Thursday, August 16, 2012

This Is Getting Ridiculous

Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game last night. He balled out and he's a great pitcher. But come on...this is getting really ridiculous. How many perfect games are we throwing now? Geez Louise.

So this is the third perfect game thrown this year, the most in any year ever. Philip Humber and Matt Cain also have one each. There were no perfect games last year, but there were two in 2010 (really three because of Armando Galarraga), and another one in 2009. That's six official (and seven real) perfect games in the past four seasons. Let's put that in perspective.

In the modern era (starting with the founding of the American League in 1901), there have been 21 perfect games. That means that over a quarter (28.6%) of perfect games have happened in the span of the last four seasons, or 3.6% of the seasons of the modern era. If we count Galarraga's perfect game (which we should, because it absolutely was a perfect game), then that means 31.8% of perfect games have happened in 3.6% of the seasons of the modern era. What the hell?

And it's not just perfect games. Just plain no-hitters have been popping off recently as well. In the modern era, there have been (we're counting Galarraga and not counting lame-ass combined no-hitters) 226 no-hitters thrown. There have been multiple no-hitters in every season since 2007, and 17 pitchers have thrown no-hitters since 2009. So in that same span of 3.6% of years of the modern era, 7.5% of no-hitters have been thrown. Though not quite as remarkable as the perfect game pace, it's still very high. We should have expected about 7 or 8 no-hitters since 2009 based on the pace from 1901-2008, and we've gotten 17.

Why so many perfect games and no-hitters? I think we can reasonably chalk it up to a statistical anomaly. No-hitters and perfect games aren't necessarily great indicators of pitchers' overall success: great pitchers like Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Steve Carlton, Lefty Grove, and Grover Cleveland Alexander (to name a few) never threw one, while Mark Buehrle's thrown two. However, pitcher velocity has increased as the "steroid era" level of production has fallen off a cliff in the past five years. But I don't think it's been long enough to claim that some large phenomenon has made no-hitters and perfect games unprecedentedly easy to get. But if this pattern continues, it could signify a large shift in Major League Baseball as we know it.

Congrats, King Felix.

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