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Perfection Endures

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What else can be said?

Dallas Braden was simply perfect on Sunday, May 9, 2010, sitting 27 Major League batters down in order, one by one. Yes, Dallas Braden. The one with a 17-23 career record walking into the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday. The one with an otherwise pedestrian 4.62 career ERA. The one more well-known nationally for getting into a tiff with Alex Rodriguez over an unwritten baseball rule.

But unlike the rest of the country, we knew about him before this year, before what A-Rod labeled as his "15 minutes of fame". We knew about him when he was just a kid out of Stockton, California, drafted in the 24th round in 2004. Blessed with inferior stuff, he managed to skyrocket through the minors on deception and guile alone. He was forced to scrap the one pitch he was known for, his screwball, after shoulder surgery took over much of his 2006 season. And he did it all with ease, posting low ERAs year in and year out. He was going places. And, as of Sunday, well, he's still going.

If you don't know about Game Score, it's a statistic devised by Bill James that sums up the quality of a starting pitcher's outing. Anything above 50 is considered a "quality start". Braden's game score two days ago? A whopping 93. Here are all of Oakland's games in the last three years, with the high game score starts marked. Braden dwarfs them all. (Click to see a much, much bigger version.)

Game_score_chart_small

You'll have to go back all the way to July 6, 2001 to find a higher A's Game Score, when Mark Mulder achieved a Game Score of 94 by firing a one hit complete game shutout, with no walks and nine strikeouts. Before that? A 99, on Bobby Witt's ump-ruined almost-perfect game back on June 23, 1994. He struck out 14 and allowed one baserunner who bunted and reached, although replays showed he was out.

A few other interesting pieces of perfect game trivia:

  • Dallas Braden is not the most inexperienced pitcher to throw a perfect game. That honor falls to Charlie Robertson, who threw a perfect game on April 30, 1922. Believe it or not, it was only his fifth appearance in a professional baseball game.
  • Braden also isn't the youngest pitcher to throw a perfecto. John Montgomery Ward threw one on June 17, 1880, at 20 years old. If we restrict things to the years after the dead-ball era (1920), the youngest perfect game actually falls to Catfish Hunter, who was 22. But even though Hunter was four years younger than Braden at the time of their perfect games, Braden was far more inexperienced. Braden's perfecto came on his 57th career start, Hunter's on his 86th.
  • When Catfish Hunter was finishing high school and preparing for a career in baseball, he was involved in a buckshot hunting accident that resulted in the loss of a toe. Dallas Braden had a foot infection at the end of last season that resulted in permanent toe numbness. So, kids, if you want to throw a perfect game as an Oakland A, you know what to do.
  • Braden isn't even the first pitcher to throw a perfect game on a holiday honoring a parent, as now-US Senator Jim Bunning threw one on Father's Day, 1964. Someone should ask Dallas if a political career is in his future.
  • The very first perfect game was thrown on June 12, 1880, by Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs. Wikipedia has an awesome picture of an original scorecard here. See the at bat that led off the fifth inning? The batter was thrown out at 1B 9-3. By the right fielder.

Dallas Braden will pitch again on the 14th, in Anaheim. I can guarantee that all eyes, the 209 and elsewhere, will be clearly focused on our 51. Welcome to one of the most elite of elite clubs in all of sports, Dallas. You've earned it.

 

Trevor Cahill takes the mound tonight opposing Texas Rangers RHP Colby Lewis as the two teams fight for the division lead in a three-game series. Oakland is currently 1.0 games behind. First pitch is at 5:05 PM.

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