Following on from last post–how lucky are we to have two perfect games in a matter of weeks?!–I tried to figure out why perfect games are becoming more common while regular no-hitters are becoming even less so (see this New York Times article for more).
The two major factors that turn a perfect game to a no-hitter are walks and errors. (These are not the sole factors; I found at least two no-hit, no-walk, no-error games since 1920 made imperfect by hit batters!) But I graphed the average number of walks and errors surrendered by pitchers throwing no-hitters, by decade. Fielding has improved since the ’20s, evidently. Walk rate has been more erratic but decreasing since the 70s; more free swingers today? You can see how this changes the numbers of perfect games.
Please note that Retrosheet did not have all the results; these averages exclude one no-hitter from the 1940s and five from the fifties, and that’s why I started in 1920. Edit: found more results to fill in the ’40s and ’50s. This smooths out the graph a little; the “walks” line jumped down a bit without taking Cliff Chambers’ eight-walk performance into account.
Other interesting results: two of the three Joneses to throw no-hitters were named Sam, but only one was Sad Sam Jones. (The other, Bumpus Jones, threw his in 1892 and has been excluded from this analysis.) Two pitchers in the ’70s had no-hit, no-walk games but neither were perfect. Blame the fielders? Well, no; all three of the relevant errors came from the pitchers themselves, and one of them was advancing a runner hit by a pitch. Bill Monbouquette is an awesome name, and Nolan Ryan was really good.
A high-scoring matchup is a tug-of-war, with two squads pulling on it. Lurching back and forth, oscillating first this way but now that, it’s a long war of attrition.
But that’s not our only way of pulling a string taut. It can span a gap, and walking across is its own difficulty. Mostly, it’s a group task; start walking, go past halfway, but pass your baton to a guy who can hop down, who will pass it on in turn. As that’s occurring, hits and runs wind your string back and forth until it’s not so narrow. With room to walk, you can go slowly, calmly. Happily.
But without luck–or with much, much luck–you lack so many runs to support you. All you can do is inch across on your own skill. It’s not that far, actually. Not if you don’t stop along your way, as most do. But that stamina, to cross without pausing, is anything but common.
Or is it? This is a spring of focus and taut strings. Many can watch, now, huddling around and looking up. A wrong word could ruin things, many claim, but that might not truly hold. All of us crowd around, as if grasping tiny protruding strands. Wanting to hold onto a bit of history. A sharp tug, possibly, could disrupt things. But all holding on, balancing your string, and pitch by pitch it works out.
Seeing is believing, purportedly, but I’m unconvinced. Sights blur together, interfering with others, until I’m not sure if I’m even seeing things correctly. I peer out the window of the Red Line; is this someone outside? Or the reflection of someone inside?
My field of vision grows ever bluer with people climbing on. When I got on, I could see the stops in the ‘L”s deformed sketch, nervously checking the time while counting which stops were left. By the time I get close, though, the list of stops is invisible, blocked by my fellow riders. So it’s impossible to worry. It turns out there’s still time.
I’ve been to Wrigley Field before, so this time, it feels less eye-popping. I decide to keep score, which is noteworthy–the first time in memory I went here, I chose not to so I wouldn’t focus on it too much. Now it feels like I’m touring in some other city, with surprisingly few people showing up. Lots of people, yes, but there’s lots of room for more too.
But they produce noise, loud sound blurring together. The voice of the guy telling us who’s coming up is tepid, so it’s difficult to write down the flurry of defensive switches in the ninth. The little electronic screen doesn’t help.
When the lights go out, everyone goes off the field. The lights will flicker on one by one, in time, but I’m not sure the Cubs or Dodgers should exit so quickly. Looking from section to section, it seems like every possible photo of the impromptu pre-1988 field is coming into existence. The flickers of light, by themselves, look like enough to see by.
It could have been worse.
It could have gotten onto
The Metrodome turf.
When I was younger, “open tournament”
Meant anyone could play. You didn’t need
To qualify. I thought that’s what it meant
In general. You see, I didn’t read
About tennis. Until now. Now I know
The “opens” are misnomers, in that sense.
But worry not; it isn’t like there’s no
Well-named major. The system’s recompense
Is Wimbledon; the single name is all
We need to hear to know what it’s about.
Long nights, enduring ties, a fuzzy ball–
Different connotations, but still no doubt
For each of us. Turns out, someone will write
Poems for the tournament. Read those, I might.
Red is for stitches. Old-timers’ precise sewing of those first uniforms? Sewing someone up following injury? Or blurs flying by, turning but impossible to truly connect with?
Gold is for glory. Sunlight, shining through onetime devilish fish? Colors inherited from city to city? The symbol of coming first?
Green is for the outside. The field itself, big but covered well? The coliseum, full of emptiness? More old colors?
Blue is for loss. The sky, becoming less light over time? The shore, its monsters forgotten? Just our collective cliche, nothing more?
White cries out to be filled. Empty scoresheets, hoping to continue pristine? First, second, or third, still empty, growing restless? The skin between the stitches, not yet hit?
Pink, somehow, tries to fit in too. Token symbols, to be used just one weekend? New colors to focus our eyes, like the rhythm itself wouldn’t suffice? Or white blurring with red on pitches which speed by for strikes?
Sometimes bandwagons come out of thin air.
It’s not the same when pyramids are there.
It’s easier to jump on when they must
Make themselves known, approaching through thick dust.
The faster they rise, the more people climb
Aboard them. But I’m unwilling to board.
Bandwagon-hoppers might not be abhorred
But still they are mocked. It’s easy to not
Follow teams. “They’ve got…I dunno, let’s think.
Um…that one guy. And Mr. …whatshisface?”
The team, I didn’t follow. Yet last year
What little I’d hear drove me to tune in.
It wasn’t about whether they would win
But avoiding anticlimax. To fall
After rising all that way, just to sink?
That wouldn’t do. And then came …whatshisface.
For stories end. Things all work out for good
Just as stories should. But what happens then?
The bandwagon rode on to ’09/’10.
The game continues when the story’s done.
You strive and you run for an hour and
A half–but even then there’s nothing planned.
There’s time beyond what works out nice and neat.
There’s time for defeat. And nobody knows
What’s next. There’s no route the bandwagon goes.
Some will leave, though some very well may stay
For more scriptless play. Honor those who dared
To climb, to fall–but never say I cared.