Defense Independent Perfect Games

Brandon McCarthy, the author of Oakland's last defense independent perfect game.

I love defense-independent pitching staffs. I love them because a poorly positioned outfielder lets a hit drop him and then the pitcher gets blamed. I love them because a third basemen cant react fast enough when playing in on the line and a ball gets by him into left field. I love them because a shortstop and second basemen but defer to the other on a slow roller and someone ends up on first. How much pitchers actually do control is up for debate but many in sabermetrics think that once ball meets bat, unless that ball is hit over the fence, the pitcher is now out of the equation. I like this. It has its flaws, there is a fair debate to be had over whether or not a pitcher induces people to roll over and induce "weak contact" as opposed to screaming line drives, but it is simple and I think a decent measure, if far from perfect, of true pitcher performance. FIP is a common stat that I use on this blog. It is scaled to the ERA scale so that sub-3.00 is very good, sub-4.00 is solid, and so on. It measures three outcomes that it says pitchers are responsible for: 1) Strikeouts, 2) Bases on Balls and 3) Home Runs. Therefore a pitcher who keeps their walks and home runs (the two negative outcomes) to a minimum can have a very tidy and low FIP much like Brandon McCarthy - who with 1.3 BB/9 and just 0.6 HR/9 managed to get an AL-leading 2.86 FIP. But if a pitcher can't control hits and their existence is a mere derivative of luck, a pitcher can be perfect in performing their duties if they do not walk anyone nor surrender a home run. With that in mind, let's take a look back at McCarthy's September 3rd start versus the Seattle Mariners.

In that game, McCarthy went the full nine, striking out ten, walking no one, and allowing no home runs. Defense-independent perfection! However, three Mariners got base hits: Dustin Ackley in the fourth inning, Ichiro Suzuki in the sixth inning, and Josh Bard in the eighth inning. Furthermore in the fifth inning Kyle Seager got on base on Cliff Pennington error. Far from team perfection, the defense let McCarthy down allowing three hits and an error. It is often said when a perfect game occurs it is a team effort and many games have defensive gems that are remembered for salvaging the game, like the leaping catch Dewayne Wise made in saving Mark Buehrle's perfect game. But how often does pitcher perfection happen? I was curious and looked it up. Using this definition of a "defense independent perfect game", a complete nine inning game where a pitcher walks no one and surrenders no home run, here is a list of this more common feat in A's history.

