In the aftermath of Felix Hernandez‘s perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, many statistical kernels of wisdom came flying out, but one in particular stuck with me. Against 27 batters, King Felix induced 26 swings-and-misses, a staggeringly-high number. Getting batters to swing and miss is great for two obvious reasons: they don’t make contact with the baseball, so Evan Longoria‘s .297 batting average, for instance, doesn’t come into play; and the pitcher’s defense, park factors, and luck don’t adversely affect the outcome of a ball in play.
26 whiffs is impressive and even more so when you stack it up against other perfect games in recent memory. In Roy Halladay‘s gem in 2010 against the then-Florida Marlins, he induced only eight of them, instead relying on called strikes and the defense behind him to keep Marlin runners off of the bases. In fact, among the Phillies’ three aces, Cole Hamels is the only one who has even come close to 26 as the lefty got 20 whiffs against the San Francisco Giants on July 21, a season-high. Halladay’s 2012 season high is 15 while Cliff Lee‘s is a meager 12.
Other pitchers to throw perfect games this year were Matt Cain (14 whiffs) and Phil Humber (also 14). Dallas Braden, who joined Halladay in accomplishing the feat in 2010, had only five. Mark Buehrle induced just six whiffs in his gem in 2009.
What Hernandez accomplished yesterday wasn’t just baseball history, but one of the most dominant starts you’ll ever see, hits allowed or not.