What is a perfect game in baseball ? Major League Baseball is home to all sorts of rare and Herculean feats, but arguably none more legendary than a perfect game. Since 1876 — the first year of what we now know as the National League — there have been over 237,000 baseball games played. Only 24 times has a perfect game been thrown.
Break that down: 0.01 percent of MLB games in the sport’s history have been pure perfection. Only 214 innings of more than 4 million thrown.
Here’s what you need to know about perfect games, their frequency and other factoids surrounding them:
What is a perfect game in baseball?
A perfect game happens when a starting pitcher faces the minimum amount of batters in a game, which would be 27. No batter can reach base on a hit, a walk, a hit-by-pitch, a dropped third strike, an error or otherwise. In its simplest terms: 27 up and 27 down.
By definition, a perfect game also has to go at least nine innings, so weather-shortened games or those that don’t go the full nine for any other reason do not officially count as perfect games.
Difference between no-hitter and perfect game
A perfect game only occurs when the pitcher doesn’t allow a single baserunner in the game, as in 27 batters up and 27 batters retired.
As long as there’s a “0” in the box score next to hits, then it’s a no-hitter. That said, in a no-hitter, hitters are allowed to reach base by walk, hit-by-pitch, error, fielder’s choice and so forth. In a perfect game, no baserunners can reach. Every perfect game is a no-hitter, but not every no-hitter is a perfect game.
Among the more intriguing examples of this is Edwin Jackson’s 2010 no-hitter for the Diamondbacks. The right-hander held his former team, the Rays, without a hit in a 1-0 victory, but he walked eight batters, hit another, and saw one more reach on an error. Far from perfect, but still a no-hitter.
How many perfect games in MLB history?
In total, there have been 24 perfect games thrown in MLB history. Of the 24 perfect games, 22 have occurred in MLB’s modern era (since 1901). All 24 games have been started and finished by the same pitcher, so unlike some no-hitters, there have been no combined perfect games.
Of the pitchers who have thrown a perfect game, only seven have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, adding a certain element of randomness to who throws perfectos.
Last perfect game
The most recent perfect game was thrown by Yankees starter Domingo German against the Athletics in Oakland on June 28, 2023.
Prior to German’s perfect game, the last perfect game thrown was by Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, twirling a perfecto vs. the Rays on Aug. 15, 2012. That was one of the longest gaps between perfect games in MLB history.
What Is A Perfect Game?
A perfect game is an extremely rare occurrence in the game of baseball, and it occurs when one pitcher successfully gets all opposing batters out without a single one of them reaching base during the entirety of the nine-inning game.
To accomplish a perfect game, the pitcher has to record 27 consecutive outs (three outs per inning). No walks, hits, errors or other shenanigans can be taken into account for these 27 outs. The only way somebody can reach base in a perfect game is if they’re issued seven intentional walks (which are incredibly rare). Buy baseball equipment online
Famous Pitchers Who Have Thrown Perfect Games
Since throwing a perfect game is one of the most impressive feats in baseball, you’ll struggle to find a baseball fan who isn’t familiar with all 24 major league individuals who managed this legendary achievement. These remarkable individuals showcased unrivaled skill, precision, and mental fortitude, achieving the rarest of accomplishments.
Let’s explore some of the most famous pitchers who have attained perfection on the mound:
Cy Young: Considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Cy Young achieved the first perfect game in the modern era on May 5, 1904. Pitching for the Boston Americans (now known as the Red Sox), Young dominated the Philadelphia Athletics, retiring all 27 batters he faced.
Don Larsen: In the history of Major League Baseball, there has been only one perfect game thrown in the World Series. That extraordinary feat was accomplished by Don Larsen on October 8, 1956, while pitching for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Larsen’s flawless performance in Game 5 of the World Series remains an iconic moment.
Sandy Koufax: Regarded as one of the most dominant pitchers of all time, Sandy Koufax threw four no-hitters throughout his career, including a perfect game on September 9, 1965. Pitching for LA at the Dodger Stadium, Koufax faced the Chicago Cubs and retired all 27 batters, solidifying his status as a true legend of the game.
Catfish Hunter: On May 8, 1968, James “Catfish” Hunter, representing the Oakland Athletics, accomplished perfection against the Minnesota Twins. This remarkable achievement made him the first pitcher in the American League since 1922 to throw a perfect game.
Len Barker: May 15, 1981, witnessed a magical moment when Len Barker of the Cleveland Indians blanked the Toronto Blue Jays in a perfect game. Barker’s impeccable performance, marked by eleven strikeouts, cemented his place in baseball history.
David Cone: Pitching for the New York Yankees on July 18, 1999, David Cone displayed his pitching prowess by achieving perfection against the Montreal Expos. Cone’s masterpiece in this interleague matchup marked the 16th perfect game in MLB history.
Randy Johnson: Known for his overpowering fastball and intimidating presence on the mound, Randy Johnson became the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game on May 18, 2004, at the age of 40. Representing the Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson’s performance against the Atlanta Braves left an indelible mark on the game.
Domingo German: German is the newest player to achieve a perfect game, having done so during an 11-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics. This perfect game happened in 2023 whilst he was playing for the Yankees.
Felix Hernandez: Widely regarded as one of the best pitchers of his generation, Hernandez managed to achieve a perfect game whilst he was pitching for the Seattle Mariners. They beat the Rays 1-0.
