2010 MLB Season: New Pitchers’ Era, or Just Something in the Air?

June 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Sometimes during the long and winding baseball season, there are games in which one gets the feeling that the action on the field isn’t just a function of the players on the field, but that there might just be something in the air that day.

There was, for example, the infamous Phillies-Cubs game on May 17, 1979, when the two combined for 45 runs and 11 home runs, and the Phillies won the game 23-22 in the 10th inning.  Both pitchers got Turbo Tanked, with Cubs starter Dennis Lamp giving up six earned runs while retiring only one batter, followed by Phillies starter Randy Lerch giving up five earned runs while retiring only one batter.

Clearly, something other than the performance of the players on the two teams was accounting for the ridiculous offense by those two teams.  In this case, though, the answer is relatively simple – it was Wrigley Field, and the wind was most definitely blowing out.

But what about the flip-side?  What about the situation where two teams score very few runs, and the two pitchers have apparently dominant games?

Perfect games in which the opposing pitcher allows no earned runs.

Last Saturday night in Miami (which, by the way, we’re apparently required to call “South Florida” now) Roy Halladay pitched a Perfect Game against the Florida Marlins in a game in which the Marlins didn’t manage a single base-runner while the Phillies needed an error to score their only run of the game, unearned, and take the 1-0 victory.

These are not two offensively challenged teams – the Phillies have one of the most potent (though not at the time) offenses in baseball, and the Marlins have generally been a good hitting/bad pitching team.

And sure, the game certainly featured a matchup between the aces of those two teams, Halladay and Josh Johnson, who also happen to be two of the top pitchers in the National League.

But I think there is more to it than that.  Check this out:

Johnson’s performance in that game obviously jumps off the page: seven innings pitched, seven hits allowed, one walk, six strikeouts, and only the one unearned run.

Naturally, one might think that having the other pitcher pitch so well in a game in which his opponent pitches a perfect game might be rare.

One would be wrong.

Looking back over the history of Major League perfect games, having the other pitcher give up zero earned runs is actually shockingly common:

– Lee Richmond: When Richmond pitched his perfect game, Jim McCormick also pitched a complete game for Cleveland, allowed three hits and one unearned run while walking one and striking out seven.

– Addie Joss: This game is on the short list for greatest pitching duel of all time, between Joss and Ed Walsh.  It could be argued that Walsh had the better game.  He allowed four hits and one unearned run in a complete game effort, while walking one and striking out 15.  Meanwhile, Joss had only three strikeouts in his perfecto.

– Sandy Koufax: in the game in which Koufax struck out 14, Bob Hendley pitched a complete game one-hitter, walking one and striking out three while allowing the one unearned run.  In fact, the only base-runner of the entire game was Lou Johnson, who had a hit and a walk.

– Mike Witt: Witt struck out ten in his perfect game, while Charlie Hough pitched a complete game seven hitter, walking three and striking out three while allowing only the unearned run.

– Tom Browning: Browning struck out seven batters and threw 100 pitches in his perfect game.  Tim Belcher pitched an eight inning complete game three-hitter, also striking out seven, walking one, and allowed the one unearned run.

– Dennis Martinez: When Martinez struck out five in his perfect game against the Dodgers, Mike Morgan also struck out five in a complete game four-hitter, striking out five and walking one while allowed two unearned runs.

Other good performances by the “oh-by-the-way” guy.

There have been other famous pitching performances where the other guy, in “oh-by-the-way” form also pitched lights out:

At the beginning of his 20-strikeout game on May 6, 1998, Kerry Wood struck out the first five batters he faced.  At the same time, the opposing pitcher, Shane Reynolds, also struck out the side in the first and four of the first six batters overall.  Reynolds finished the day with a complete game, eight hits and two runs (one earned) allowed while striking out ten and walking two.

When Randy Johnson struck out 20 Cincinnati Reds and allowed only one run in nine innings on May 8, 2001, the game went to extra innings because Reds pitcher Chris Reitsma also allowed only one runs through eight innings.

On May 26th, 1959 Harvey Haddix had a perfect game through nine innings.  And ten innings.  And eleven innings.  And twelve innings.  Haddix lost the perfect game and the game itself in the bottom of the 13th, and had to settle for a 12.2 innings one hitter. 

Why?  Because opposing pitcher Lew Burdette threw a 13 inning twelve hit shutout.

When Tom Cheney struck out 21 batters and allowed only one run in 16 innings on September 12, 1962, the game lasted as long as it did because opposing pitchers Milt Pappas and Dick Hall combined for 15 innings of one run ball before giving up the deciding run in the 16th.

Pedro Martinez famously lost a perfect game on June 3, 1995, when, after pitching nine perfect innings, he gave up a lead-off hit in the bottom of the tenth.  The only reason the game went into the tenth was that Joey Hamilton pitched a nine inning shutout himself, allowing only three hits and two walks.  Reliever Brian Williams gave up the deciding run in the tenth.

So what’s the point of all this?

Three perfect games (sorry, two perfect games and a near third) in one month of a season raises a lot of questions.  Is this the end of the steroid era?  The end of the amphetamine era?  Are we season the dawn of a new pitchers’ era?  Has something changed with the balls?  The bats?  The gloves?

In trying to make sense of what we’ve been seeing in regards to pitching so far this season, perhaps the best explanation might be the simplest: maybe there’s just something in the air.


Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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