erik lundegaard

Perfekto: Mike Leake Just Misses Baseball Immortality

Last week, one of the members of our Seattle Mariners season ticket group, Grant, sent out an email saying he and his son were going to Cooperstown this weekend for the enshrinement of beloved son Edgar Martinez, so he couldn't use the tickets he had for the Friday, July 19 game. Anyone want them? Some demurrals before Tim said, “Sure, I‘ll take them.”

Didn’t exactly look promising. It was against the Angels, again, and they raked us last weekend. Hell, they no-hit us on the first game back after the All-Star break. Our pitcher, Mike Leake, lasted 2/3 of an inning, possibly his worst outing ever, while their two pitchers, Taylor Cole and Felix Pena, no-hit our ass. In this game, last night, who was going for us again? Oh, right. Mike Leake. But Tim's a trooper and a fan, and he runs the Grand Salami website, so he went. 

Here's his inning-by-inning account.

He almost saw baseball history. For eight innings, Leake was perfect: 24 up, 24 down. I saw some of Tim's tweets about it in which he didn't jinx anything by saying the magic words. He just showed his scorecard with a number: 21. 24. At this point, TV-less, I rushed over to the local watering hole, the Quarter Lounge, got a beer and settled in. I did that in lower Queen Anne in August 2012 during Felix's perfecto—the last one thrown in the Majors. Here, sadly, the suspense ended quickly. On the third pitch of the inning, Luis Rengifo, a second baseman, ground a seeing-eye single to the right side, and there went that. But it's a beautiful thing about baseball. Every day, maybe every play, the average player has a chance at immortality. What do Pat Seerey, Mark Whiten and Scooter Gennett have in common? They all hit four homers in one game. Only 18 guys have done that, and none of them are named Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron or Willie Mays or Ken Griffey Jr. Sometimes lightning strikes. 

Only 23 pitchers, and just 21 in the modern era, have ever thrown a perfect game. Mike Leake nearly added his name. Instead, he‘ll add his name to the nearly list. Also to the list of guys who have pitched shutouts this year: 19 right now. He’s tied for the league lead with 1. 

Here's the perfect game breakdown by decade:

Decade No.  Pitchers
1900s 2 Cy Young (1904), Addie Joss (1908)
1910s 0  
1920s 1 Charlie Robertson (1922)
1930s 0  
1940s 0  
1950s 1 Don Larsen (1956, WS)
1960s 3 Jim Bunning (1964), Sandy Koufax (1965), Catfish Hunter (1968)
1970s 0  
1980s 3 Len Barker (1981), Mike Witt (1984), Tom Browning (1988)
1990s 4 Dennis Martinez (1991), Kenny Rogers (1994), David Wells (1998), David Cone (1999)
2000s 2 Randy Johnson (2004), Mark Buehrle (2009)
2010s 5 Dallas Braden (2010), Roy Halladay (2010), Philip Humber (2012), Matt Cain (2012), Felix Hernandez (2012)

You see how rare it is. Or was. First 50 years of the 20th century, it happened just three times. Then Don Larsen did it in the World Series against a good Brooklyn team and with an ump with a rather wide strike zone. Three in the ‘60s can be attributed to the raising of the mound; it was a pitcher’s decade. I became baseball cognizant in the ‘70s, when it looked like there would never be another one. But then Len Barker broke through; then they became more frequent.

I’m curious, though. We‘ve had five this decade, all in the first three years, and nothing since? Scoring is up, sure, but league batting averages and OBPs are about the same: .255/.319 in 2012 vs. .253/.323 this year. But I guess league averages don’t matter so much as team averages/OBPs. You‘re just pitching against one team, after all. In 2012, for example, the team with the fourth-worst batting average (Tampa) was the victim of Felix’s perfecto, the team with the second-worst average (Houston) was victimized by Cain, and the team with the absolute worst average/OBP in MLB, the Seattle Mariners (.234/.296), got it from Humber—who, after his perfecto, went 4-5 with a 7.39 ERA in 2012, then 0-8 with a 7.90 with Houstin in 2013; then he was out of baseball. Go know. 

Again, though, there are still teams that can't hit. Detroit's #s are .234/.293. So I don't quite get it. We‘ve had no perfectos for a longer time now (6, nearly 7 years) than at any time since Barker. I guess it’s more than stats; I guess the stars have to align; and hitters have to not lean into pitches.  

I'm sorry Leake missed out. I'm sorry Tim missed out, but I'm happy for Grant. If I'd given up tix to a game where even a no-hitter was pitched, I'd never stop kicking myself.

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Posted at 12:46 PM on Sat. Jul 20, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners  
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