Matt Cain: One of the many players who achieved a perfect game in the legendary year of 2012. Cain tied Sandy Koufax’s record for the most hitters fanned in a perfect game
Philip Humber: Playing for the White Sox in his first-ever career complete game, Humber managed to play a perfect game, beating the Mariners 4-0/
Roy Halladay: Halladay was a two-time Cy Young Award winner and was widely regarded as one of the best pitchers of his generation. He achieved his perfect game in 2010 playing for the Phillies, against the Marlins.
Dallas Braden: Braden is best known for pitching a perfect game on May 9, 2010, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Braden’s career highlights include winning the Hutch Award in 2011 for perseverance and overcoming adversity.
Mark Buehrle: Before his perfect pitch, Buehrle had achieved very few strikeouts, meaning his perfect game was one for the history books. He ended up achieving a perfect game for the White Sox against the Rays.
David Wells: Wells was a left-handed pitcher who played from 1987 to 2007 for nine different teams. He threw perfect games in 1998 for the New York Yankees.
Kenny Rogers: Kenny Rodgers almost didn’t achieve the legendary status of a perfect game due to a misstep in the ninth inning in the Rangers game against the Angels, but was saved by Rusty Greer’s diving catch.
Dennis Martinez: The Nicaraguan-born Martinez made history as the first-ever pitcher born outside of the USA to throw a perfect game, and he did so at the seasoned age of 36.
Tom Browning: Despite his career-defining game starting over two hours late due to bad weather, Browning did not let that bother him and managed to achieve a perfect game in as little as two hours.
Mike Witt: In the final game of the 1984 season, Witt achieved a perfect game against the Texas Rangers.
Jim Bunning: It was a Father’s Day win for Jim Bunnings as he managed to play a perfect game against the Mets in 1964. That season’s Mets team was notoriously bad, but it does not make his achievement any less impressive.
Charlie Robertson: Robertson had only played three other major league baseball games when he led the White Sox to beat the Tigers with his perfect game.
Addie Joss: Joss is a legend in the game of baseball, as he achieved his perfect game at the perfect time for the Cleveland Naps.
John Montgomery Ward: Once the first perfect game had been achieved, John Montgomery Ward was not about to wait around for his chance to put his name on the map, getting his perfect game just three days after the first ever perfect game was achieved.
Lee Richmond: The first-ever player to achieve a perfect game in Major League Baseball history, Richmond is a legend for his win for the Worcester Ruby Legs against the Cleveland Blues.
The Requirements for a Perfect Game
In order for a baseball game to be considered perfect, it must meet a set of stringent requirements that define the pinnacle of pitching achievement. These requirements demand an extraordinary level of skill, precision, and unwavering focus from the pitcher.
Let’s delve into the essential elements that constitute a perfect game in baseball:
No Hits: The pitcher must prevent the opposing team from recording a single hit throughout the entire game. This means that no batter from the opposing team can make contact with the ball and reach a base safely.
No Walks: A perfect game necessitates impeccable control over each pitch. The pitcher cannot allow any batter to reach first base by issuing a walk, which occurs when the pitcher throws four balls outside the strike zone.
No Hit-by-Pitches: Similarly, a pitcher must avoid hitting any batter with a pitch, which would grant them first base. Maintaining pinpoint accuracy and control is vital to preserving the perfection of the game.
No Errors: The pitcher’s performance alone cannot secure a perfect game. The entire defense must be flawless as well. No fielding errors, including misplays or dropped balls, can occur during the game.
All 27 Outs: To achieve perfection, the pitcher must retire all 27 opposing batters, securing a total of 27 outs. Any extra-inning game must continue until the pitcher records 27 consecutive outs without allowing a baserunner.
Meeting these requirements demands an extraordinary combination of skill, strategy, and mental fortitude. The perfect game is an elusive and rare accomplishment, with only a select few pitchers in the history of baseball having attained this feat. Each perfect game stands as a testament to the pitcher’s mastery of their craft and serves as a source of inspiration for players and fans alike.
Strategies for Achieving a Perfect Game
The average pitcher is unlikely to achieve a perfect game, as it requires legendary precision and concentration. However, whether you are playing in major league or minor league baseball, there are some strategies that can increase your chances of playing a perfect game.
One key strategy for attaining perfection on the mound is to consistently control and manipulate pitches. As a pitcher, you need to have precise command over your pitches in order to deceive batters and keep them off balance. This means being able to locate your fastball with accuracy, hit the corners of the strike zone, and mix in off-speed pitches effectively. By mastering these skills, you can make it extremely difficult for hitters to make solid contact and increase your chances of throwing a perfect game.
How to throw a fastball better
Another important strategy for achieving a perfect game is to study and exploit the weaknesses of opposing batters. This involves doing thorough research on their tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses before stepping onto the field. By understanding what types of pitches certain batters struggle with or where they tend to hit the ball, you can develop a game plan that plays into their vulnerabilities. This strategic approach allows you to stay one step ahead of the hitters and maximize your chances of retiring every batter without allowing a single baserunner.
Lastly, mental toughness plays a crucial role in pursuing a perfect game. As a pitcher, you must remain focused and composed throughout the entire game, even if there are close calls or errors made by your defense. It’s important not to dwell on past mistakes or allow distractions to affect your performance. Maintaining confidence in your abilities and staying locked into each pitch will help you navigate through challenging situations with poise and increase your chances of achieving perfection on the mound.
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