The Misconception after Perfection

As you all remember, Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw a perfect game in Seattle on April 21 of this year. In his very next start, he was “shelled” by Boston, giving up 9 earned runs in just 5 innings. That day I had a discussion with my friend, Peter Ellwood, about what happens to pitchers in their next start after throwing a “perfecto.” My initial thought, was that most of the 21 pitchers have been either really bad, or not very good in their next start. Peter challenged me to research it, and lay credence to my perception of this.
After a week of going through the last 14 of 15 perfect games, I found that almost every pitcher performed at their peak, or nearly their peak in every instance. For my research I started with Jim Bunning’s 1964 gem. The reason I started there, was the previous perfect game was thrown by Don Larsen in 1956, but it was a World Series game, and he had 99 days of rest until his next start. Also, I did not consider Mike Witt, who threw his on his last start of the 1984 season, and the Angels failed to make the playoffs. Mike Witt is also the only pitcher to do this on the last day of the season.

Previous to Larsen, only 5 were ever pitched: 2 in 1880 within 5 days of each other, then Cy Young 24 years later, Addie Ross in 1908, and then a span of 14 years to Charlie Robertson. 34 years later, brings us to Larsen, which I mentioned. I did not consider, along with Mike Witt.

After Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series these are the men that have accomplished this amazing feat:

Jim Bunning 1964
Sandy Koufax 1965
Catfish Hunter 1968
Len Barker 1981
Mike Witt 1984 (Not Considered)
Tom Browning 1988
Dennis Martinez 1991
Kenny Rogers 1994
David Wells 1998
David Cone 1999
Randy Johnson 2004
Mark Buehrle 2009
Dallas Braden 2010
Roy Halladay 2010
Phil Humber 2012

Looking back at those games the following pitchers have been “shelled” in their next start:

(1) Catfish Hunter (8 ER in 6 innings) *His team won the game, however.
(2) Phil Humber (9 ER in 5 innings)

Yep…that’s it. Catfish and Humber are the only two players that have gotten outright smoked in their very next start. That’s not to say that some pitchers have not been that great in their next start, but they are the only one’s to not perform at their “average” level. Most of these guys gave up very few hits in their next start. (Wells-3, Big Unit-4, Cone-6, etc).

So, there you have it. It’s nothing like I thought it would be. One of my two biggest misconceptions has been answered. The other is after a player makes a great play in the field and then leads off the next half inning, it’s pretty much an automatic out. That may take awhile to research, but I’ll see what I can do.

*Some other interesting notes on perfect games

(1) Randy Johnson is the oldest pitcher to throw one at age 40 in 2004.

(2) David Cone is the only player to thrown one in Interleague play.

(3) The Rangers and Angels are the only two teams to throw perfect games against each other.

(4) Halladay and Braden are the only pitchers to throw perfect games in the same season since 1880. *130 year span

(5) Cub’s pitcher Bob Hendley threw a 1-hitter against Koufax the day he went “perfect”.

(6) Dennis Martinez became the first non-US born play to throw one.

(7) Catfish Hunter drove in 3 runs in his start.

And of course:

(8) Don Larsen is the only play to throw a perfect game in postseason play.

Patrick Despain is the Editor for He can be reached at or on Twitter @ShutDownInning.
Patrick Despain
Patrick is a member of the IBWAA and creator of Shutdown Inning. He was raised him Arlington, Texas and grew up watching games on HSE and listening to Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz on the radio. He is a long time Rangers fan and never achieved his dream of being a bat boy. He know lives in Georgia with dreams of a Texas return.

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