Add King Felix to baseball’s royal family.
One month and two days after Matt Cain accomplished the feat, Mariners’ ace Felix Hernandez threw the third perfect game of the season, a prestigious accomplishment getting less prestigious each year. Once considered among the rarest achievements in sports, the perfect game is becoming increasingly commonplace in the MLB.
Hernandez’s perfect game is the third of this season. There were another two thrown in 2010, and it really should have been three if not for umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call on what would have been the final out for Armando Galarraga. In fact, since 2004 there have been seven perfect games (again, eight if you count Galarraga), meaning the MLB is practically averaging a perfect game per year. Sure, that’s still uncommon enough to be a be a big deal, but considering the 34 year gap between Charlie Robertson’s perfect game in 1922 and Don Larsen’s in 1956, it’s pretty clear baseball fans have become pretty spoiled lately. (For comparison, in the past 34 years there have been 14 perfect games.)
This is not to say tossing a perfect game is any less of historic event; only 23 have been thrown in 132 years. In fact, throwing a perfect game in this age of baseball could be even more difficult than it was 50 years ago. The level of scouting and player analysis every team uses prepares batters to know a pitcher’s tendencies and what to expect when facing him. Combine that with improved technologies in training (and steroids) that produce more and more incredible athletes and with the shorter leash managers give pitchers in terms of pitch count and it seems crazy to think a team in this era could go 27 at bats without getting at least one ball through a hole.
But that is exactly what Felix Hernandez was able to accomplish on Wednesday. For Hernandez, who has been quietly wasting away his prime in Seattle, it’s great to see him back in the spotlight, if only briefly, as the Mariners yet again languish at the bottom of the American League standings.
Yet despite the losses, fans in Seattle have had quite the pitching show performed for them this season. Philip Humber of the White Sox tossed his perfect game earlier this year at Safeco Field. Then the Mariners had a no-hitter against the Dodgers, despite using six pitchers to do so. Hernandez’s perfect game tops the list.
King Felix certainly proved he deserves his nickname.