What Is A Perfect Game In Baseball?

What Is A Perfect Game In Baseball

In baseball, a perfect game is an accomplishment by a pitcher in which they complete a game having allowed zero baserunners. In Major League Baseball, this means facing 27 batters and getting all 27 out. It’s an incredibly difficult task and is one of the rarest achievements in all of baseball.

How Difficult Are Perfect Games?

For even the world’s best pitchers, odds are, they’ll never throw a perfect game in their lives. In the entire history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 23 verified perfect games (21 in the modern era), which are a result of over 235,000 total games played. It’s one of the most sought-after achievements by any pitcher, and for those who do manage to reach that mark of perfection, it’s a career-defining moment. 

History of the Perfect Game

The first perfect game of baseball’s modern era came on May 5th, 1904, by the legendary Cy Young. Young remains one of the greatest pitchers of all time, so it’s only fitting that he threw the first perfect game of the modern era.

Two more perfect games were thrown in the next 18 years: one by Addie Joss in 1908 and another by Charlie Robertson in 1922. Then, as if a testament to its rarity, nobody threw a perfect game for 34 years until Don Larsen broke the drought in 1956, in game five of the World Series, no less. 

In the 1980s, the occurrence of perfect games started to increase; all but seven of those 21 perfect games occurred after 1980. Amazingly, in 2012, three pitchers threw perfect games, the last of which was by Felix Hernandez on August 15th, 2012. However, since then, it would seem that baseball has entered another perfect game drought, as nobody has thrown a perfect game since Hernandez’s.

Why Are Perfect Games so Rare?

Perfect games are exceedingly rare for several reasons. For one, it requires pitching an entire baseball game - 27 outs. This usually involves throwing well over one hundred pitches, which requires remarkable endurance by a pitcher. In today’s MLB, most pitchers are replaced by a reliever in the later innings of the game.

Aside from endurance, pitchers have to maintain absolute excellence on the way to achieving a perfect game. A pitcher has almost no room for mistakes. Finally, a perfect game often comes down to luck. Even if a pitcher is throwing an incredible game, a routine ground ball that takes a bad hop can ruin their chances at perfection. Baseball is a game that is frequently intervened upon by luck and chance, and a perfect game is no different. 

The Future of Perfect Games

The current drought of perfect games might not be an accident. We’ve entered an era in which pitchers throwing complete games are growing rarer and rarer. Teams and managers are incredibly vigilant when it comes to pitch count to avoid their pitchers getting injured. Since a perfect game requires 27 outs, managers might even pull a pitcher from the game if their pitch count gets too high. Combining this with the sheer improbability of a perfect game, the drought might continue for some time.