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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Notes on Halladay's Perfecto

  • As is usually the case with no-hitters, the fates conspired.  For one thing, home plate umpire Mike Dimuro got seduced by the occasion.  He called one of the largest strike-zones I've seen all season, and it got wider as the game progressed.  He did call it both ways, as Josh Johnson and Leo Nunez used it to their benefit as well, but when a pitcher like Halladay is given several additional inches of plate, he's not likely to make many mistakes.
  • I also found myself wondering, when the Phillies had men on base in the sixth and seventh, whether a rally would prevent our seeing history.  More than any pitcher I've ever watched, Doc changes his pitching style when he has a three or four run lead.  Both the zone and the depth of his arsenal are intentionally diminished, at least until his opponent proves they can put men on base.  Doc is also, clearly, a slave to his own routine.  I had a hard time believing he would change this strategy (one which is an essential part of his ability to pitch deep into games) even in the pursuit of history.  The Phillies hitting slump became something of a boon for fans eager to see Halladay go for pefection.
  • To that effect, although Halladay dramatically changed the team's momentum, something which is expected from a true Ace, the Phillies are still mired in an uncharacteristically meager period of offensive production.  The only run against Josh Johnson and the Marlins came via a Cameron Maybin error, so the Phillies have now failed to score an earned run in five of their last seven games.  The last time Philadelphia scored more than five runs was May 17 against the Pirates.
  • The Phillies defense was never really tested.  Juan Castro and Wilkin Valdez had to make some long, strong throws to retire speedy Marlins, but there were no diving plays, no leaping catchs, no jump-throws.  All 27 outs were more or less routine.
  • How did Halladay's perfecto stack up against the nineteen which preceded it?  Halladay is only the sixth pitcher to throw a perfect game with eleven or more strikeouts.  The others are Randy Johnson, David Wells, Len Barker, Catfish Hunter, and Sandy Koufax.  A pretty elite company.
  • Halladay is only the fourth pitcher to require as many as 115 pitches to complete his masterpiece.  The others were Johnson, Wells, and Mark Buehrle.  
  • Halladay is the first right-handed pitcher to throw a perfect game since David Cone accomplished the fete in July of 1999.  
  • Halladay is the first pitcher to hurl a perfect game with only a one-run advantage since Tom Browning in September 1988.  Koufax, Mike Witt, Addie Joss, and Lee Richmond also won their perfectos 1-0.
  • It is probably mere coincidence, but the number of no-hitters and perfect games over the last two seasons may be read as part of the transition into an era of pitching.  There have not been two perfect games thrown in the same month since June of 1880 and there has never been three perfect games thrown in as close proximity as those by Halladay, Braden, and Buehrle (311 days).  The closest prior to it was a span of just under four years from '64 to '68 that featured perfectos by Koufax, Hunter, and Jim Bunning.  That was, coincidently, an era of pitching dominance which inspired the lowering of the mound.  
  • If we expand our consideration to include no-hitters, there have now been three in the span of 43 days.  That hasn't happened since 1991, when Dennis Martinez, Wilson Alvarez, and Bret Saberhagen each threw one in just under a month.  '91 was also the last time we had more than three no-hitters in a single season (there were seven!).  There have been ten no-hitters in the last four seasons ('07-'10), compared to only four in the previous four seasons ('03-'06).   

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