Date Pitcher Opponent
09/03/2011 Brandon McCarthy vs. Seattle
08/28/2010 Dallas Braden at Texas
05/09/2010 Dallas Braden vs. Tampa Bay
09/14/2009 Brett Tomko at Texas
07/08/2008 Justin Duchscherer vs. Seattle
06/02/2007 Joe Blanton vs. Minnesota
08/23/2006 Esteban Loaiza at Toronto
07/14/2005 Rich Harden vs. Texas
06/23/2005 Kirk Saarloos at Seattle
05/31/2005 Dan Haren vs. Tampa Bay
08/17/2004 Tim Hudson at Baltimore
05/21/2004 Mark Mulder vs. Kansas City
04/10/2004 Tim Hudson vs. Seattle
07/04/2003 Mark Mulder vs. Anaheim
04/30/2003 Mark Mulder at Chicago (AL)
09/02/2001 Mark Mulder at Tampa Bay
07/07/2001 Tim Hudson at Arizona
07/06/2001 Mark Mulder at Arizona
06/22/2001 Tim Hudson vs. Texas
09/10/2000 Barry Zito vs. Tampa Bay
09/09/2000 Tim Hudson vs. Tampa Bay
09/05/1998 Kenny Rogers vs. Tampa Bay
08/28/1996 Don Wengert at Baltimore
09/17/1995 Todd Van Poppel vs. Minnesota
06/23/1994 Bobby Witt vs. Kansas City
07/22/1990 Dave Stewart at Minnesota
04/30/1990 Bob Welch at New York
08/11/1989 Mike Moore at California
06/24/1989 Dave Stewart vs. Toronto
06/05/1989 Curt Young vs. Minnesota
06/28/1987 Steve Ontiveros at Cleveland
10/05/1986 Curt Young vs. Kansas City
09/19/1986 Curt Young vs. Cleveland
07/07/1984 Steve McCatty at Milwaukee
09/18/1983 Mike Warren at Kansas City
08/15/1983 Gorman Heimueller vs. California
07/29/1982 Rick Langford vs. Minnesota
09/08/1981 Steve McCatty vs. Texas
05/24/1981 Mike Norris vs. Toronto
05/22/1981 Rick Langford vs. Toronto
04/18/1981 Brian Kingman vs. Seattle
08/10/1980 Rick Langford vs. Seattle
07/18/1980 Mike Norris vs. Cleveland
08/01/1979 Rick Langford vs. Minnesota
07/15/1979 Rick Langford vs. Minnesota
06/03/1978 Matt Keough vs. New York
07/26/1977 Vida Blue vs. California
06/29/1977 Rick Langford vs. Texas
05/11/1977 Doc Medich vs. Boston
09/07/1976 Mike Torrez vs. Chicago
09/01/1976 Vida Blue vs. New York
08/04/1976 Paul Mitchell at Chicago
07/27/1976 Vida Blue vs. Chicago
07/19/1976 Vida Blue at Cleveland
05/28/1976 Stan Bahnsen vs. Chicago
04/23/1976 Vida Blue at Cleveland
09/22/1975 Ken Holtzman vs. Minnesota
08/13/1975 Stan Bahnsen vs. New York
07/27/1975 Stan Bahnsen vs. Chicago
05/16/1975 Vida Blue at New York
04/27/1975 Vida Blue at California
09/09/1974 Catfish Hunter vs. Kansas City
09/05/1974 Catfish Hunter vs. Texas
08/13/1974 Ken Holtzman vs. New York
08/04/1974 Glenn Abbott at Minnesota
07/28/1974 Ken Holtzman vs. Chicago
06/20/1974 Catfish Hunter vs. Kansas City
05/29/1974 Ken Holtzman vs. Detroit
06/09/1973 Ken Holtzman vs. Detroit
05/06/1973 Ken Holtzman at Cleveland
09/27/1972 Catfish Hunter vs. Minnesota
09/03/1972 Catfish Hunter vs. Detroit
07/31/1972 Vida Blue vs. Texas
06/16/1972 Ken Holtzman vs. Cleveland
06/04/1972 Catfish Hunter at Baltimore
05/17/1972 Ken Holtzman at California
05/05/1972 Ken Holtzman vs. New York
04/19/1972 Ken Holtzman vs. Kansas City
08/29/1971 Catfish Hunter vs. Washington
08/24/1971 Vida Blue vs. New York
07/04/1971 Vida Blue at California
05/13/1971 Catfish Hunter at Kansas City
08/01/1970 Chuck Dobson vs. Washington
06/28/1970 Chuck Dobson at Milwaukee
05/28/1970 Chuck Dobson at California
07/11/1969 Lew Krausse vs. California
05/09/1969 Chuck Dobson vs. New York
09/17/1968 Blue Moon Odom at Chicago
08/22/1968 Catfish Hunter vs. California
07/24/1968(#2) Blue Moon Odom at Chicago
07/24/1968(#1) Jim Nash at Chicago
06/22/1968 Lew Krausse vs. Washington
05/22/1968 Jim Nash vs. Cleveland
05/08/1968 Catfish Hunter vs. Minnesota

Since the A's moved to Oakland, A's pitcher have pitched 997 complete games. Only 94 or 9.4% have happened without a pitcher allowing a walk or home run. The feat was once more common as you can see, even happening in both ends of a doubleheader in 1968 at Comiskey Park. The two perfect games (fielding included) are obviously on the list. Oakland's first defense-independent perfect game was Catfish Hunter's perfect game in 1968 whereas Dallas Braden's perfect game was the first of his two defense-independent perfect games in 2010.

Just like real perfect games which go from pitchers of Hall of Fame caliber like Catfish Hunter to pitchers who we may love but would otherwise be relegated forgotten in the annals of history like Dallas Braden had he not had 27 up and 27 down, these defense independent perfect games have all types of pitchers on them. But it is a fun list and if it weren't for those pesky eight other fielders letting in some hits there are 92 other guys here who did everything they were supposed to do.

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