Felix Hernandez – #1 Perfect Game of 2012

If you haven’t watched the video of the Jackson Generals reacting to Felix’s perfect game (Felix’s brother Moises is #54) on their jumbo tron yet; you really should. The video will give you a good idea what the reaction was like at my house; minus that I was shared this feat with my understandably petrified kids. When Sean Rodriguez recorded Felix’s 12th strikeout to complete his Perfect Game I got pretty excited; maybe even a little out of hand. The sound that I omitted was something pretty close to the reaction I gave my 4-year old daughter last summer when she decided to cut her own hair mixed with the day she was born; unbridled, garbled screams of victory.

The reaction went over much better this time than it did in the Hospital.

After being ‘forcibly persuaded’ to watch the 9th inning with their father, both of my kids escaped quickly. But, as I told both of them, I will be more than happy to remind you over the years that you were both present to watch the greatest game in Seattle Mariners history and possibly modern baseball.

Felix Hernandez is still the #1 trending worldwide topic on Twitter at 10AM on Thursday a total of 18 hours and 58 minutes after his historical performance. The King’s performance created so much buzz that #KingFelix, #Mariners, and Dave Nieuhaus joined the top trending topics on Twitter throughout Wednesday.

Was Felix looking to throw a perfect game on Wednesday;

“It’s always in my mind,” Hernandez said. “Every game, I’m thinking I need to throw a perfect game. For every pitcher, I think it’s in their mind. But today it happened and it’s something special. I don’t have any words to explain this. This is pretty amazing. This does not happen every day.”

It sure did happen and I don’t think you need to be a Mariner fan to recognize that this was the most impressive Perfect Game of the 2012 season – in which there have been three.

April 21, 2012 – Phillip Humber Perfect Game’s the AL West Seattle Mariners – Box Score
June 13, 2012 – Matt Cain Perfect Game’s the NL Central Cellar-Dwelling Houston Astros – Box Score
August 15, 2012 – Felix Hernandez Perfect Game’s AL East’s Tampa Bay Rays – Box Score

Let’s take a look at Phillip Humber’s Lucky Perfect Game.

The Seattle Mariners, 4th in the AL West, are creating an AL worst 3.91 runs per game in 2012 while ranking 14th (last) in team HRs, Runs, RBIs, .OBP, .SLG, .OPS, GDP, and even IBB handed out. In 11 previous April outings the Mariners were 4-7 being outscored 37-46 generating 3.36 runs per game.

  • Phillip Humber’s line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9K. 
  • Game Score: 96
  • Humber threw 96 pitches with 67 going for strikes (69%) 
  • 14 swinging strikes
  • 5 ground ball outs
  • 13 fly ball outs
  • Ground ball ratio of 23.5%.

Let’s take a look at Matt Cain’s Perfect Game.

The Houston Astros, 6th in the AL Central and owners of the worst record in baseball, are creating 3.78 runs per game in 2012 while striking out an NL worst 986 times. In 10 previous June outings the Astros were 4-6 being outscored 52-73 losing 2 of 3 series played.

  • Matt Cain’s line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 14K.
  • Game Score: 101
  • Cain threw 125 pitches with 86 going for strikes (68%) 
  • 14 swinging strikes
  • 6 ground ball outs
  • 7 fly ball outs
  • Ground ball ratio of 46.2%.

Let’s take a look at Felix Hernandez’s Perfect Game.

The Tampa Bay Rays, tied for 2nd in the AL-East, are creating 4.08 runs per game in 2012 while leading the AL in BBs and SBs. The Tampa offense is far from excellent recording less total bases than the Seattle Mariners in 2012 while recording a higher team .AVG, .OBP, .SLG, .OPS.

  • Felix Hernandez’s line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12K. 
  • Game Score: 99
  • Hernandez threw 113 pitches with 77 going for strikes (68%) 
  • 26 swinging strikes
  • 8 ground ball outs
  • 7 fly ball outs
  • Ground ball ratio of 53.3%.

Felix Hernandez generated nearly as many swinging strikes as Humber and Cain managed in their starts combined. Felix was the only pitcher to induce a GB ratio over 50% (something he has done 11 times in 2012) in their Perfect Game performance.

Looking at Pitch/FX data shows the most impressive statistics from the three games we are analyzing:

  • Phillip Humber’s most effective pitch was his Curveball which generated 7 swinging strikes in 29 pitches (24.1%)
  1. Seattle hitters carried a contact% of 68.2% on pitches swung at (82.8% on those in the strike-zone; 40% on those outside the strike-zone)
  • Matt Cain’s most effective pitch was his Four-Seam Fastball which generated 8 swinging strikes in 44 pitches (12.9%)
  1. Houston hitters carried a contact% of 75.4% on pitches swung at (84.4% on those in the strike-zone; 64% on those outside the strike-zone).
  • Felix Hernandez’s most effective pitch was his Curveball which generated 10 swinging strikes in 24 pitches (41.6%)
  1. Tampa Bay hitters carried a contact% of 59.3% on pitches swung at (78.4% on those in the strike-zone; 37% on those outside the strike-zone).

Something that cannot be explained, that you have to see, is Felix Hernandez’s velocity as the game went along. See the Pitch F/X chart at this link.

  • Pitch #1-36 sat under 94 MPH; Jaso providing the scouting report that Tampa looks for early count fastballs from Felix.
  • Pitch #36-56 topped out around 94.3 MPH. Things started to get special after this; in terms of his velocity and what was taking place.
  • Pitch #66-86 Felix kicks it up to 96 MPH; throwing 96.5 MPH at his peak somewhere in the 6th and 7th innings. 
  • Pitch# 91-111 Felix throws in the middle of the two above sample sets peaking just over 95 MPH.

 Talk about climbing the ladder in terms of velocity. 

When a pitcher is able to throw seven different pitches at a strike ratio over 50% the difference between 1 MPH at the plate can make even the best hitters start to pull the trigger on anything near the plate.

Eric Wedge, Seattle’s skipper, said Felix Hernandez’s 8/04/2012 complete game 2-hit shutout of the Yankees in New York was the greatest pitching performance he had witnessed. I do believe he has now changed that answer.

John Jaso, who fittingly received the call to catch this game being a former Tampa Bay Ray himself, summarized this performance as well as anyone did.

“You could throw any lineup out there today and it’s close to the same result,” Jaso said.

This performance took place during a gritty 1-0 victory by the Seattle Mariners; but that is exactly why he is The King.



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