Fate of the Seams

79 have done it in baseball history. 50 of those were in the Senior Circuit. While the game has been played for well over a Century, no Ranger ever did it, including the time as the Senators. No Twin has ever done it, including the time as the Senators. Needless to say, no Senator ever did it. Sandy Koufax is the only pitcher in history to do it three times for the Dodgers. Nolan Ryan, was only one of three pitchers to ever do it twice. And of course as a member of the Hall of Fame, he did it once in each league, the only player to accomplish that feat. Dodgers did it six times. The Yankees did it five times. The Brewers and Athletics are the only teams to have done it four times.

This past Thursday, Milwaukee Brewer, Mike Fiers did it…he struck out all three Dodger batters he faced, Enrique Hernandez, Carlos Frias and Joc Pederson, perhaps the hottest hitter in the league, in the top of the 4th inning. Nine pitches. Three strike outs. 9 pitches, 9 strikes and 3 outs. It is called the ‘Immaculate Inning’.

This obscure stat began on June 4, 1889 when John Clarkson of the Beaneaters struck out Jim Fogarty who led the league in stolen bases (99), Big Sam Thompson, the right fielder who led the league in home runs that season with 20, and the big first baseman, Sid Farrar, of the Philadelphia Quakers in the top of the 3rd in Boston.

The famous names that have done it are impressive. Rube Waddell of the Athletics did it in 1902, Lefty Grove was the other pitcher who did it twice in 1928 for the Athletics. Billy Hoeft of the Tigers did it in 1953. Jim Bunning of the Tigers did it in 1959. Al Downing of the Yankees did it in 1967. Ron Guidry of the Yankees did it in 1972. Roger Clemens of the Blue Jays did it in 1997, Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox did it in 2002. Felix Hernandez of the Mariners did it in 2008. Dazzy Vance of the Dodgers did it in 1924; Robin Roberts of the Phillies did it in 1956; Sandy Koufax did it three times for the Dodgers in 1962, 1963. Tony Cloninger did it for the Milwaukee Braves in 1963. Bob Gibson did it in 1968. Milt Pappas did it for the Cubs in 1971. Bruce Sutter of the Cubs did it in 1977. David Cone accomplished the task in 1991. Orel Hershiser did it as a Giant in 1998. Randy Johnson did it twice, once in 1998 as an Astro and the other in 2001 as a Diamondback. Ben Sheets accomplished the task for the Brewers in 2004.

So where does Fiers accomplishment rank, a portend of the future as a great pitcher or along with the likes of Pat Ragan, Joe Oeschger, Bob Bruce, Pedro Borbon, Lynn McGlothen, Joey McLaughlin, Jeff Robinson, Rob Dibble, Sloppy Thurston, Danny Jackson, Jeff Montgomery, Stan Belinda, Doug Jones and the like.

Only 79 did it. As beautiful as it was, it is a ‘Fate of the Seams’.

Play Ball!

What A King Can Do By The Sea

 

 

 

He was a quality pitcher who threw flames instead of balls for strikes. His fastball smoked. His team didn’t just rely on him, then RELIED on him. He was the ultimate stopper. It is not just his overwhelming fastball that is the secret. It is the two-seam fastball that dances the way Baryshnikov moved on the ballet floor.  That and a hard curve, a devastating change-up and with a great slider and you have the perfect storm for a perfect game.

This past Wednesday, August 15, 2012 to be exact, Félix Abraham Hernández García better known as “King Felix” pitched his way into the Hall fo Fame as he threw the 23rd perfect game in Major League Baseball history against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco  Field in Seattle, in a 1-0 victory. And with it, by the end of the week, his Seattle Mariners had won their 20th victory (against 13 losses) since the All-Star game, the second best winning record in the American League during that time span.

Like Baryshnikov who could dance his way to stardom at an early age on stages of Russia and then in the United States, Hernandez born in Valencia, Venezuela, could throw a fastball 90 mph when he was 14 years old. By the age of 16, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a Major League Baseball contract. That was number sixteen, as in 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16.  Not that he was the youngest ever to be signed and played. That belongs to Joe Nuxhall who was 15 years, 10 months and 11 days old when he first stepped foot on a mound in The Show for the Cincinnati Reds in a 1944 game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He lost in that first appearance. But after all, he was a 6’3″ ninth grader a the time. And it was in the middle of WW II.

Regardless of age, “King Felix” has defied all the odds and averaged over 200 innings pitched in his last 7 years on the mound showing what ‘great’ is all about. His durability has been superb in an era when starting pitchers go down with injury all of the time. This three-time All-Star and 2010 American League Cy Young  Award winner, has averaged 8+ strikeouts per game over his entire career. And now he has the only perfect game for the Seattle Mariners in their history.

That’s a big deal when you consider Randy Johnson pitched for the Mariners. Jamie Moyer, in his prime, pitched for the Mariners. Mark Langston pitched for the Mariners. Each of them pitched over 1190 innings for the Mariners. But Felix Hernandez leads them all in ERA (3.17), well ahead of Randy Johnson (3.42), Moyer (3.97) or Langston (4.01). He is #1 in walks & hits per innings pitched (1.203) for the Mariners. That only 1 hit or walk per inning pitched in his entire career. That’s astonishing.

Is he the greatest Mariner pitcher of all time?

He has pitched 300 inning fewer than Johnson. Randy is sure to go into the Hall of Fame. So by the time Felix reaches that point of  more than 1839 innings pitched in his career as a Mariner (he has pitched in 1568 through Wednesday), time will tell.

But right now, The Puget Palooza, the best pitcher in the American League if not all of baseball, is “King Felix”. He’s got the stuff that make him a show in THE SHOW. And if you don’t believe that, name another who even comes close to the stuff he has.

What a Wednesday he brought us, Seattle and all of baseball.

Mikhail Baryshnikov once said “It doesn’t matter how high your lift your leg. The technique is about transparent, simplicity and making an earnest attempt”. Trust me. Felix Hernandez understands that completely.

If Seattle pulls off the improbable this season and keeps up the good playing that they have shown over the past month or so, they will be riding on the shoulders, arm and yes, legs, of the “King”. And that’s what a King can do by the SEA.

Play Ball!