Three perfect games in one season? Six no-hitters? And the season is far from over. What gives?
In all of baseball’s illustrious history, dating back to the latter part of the 19th century, you could count the number of perfect games on two hands and two feet (optimally) going into the 2012 season. If you can still count all the league’s perfections that way, you’re probably an alien. And that’s fine because there’s something alien going on with the boys of summer.
But just because something is unusual doesn’t mean it’s inexplicable. There’s good reason we’re witnessing a resurgence in the fine art of pitching. One is the obvious: Pitchers are really good right now. It’s simple but it’s true. Look at the seasons being had by Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, David Price, Chris Sale, R.A. Dickey, Johnny Cueto, Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels and the latest perfectionist, Felix Hernandez. That list leaves out some of the game’s top pitchers who simply aren’t up to their usual snuff.
A second factor, which ESPN’s Buster Olney credited, is the fact that Major League Baseball is doing a better job of cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs. Which is to say Major League Baseball is doing a job of cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs. Essentially, the playing field has been leveled.
If you’re of the opinion that steroids don’t provide a batter with any advantage in reaching base, think again. Time and again during the course of recent no-hitters, balls reach the warning track but stay in the field of play. A dozen years ago or so, those same balls would be landing right about now.
Not only do juiced-up hitters knock the ball farther, they hit it with more velocity. Line drives are more likely to become base hits, and extra-base hits, when they’re hit harder. They get to the gap quicker and fielders have less time to react.
Steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are still out there (if you need some, just ask Melky Cabrera), but their prevalence is much less than the ‘roid-rage 1990s. And the numbers seem to reflect that.
A third and most important reason for the increase in perfect games and no-hitters is the “Oh yeah” reason for the same reason as all the other records being set: More games are played each year. I’m not talking about a 162-game schedule as opposed to a 154 games a year. I mean that 30 teams playing 162 contests every year, not including the now-lengthy postseason, has created more opportunities for single-game events to occur. It’s just basic probability. Oh yeah.