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 Post subject: Perfect games
PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 5:57 pm 
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Location: Saranac Lake, N.Y.
Looking at the list of 17 perfect games since 1900, I find it curious that all but three occurred after 1955. I'm including the gems by Harvy Haddix (1959) and Pedro Martinez (1995) even though they were broken up in extra innings. There were no perfect games in the NL until Haddix. Since then, the league has seen six others. The AL saw three perfect games before 1922. The other seven occurred after 1955 (the first of these being Don Larsen's in the 1956 World Series). Why were there more perfect games in the last half of the century? Perhaps the statistical sample is too small to draw any conclusions.


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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 6:32 pm 
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I'm no expert, but it looks to me like the pitchers are better.

Incidentally, I don't see how a game can be called "perfect" if it's "broken up" in extra innings.


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PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2006 11:19 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2003 1:01 am
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Location: New Jersey
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Incidentally, I don't see how a game can be called "perfect" if it's "broken up" in extra innings.


It's not, of course, and it doesn't get recorded as one in the stat books, but the pitcher performed just as well as a perfect game pitcher -- his teammates just didn't score for him.

I don't know why there are more perfect games now. As ADK suggests, the sample size is hard to trust because perfect games are, by their very nature, extremely aberrant.

I do have a theory, though. Individual pitchers have gotten better because of improved training and conditioning, but pitching overall has become diluted by the need to fill five rotation slots on more MLB clubs. In the pre-expansion era, there were fewer pitching jobs available and thus hitters were more likely to face the best pitchers of their era in any given game. So why would that mean less perfect games back then? My theory is that hitters today are more inclined to swing hard in general because of the diluted pitching pool, but they'll be making outs when they do face a good pitcher on a great day.

On the other hand, baseball is currently in its longest no-hitter drought since WWII. The last no-no -- perfecto or otherwise -- was Randy Johnson's perfect game on May 18, 2004. This MLB.com story also notes that there were 37 no-hitters in the 1990s, but only seven so far this decade.


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PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2006 6:37 pm 
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Individual pitchers may be better, but I don't think that explains the anomaly. First, several of the perfect games were thrown by less-than-great pitchers, such as Mike Witt, Len Barker and Tom Browning. Second, there were some damn good pitchers in the early days, an era when pitchers dominated the game, and yet there were far fewer perfect games. Matthew may be on to something about hitters swinging for the fences. In the pre-Ruth era, baseball was a singles game and batters merely tried to get on base. That may partially explain why there were more perfect games in the Steroid era (a hitter's era) than in the Cobb era (a pitcher's era).

I included Haddix's and Martinez's games in the list, because for the purpose of this "analysis," their achievements were equal to the others'--they went nine innings without allowing a baserunner. MLB used to count Haddix's gem as a perfect game but changed the rules, according to the online Baseball Almanac.


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