shping says:

          Very good points MikeD. I too was thinking about improved defense. But has the equipment, etc really improved that much since 1960, or 1990? I think its improved dramatically since 1910, but not nearly as much during the more recent “era of the no-hitter/perf game.”

          Then again, maybe those minute differences are indeed enough to throw off the delicate balance, just like a minute change in ocean temperatures can have a huge effect on climate?

          I don’t know. I guess i’m still in the randomness camp, despite my suspicions that something must be causing it.

        • 87
          no statistician but says:

          Your case seems insightful to me, but overstated. The increase in perfect games actually begins the 1980s. The three (or four, if you throw in Harvey Haddix’s 11 innings) that came in the Sixties were in a pitchers’ era, and then came a lull that ended in the Eighties when it began snowballing in our current direction. I don’t agree on better infield conditions. They are the province of the home management and have been adjusted to suit the home team from the beginning of time (irony alert). Gardening has been a highly developed science since the 17th century, at any rate.

          The point about fences is telling, but a little strong.

          Good job.

          • 101
            MikeD says:

            Perhaps I overstated slightly for effect, although I don’t think so. My point isn’t that any single improvement has led to an increase in perfect games, but the collective has led to an increase, even if it’s slight. I do think infields are more consistently in better shape than they were a generation or two back. I recently watched a replay of one of the games from the 1960 World Series (the one where Tony Kubek was injured with the bad hop) and I was struck by how poor I thought the infield dirt was groomed.

            Another area I didn’t touch upon was what I’d term as the homogenization of pitchers’ deliveries. Has that led to better control among pitchers? I miss the unique deliveries of the past, and I think we might be losing some of the high end due to the homogenization, yet maybe it has led to an overall improvement in walk rates. Yet for some reason I think walk rates have remained fairly consistent over the years? Anyone know?

            I do think error rates have dropped over the years, even over the past twenty years, so I would think that would be helping to contribute to the increase in perfect games, even if it’s very small. That’s all we’re talking about here.

        • 103
          John Autin says:

          Interesting idea, Mike. I do think that improved playing surfaces compared to, say, the pre-expansion era, is a factor.

          On the flip side, though, only one perfect game has ever occurred on artificial turf — Tom Browning in Riverfront Stadium, 1988.

          And there were a LOT of games played on turf in the 1970s-90s.

          • 104
            Shping says:

            Haa haa John. You don’t really mean to equate artificial turf with “improved playing surfaces”, do you? I know, i know, it’s a different context; it just sounds funny.

            Maybe some potential turf no-hitters were broken-up by those infamous bounces off the lips/seams of the turf?

            But overall, yeah, i think it’s a good point that improved playing surfaces over the past 100 yrs have probably contributed to the increase — along with better quality gloves, literally and figuratively.

          • 105
            MikeD says:

            Interesting, John. I hadn’t even thought about articifical turf (thanks AstroDome for inflicting AstroTurf on the game) and its impact on perfect games. I would think it would work against perfect games.

            Yet this may fit as after a few perfect games in the 1960s, we saw none in the 1970s when artificial turf was in full effect. After the AstroDome, use of artificial turf grew to half of all NL parks, including Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, and Riverfront Stadium. Then MLB started going in the other direction with the building of Camden Yards, the first retro park, and from the early 1990s to the aughts, almost all of the artificial turf parks were replaced, including everyone in the NL. Only two exist in the game today, both in the AL East, and they use a slower field turf.

            Perhaps the artificial turf heavily used in the 70s masked all the other improvements going on, and we are now seeing the full impact over the past decade or so.

            Just a thought.

  22. 61
    Albanate says:

    There was a minor leaguer named Ron Neccaia who accounted for all 27 outs in a 1952 game.

    • 63
      Neil L. says:

      Albanate, please tell us more. Who did he play for and in what year?

      • 65
        AlbaNate says:

        Neccaia pitched for the Bristol VA team in the Class D Appalachian League, which was a Pirates farm team. On 5/13/52, playing against the Welch, W. VA team, Neccaia struck out 27 batters. He walked a batter, hit another with a pitch, and there was one ground out to the infield. The catcher missed catching the ball on a third strike, which is how Neccaia managed to fan 27 even with a groundout.

        He struck out 24 in his next start. Later that season, he had a brief stint with the Pirates, but that was his only time in the majors. He had a series of injuries that derailed his career.

        I first read about Neccaia in Jim Benagh’s 1975 book “Incredible Baseball Feats.”

        • 86
          e pluribus munu says:

          Necciai, actually. Good story. Unusual that he had only one walk in that game. Super-K prospects rarely can find the plate that often, even with batters standing in halfway to the dugout.

        • 98
          Doug says:

          Actually, the catcher deliberately missed catching the third strike. And, deliberately omitted to pick it up and throw to first.

          But, can’t really blame him in that situation.

  23. 75
    Mark in Sydney says:

    JA @ 73

    On the double-play, intuitively I agree with you, and tried to prove it. But the numbers just don’t back it up in a little study I did.

    Since ’62, a team will turn, on average 149 DPs a year, close to one a game. The max was the ’66 Pirates with 215 DPs, and they finished 92-70. The next highest DP turning teams 1980 Jays and the Red Sox, both turning 206. They finished that year 67-95 and 83-77. At the other end, the lowest number of DPs (162 games played) is 100 by the ’63 Astros (66-96), then the ’97 Angels with 104 (88-74).

    Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way that DPs and Wins came together, statistically. There is a stronger correlation between DPs and Losses, but it is still not in the significant range (0.277).

    Maybe this is like the whole Manager question. We know that they are important, we just don’t know how to measure it. Or maybe we are wanting them to be more important than they are because they are such an important part of baseball?

    • 93
      John Autin says:

      Mark, I think if you measured DPs turned as a percentage of DP opportunities, you would see a correlation to winning.

      Bill James coined a good phrase when he wrote of “the false normalization of defensive statistics.” The raw totals of DPs turned will depend on both the team’s defensive ability and the number of runners who get on base. A team with bad pitching and subpar defense will often turn an above-average number of DPs, simply because they get so many chances. Thus, using raw DP totals will not really tell us anything about their impact on winning.

      • 100
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        The flip-side of this, on offense, would be viewing the number of runners LOB (Left On Base) as a negative. Usually, the teams with more runners LOB have more runners _on base_ to start with, and end up scoring more runs.

  24. 76
    Shping says:

    @75 — Ok, i guess we’re fully off on a tangent here, but your last points are interesting. I do think DPs can be very important in the context of a single game. But i also think one of the best lessons that the great Bill James and many other sabermetricians continue to teach us, is that our initial perceptions about what we think is true and valuable, are often proven incorrect when we look at new, innovative stats. (30 years ago, for instance, steals, outfield assists and rbis were all drastically overrated)

    So maybe DPs arent statistically as valuable as we think in the grand scheme of things. But getting back to the original topic (kind of) i do think that take-out slides are “ok”, for lack of a better term, and that eliminating them would lead to a fairly dramatic increase in DPs turned, along with many other intangible factors. One of the beautiful things about a well-turned DP, and baseball in general (and sports in general), is the difficulty of doing it while someone is trying to stop you from doing it. The bang-bang nature of DPs, and the equally scary balance between pivot-man and approaching runner, is not something i want to see go away. Trust me, i’m not a masochist, and i don’t want to see anyone get hurt unneccesarily, but for some reason i’m finding that i’m really passionate about this.

    Legal take-out slides are part of what makes the game thrilling and great — and competitive.

    I’m also curious: Do you really think that Cobb’s spikes-high style of play is the norm today? I feel the opposite is true: less aggressive baserunners, a lower tolerance for brushback pitches, less animosity between opposing teams, etc. Not really saying that either is better or worse, but i definitely think the game is less of “a war” these days, to paraphrase Cobb in the Ken Burns series.

    • 78
      Mark in Sydney says:

      Shping, I am torn. Your are right, the balance is delicate and, when done right, a DP is a thing of beauty and one of the best plays in baseball. I do think that there is a legitimate breakup (the runner actually has a chance of making the base) and a “take out the thrower” kind. It is the latter I’d like to see penalized. Look at Hairston: he takes aim at Posey and kicks at his back leg. He is smart enough to reach for the base as part of the “play”. All perfectly in keeping with 2012-style play: no interest from the ump, Posey thought it okay, etc.. I just have to suck it up and say “told you so” when someone’s ankle gets broken.

      As to the Cobb thing, sure. The Cobb-style is the norm, though not the anger and nastiness that he apparently took with him. I think that the free-agent market makes a lot of the nastiness go away as they guys mostly want to play, not fight. So no war, but plenty of non-lethal aggression, and that aggression is the norm.

      • 89
        Evan says:

        One thing to remember when looking at DPs is that they only occur when there are runners on base and less than 2 out (obviously). Offenses with higher OBP are more likely to hit into DPs because of greater number of opportunities (St. Louis offense last year is a good example), likewise teams with weak pitching who put more runners on base are more likely to turn more DPs. In order to determine whether DPs are having an impact on winning percentage you would need to factor out OBP/ OBP against (since the impact of OBP on run scoring is so important). You would also need to account for the relative strength of a team’s offense/pitching so it might be best to look at how rates of turning DPs affect runs scored given a variety of other important factors that affect offensive production.

        On the topic of Ty Cobb, wasn’t his reputation for playing with sharpened metal spikes, and sliding in with his spikes shin or knee-high? If this is correct, i don’t think any of that is comparable to what is commonplace today.

  25. 80
    Shping says:

    This is appropos of nothing, but the best light-hearted way i can put a cap on our discussion for now.

    Sometime in 1934 or 35, (I think it was the 34 W.Series) the great Dizzy Dean was running from 1st to 2nd when he was beaned in the head by a relay throw from 2nd to 1st. He was hospitalized and fortunately turned out to be ok, but created one of the best headlines of all time: “X-Rays of Dean’s head reveal nothing.” Sorry, but i love that story!

  26. 92
    Scoops says:

    I keep seeing all kinds of comment and controversy about Brendan Ryan’s checked swing at the end of Phil Humber’s perfect game.

    Here’s a fun fact: a check swing call is entirely up to the umpire(s). There is no definition about “breaking the plane”, or anything, in the rules. If the umpire says it was a swing, it was.

  27. 97
    Doug says:

    No-hitters by former Mets:

    Also Saberhagen, Erickson, Rogers, Candelaria, Ellis, Chance.

    But, all of these guys played for the Mets AFTER their no-hitters.

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