Question 13: There are many Bill Arnolds out there but there is only one who is a self-described "obscurematician." Bill is the voice of the weekly "Beyond the Box Score" which collects a wide variety of statistical nuggets and anomalies and spends an inordinate amount of time in the press box in San Francisco.
Bill, you were there the night of Cain's perfecto and you have a story about the official scorer from the 1st inning that perhaps you can share.
Bill Arnold: One truly unique thing about Cain's perfect game was that the official scorer, Dave Feldman, predicted it. In the first inning, he told the MLB.com scorer, Karen Sherrill, that Cain was going to pitch a perfect game. The best account of Feldman's uncanny prescience comes from a story written by Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News from June 21, 2012. Here are some excerpts:
Like the mighty Babe Ruth, official scorekeeper David Feldman called his shot. Ruth did so by pointing toward the centerfield bleachers and smacking a home run there. Feldman did so by predicting that Matt Cain would allow nothing but zeroes -- The Sultan of Naught.
"It's absolutely true," said Don Amundson, who was working in the Comcast Sports Net Bay Area television truck that night.
"Too bad I didn't get him to pick my lottery numbers for me," Karen Sherrill of MLB.com said.
Amundson was the first to hear the perfect claim. As the two were packing up after Tuesday night's contest that lasted 3 hours and 12 minutes, Amundson groused about a recent slew of long games.
"(Feldman) put his pen down, turned to me and said, 'Don't worry. When Matt Cain throws a no-hitter tomorrow, we'll be out of here in no time,'" Amundson said.
After Cain struck out Jordan Schafer, the first batter of the game, "(Feldman) turned to me and said 'He's going to have a perfect game,'" Sherrill recalled.
"He'd never said anything like that to me before and I remembered thinking at first he was going to jinx it," Sherrill said. "As the game went on and there were a couple of nail-biting plays, he was confident they would make the play while the rest of us held our breath."
Question 14: From your unique eew, what can of tidbits can you tell us about Matt Cain?
Bill Arnold: Here are a few more fun facts about Cain's perfect game.
Matt Cain pitched the first perfect game in the 130-year history of the Giants franchise on June 13, 2012. Until Cain, no Giant hurler had retired 27 straight in either the club's New York incarnation (founded in 1883) or after its move to San Francisco in 1958. Of the 13 extant major-league teams whose pitchers have recorded perfectos, that's the longest any has gone before the feat was achieved. Before the Giants, the Cincinnati Reds had waited the longest to enjoy perfection, going without for 107 seasons until Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988. The Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees lead all teams with three perfectos each. The Chicago Cubs have gone the longest without experiencing perfection, 142 seasons and counting since their debut in 1871. Two franchises that registered perfect games are now defunct, the Worcester Worcesters and Providence Greys. The list below gives the year each of the 13 big-league clubs first registered a perfect game and how long they waited (* - thrown in the 1956 World Series):
… Matt Cain threw 65 fastballs, 23 sliders, 21 changeups and 16 curveballs in his perfect game; he went to 3-2 on four batters but managed to strike out three of the four.
… Ted Barrett was behind the plate for Cain's gem making him the first big-league umpire to call two perfect games; in 1999, Barrett was the home plate umpire when David Cone retired 27 straight.
… Cain's perfect game was a first for both the Giants and Astros; it was the first thrown by a Giant pitcher and the first thrown against the Astros.
… Cain threw 125 pitches against the Astros, the most ever in a major-league perfecto, and received defensive help in the form of two excellent catches in the outfield: left fielder Melky Cabrera tracked down a long fly ball at the wall and right fielder Gregor Blanco made a headlong dive to catch a ball with his back to the plate in deep right-center.
… Cain recorded 14 strikeouts, tying Sandy Koufax for most whiffs in a perfect game; he also recorded eight outs on two-strike pitches.
… The night before Cain's perfecto, Giants starter Madison Bumgarner struck out 12; they were the first pair of Giant pitchers to record double-digit strikeout totals in back-to-back games since Vida Blue and John "The Count" Montefusco in May 1978.
… Several hours before the game, Cain seemed more interested in golf than baseball when he drove a golf ball from home plate over the right-center arcade at AT&T Park and into "McCovey Cove;" he was inspired by the performance of professional golfer Dustin Johnson who had been driving balls into the water as a pre-game promotion for the U.S. Open golf tournament slated to begin the following morning at San Francisco's Olympic Club.
Question #15: You have seen Cain's and Dallas Braden's perfect games in the last three seasons, what do you think is going on with the influx of no-hitters (and you can't include BALCO in your answer)?
Bill Arnold: I've been incredibly lucky to cover those two perfect games: Dallas Braden's for the A's in 2010 and Cain's for the Giants in 2012. Since 2009, there have been six perfectos thrown in the bigs by Mark Buehrle, Braden, Roy Halladay, Philip Humber, Cain and Felix Hernandez; those are as many as were posted in the first 88 major-league seasons (1876-1963). Why has baseball been "inundated" by perfection?
There have been 202,500 regular-season games played in the majors through 2012, only 22 were perfect - that's just .01 percent. But, since 2000, there have been seven perfectos in the bigs in 31,580 games played, or .02 percent. Certainly not a huge change, but a noticeable one. It's a question debated in many a press box and here are a few of the most popular theories:
1. Batters are rushed to the majors and are less likely to have the skills and experience necessary to succeed against a pitcher who is in command of all his pitches.
2. New technologies help pitchers break down the tendencies of batters giving them more ammunition to thwart the opposition.
3. The recent popularity of certain pitches (e.g., the side-arm slider) helps pitchers mystify a lineup.
4. The ballparks built over the last decade are more pitcher-friendly than older venues.
5. As a corollary (perhaps) to the previous point, overall run totals have decreased since 2006.
6. Most of all, as put by the San Francisco Chronicle's national baseball writer, John Shea, "It's good fortune!" With all the games played in baseball, statistical anomalies occur, even a cluster of "freak events" like the recent spate of perfect games.
Anyway, all food for thought for fans of those 27-up-and-27-down gems.