The pursuit of perfection is something every MLB athlete attempts to capture - from hitting a perfect line drive for the win to an MLB pitcher putting out 27 straight batters out for the "Perfect Game."
But not every moment of perfection will be remembered in the annals of history. For there are more perfect perfect moments in sports. But one of the most perfect, is the perfect game, an achievement that vaults a pitcher into the history books among the names of Cy Young and Sandy Koufax.
To put this into perspective, there have only been 23 perfect games thrown since 1880, which was the same year Wabash, Indiana became the first electrically lit city in the world.
The perfect game is an exceedingly rare feat. In fact, since 1998 with 34,020 games played and a total of 9 perfect games, the rate of perfect games in the MLB is 0.026% or 1 in 3,780 games.
With 2,430 games in an MLB regular season, with three perfect games pitched, the rate of perfect games is 0.12% or 1 in 810 games - which is over 4.5 times the historical trend.
It may just be a one off season, a statistical anomaly, or could be the sign of a new era in pitcher effectiveness, especially now that we have seen a total of five perfect games in three season (two in 2010) - only time will tell.
But with this increase in perfect games along with the desire for perfect perfection... of the 23 perfect games, which was the MOST perfect?
Before beginning to look into the specifics of the 23 individual perfect games, it is important to establish what is the perfect perfect game.
It could be debated that there are two types: 1) The pitcher strikes out every batter in three pitches in a total of 81 pitches or 2) The pitcher converts every first pitch into an out by getting the batter to hit into the field of play with a putout by the fielders for a total of 27 pitches.
While it can be debated both ways, the idea of a pitcher striking out every batter in three pitches effectively eliminates the need for any fielders. The rest of the team, excluding the catcher, simply could've watched the game from the dugout. And with no balls hitting the field of play, there is no risk of a fielding error for a hit.
In 81 pitches, all strikes, the perfect perfect game would be achieved.
|Lee Richmond||Ruby Legs||23||1880||LHP||5||1:26||H||Blues|
|Cy Young||Americans||37||1904||RHP||8||1:25||H||P. Athletics|
|Addie Joss||Naps||28||1908||RHP||74||3||1:32||H||White Sox|
|Charlie Robertson||White Sox||26||1922||RHP||90||6||1:55||A||Tigers|
|Len Barker||Indians||25||1981||RHP||103||11||2:09||H||Blue Jays|
|Mark Buehrle||White Sox||30||2009||LHP||116||6||2:03||H||Rays|
|Philip Humber||White Sox||29||2012||RHP||96||9||2:17||A||Mariners|
Clearly, out of the 23 perfect games pitched there has yet to be one that has consisted of 27 strikeouts or one of only 27 pitches. But there are pitching efforts that standout among the 23 perfect games as more perfect.
This leads us with the question of how do we evaluate from here? Do we simply look at the pitcher with the most strikes, the youngest pitcher, the quickest perfect game, etc.?
To help determine the most perfect game, for this analysis, we looked at how the pitcher and team got the 27 straight outs - breaking it down into three types: strikeous, unassisted outs and assisted outs - to see how each perfect game brokedown.
The most emphasis should be placed on strikeouts and unassisted outs, which are those outs that only required a single fielder to putout the batter through either a tagout or a caught out. An assisted out should be seen as less perfect as it requires more than one fielding player to participate in the play, which increases the chances for the batter to get on base either through safely reaching base or fielding error.
And while this isn't a perfect method of analysis, it can help to narrow down the field of potential candidates.
We created a table, which includes the three types of outs along with the % of outs, the combination of strikeouts and assited outs, and the number of pitches:
In the table above, we've sorted the table in order of pitchers with the highest percentage of combines strikeouts and unassisted outs (SO+UAO/27).
As you can see, Sandy Koufax and David Cone had the highest percentage with 88.9% of their outs coming from strikeouts or unassisted outs. Koufax had a higher rate of strikouts with 14, which along with Matt Cain is the highest among all perfect games. Cone on the other hand needed far fewer pitches to complete his perfect game only needing 88 pitches, which was only bested by Addie Joss who had 74.
The next closest perfect game 85.2% SO%+UAO% effort by Dallas Braden.
Both of the 88.9% efforts had a significant contribution by both pitcher and the team with both being in the double digits for strikeouts and unassisted outs. Based on this analysis, the debate should be between these two.
But as noted before, THE perfect game would come down to a game where the pitcher has 27 strikeouts in 81 straight pitchers. Therefore, the 14 K 113 pitch effort by Dodgers Sandy Koufax should be considered the most perfect game by a pitcher in MLB history.
And if you think that analyzing perfect games to find the most perfect edges on the ridiculous, then maybe Catfish Hunter should just be annointed the most perfect game pitcher, solely based on the greatness of his name.
Home vs. Away
Agree or disagree with the above? Who do you think threw the perfect perfect game? Let us know in the comments below!