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A History Making Weekend
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
May 10, 2010

There's been a lot of talk about Cubs and rookies and pitchers and great games and baseball history this weekend. And, well, it’s been a while since I said something preposterous. So here we go.

Baseball players made baseball history a few times this weekend, though some cases were a little more obvious than others. For example:

On Friday night, Jamie Moyer became the oldest player to throw a complete game shutout in Major League history, besting Phil Niekro’s 1986 record by about a year (47 plus vs. 46 plus). Meanwhile, Chicago Cubs rookie Starlin Castro – the first major leaguer born in the 1990’s – set a record for most RBI in a major league debut, with six, and became the third youngest player ever to homer in his first at-bat.

The biggest moment of the weekend came on Sunday, when Oakland’s Dallas Braden – heretofore known as the guy who taught Alex Rodriguez about not treading on an opposing pitcher’s mound – went out and pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Braden’s feat came on Mother’s Day, which sweetens the story a bit since he was the son of a single mother, who died during his senior year of high school, and his grandmother who helped raised him was in the stands to witness the feat.

Braden became only the 19th pitcher to throw a perfect game – 17th if you consider that two perfect games came in the 1880s – but somehow, improbably, the second pitcher to throw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays in a year; Mark Buehrle did it last July as well.

Think about it – there have only been 17 perfect games in over 100 years, and most of the current Rays got to be there for two of them.

Braden’s feud with A-Rod – if it can even be called that – took a front seat, if you will, to A-Rod’s own piece of history Sunday night, as the future Hall of Famer tied Frank Robinon’s career mark with his 586th homerun, a number that represented fourth place on the all time homerun list as recently as 2002 but now gets you a tie for seventh.

So, how about some crazy talk.

As we were driving to get some Mother’s Day ice cream Sunday evening, my wife and I were listening to a recap of Braden’s perfect game on the radio. When it was revealed that Braden had only six strikeouts in the game, my wife expressed some surprise that a pitcher could throw a perfect game without having what she considered a “dominant” number of strikeouts. And she had a point: when we got home I went to baseball-reference.com and quickly discovered that Braden’s strikeout total was tied with two others (Buehrle and Charlie Robertson) for second fewest strikeouts in a perfect game since 1920 behind the five that Dennis Martinez managed against the Dodgers in 1991.

When you look at the list of no-hitters in major league history, the six strikeouts that Braden had seems even more paltry.

The fact that Braden had six strikeouts reminded me of another strikeout total I’d heard of recently – the seemingly shocking five strikeouts Jamie Moyer had managed during his shutout on Friday night. And that got me to thinking . . .

Player Result Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP GDP BF Pit Str GSc
Jamie Moyer 2 hit shutout W,7-0 9 2 0 0 0 5 0 0 1 28 105 71 88
Dallas Braden perfect game W,4-0 9 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 0 27 109 77 93

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I think Moyer’s game was more impressive than, or even as impressive as, Braden’s game. But I will sit and pretend that I am shocked at just how close those two games were. Seriously, it took Moyer four fewer pitches to get through his game. He only faced one more batter, he only struck out one fewer batter, and he only allowed two more baserunners, one of whom was wiped out by a double play. The two hits allowed by Moyer were both singles by Troy Glaus that got through the infield. If the infield makes those two players, Jamie Moyer becomes Dallas Braden.

And that is what the game of baseball is all about - it really is a game of inches.

Of course, at the same time, Braden also had to face a designated hitter and Moyer got to face the pitcher a bunch of times. And Moyer was facing the last place Atlanta Braves while Braden was facing the best team in baseball. And Moyer was pitching with a big lead the whole time (3-0 after the third, 7-0 after the fifth), while Braden pitched longer with the game on the line (never more than a four run lead). So we won't get carried away. Nevertheless, it is worth asking how much better Dallas Braden was than Jamie Moyer this weekend. I suspect the answer is "not much".

(Anyone who knows me knows what is coming next . . .)

And neither of them can touch this game, whose 12th anniversary just passed last Thursday:

Player Result Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP GDP BF Pit Str GSc
Kerry Wood 1 hit shutout W,2-0 9 1 0 0 0 20 0 0 0 29 122 84 105

Now that is what I call a Cubs' rookie, and that is what I call a perfect game.


Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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