Can Humber deliver a perfect encore?
History suggests solid, unspectacular numbers in store for hurler
When Philip Humber takes the mound on Thursday at home against the Red Sox, he won't explicitly be aiming for his second straight perfect game. Of course, he also wasn't aiming for his first perfect game last weekend.
He's in a position that 18 other pitchers in the history of baseball are familiar with: trying to follow up a perfecto in his next turn through the rotation. While Humber became the 21st hurler in history to achieve perfection, two of his predecessors turned the trick in their final start of the year.
The rest, though, were in the same position as Humber, trying to go about things just like normal when suddenly everything is anything but. MLB.com decided to take a look at the history of those second acts, from Charlie Robertson in 1922 through Roy Halladay in 2010.
For various reasons, only 14 of the previous 20 men to throw a perfect game were included in this survey. For four of them, we simply didn't have the information. Lee Richmond (1880), Monte Ward (1880), Cy Young (1904) and Addie Joss (1908) all pitched their gems before the era of complete play-by-play data. (Much of the boxscore data, by the way, comes from the invaluable Project Retrosheet).
Don Larsen's came in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. He didn't make another start in '56, obviously. And Mike Witt threw his in his last start of 1984, so his next game didn't come until '85.
That leaves us with 14 other pitchers: Robertson, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, Catfish Hunter, Len Barker, Tom Browning, Dennis Martinez, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, David Cone, Randy Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Dallas Braden and Halladay. Bunning, Koufax, and Hunter are Hall of Famers. Johnson almost certainly will be, and Halladay is in the process of building his case.
The rest achieved varying degrees of fame over the course of their careers. Before Humber, only Braden and Robertson were never All-Stars, and Robertson's career ended before the first Midsummer Classic was played. So, to some extent, there's not really a parallel for Humber, who's coming off a fine year in 2011 but doesn't have the kind of résumé that virtually all of his predecessors sported.
Still, that's not to say it's not worth examining. Some hurlers have followed up with exceptional starts: Browning was especially strong in his follow-up, posting the highest game score and standing as the only pitcher to allow just one run in his next game.
Five days after his Sept. 16 date with history against the Dodgers, Browning faced the Giants at Riverfront Stadium. His bid for repeat perfection was almost immediately thwarted by a two-out, first-inning Will Clark single, and he permitted a single and a walk in the second. Then, he settled in -- retiring the next 11 batters. Browning pitched eight innings, allowing five hits, one run and recording four strikeouts in a win, with a game score of 71.
As a side note, the Cincy stalwart nearly had two no-nos that year. On June 6, he took a no-hit bid into the ninth against the Padres, before Tony Gwynn singled to break it up.
Other shining examples include Johnson, Koufax, and Halladay -- guys you'd expect to be good pretty much every time out. Koufax, on four days' rest, took a loss after his perfect game, but allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits over six innings. The Big Unit tossed seven strong with five K's, one walk and two runs on four hits in a win, while "Doc" allowed 10 hits but only two runs with seven strikeouts and one walk over seven innings in a win.
The longest follow-up came from Barker, who pitched a complete-game loss. He allowed three runs on eight hits, while striking out 10 against one walk in nine innings. Barker's game score of 65 was second only to Browning's.
On the whole, if there's one common thread between the 14, it's that they were allowed to go deep in the game. No manager wants to be the guy who takes out the guy who just threw a perfecto, it seems. Twelve of the 14 went at least six innings, with only Rogers and Cone as counter-examples.
Only Johnson allowed fewer than five hits, with four, and most allowed somewhere between six and eight. The most common earned-run total was four, with five pitchers allowing exactly that many.
Koufax and Bunning were the only ones who didn't allow at least one walk, though seven pitchers walked exactly one in their next game. Nine of the 14 allowed at least one homer, and all but Rogers struck out at least three.
The average line was pretty solid but unspectacular: 6 2/3 innings, seven hits, four runs (three earned), five strikeouts and two walks, and exactly one home run. Humber likely won't be aiming for those numbers, either. But he shouldn't complain if that's where he ends up.
The Next Game
|Kenny Rogers||1994||4||L||L||5 1/3||6||5||4||3||2||1||37|
|Mark Buehrle||2009||4||L||L||6 1/3||5||5||5||1||3||0||45|
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.