Humber-lievable Perfect Game!

Posted: April 22, 2012 by Kodi in MLB

Cheers! to Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber who became the 21st player in MLB history to throw a ‘Perfect Game’

The 29 year old became the first pitcher to throw a Perfect Game since Roy Halladay

But should it have been a Perfect Game? Did Brendan Ryan check his swing? Was the final pitch a ball or a strike?

Chicago White Sox Pitcher Phil Humber joined a very exclusive group in the MLB over the weekend, becoming just the 21st player to ever throw a Perfect Game! Humber recorded all 27 outs against the Seattle Mariners without allowing a single hit or walking a single batter. The last PG came in 2010 when Roy Halladay tossed one for the Phillies against the Florida Marlins on May 29th. The last American League PG was just 20 days before Halladay’s when Dallas Braden threw one for the Oakland Athletics against the Tampa Bay Rays. There has been 8 PG’s in the NL and 13 in the AL and Humber’s was actually the Chicago White Sox 3rd PG ever. Mark Buerhle threw one on July 23 2009, his second no-hitter (1st Perfect Game) and Charlie Robertson tossed a PG against the Detroit Tigers on April 30, 1922.

Humber’s Perfect Game did not come without controversy and it’s not the came to the mound drunk kind of controversy David Wells had in 1999. There were some questionable calls by the umpire that would have likely gone unnoticed but when the game ended on a check swing it had some baseball fans in a frenzy. It seemed like Humber was going to walk the lead-off batter, Michael Saunders, after throwing 3 straight balls, but he would eventually strike out. John Jaso pinch hit for Miguel Olivo and flied out, leaving all hope up to Brendan Ryan who was pinch-hitting for Munenore Kawasaki. Facing a full-count Ryan was forced to battle against Philip Humber but when home plate ump Brian Runge rang Ryan up on a check swing strikeout it reminded everyone about the human error element in baseball.

The Fox feed that I found myself watching, despite Joe Buck and Tim McCarver announcing, failed to show a replay of Ryan’s check swing. That may have fueled the skepticism of so many fans, as the entire country that was watching Saturday afternoon baseball had been brought in to watch the bottom of the 9th inning. By not showing the check swing many fans wondered if it should have been ball 4, breaking up Humber’s Perfect Game. Brendan Ryan sure didn’t act like it should have been a called third strike throwing a fit down the first base line as Runge made the call. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski let the ball pass him and shuffled behind him to pick the ball up and throw it to 1B Paul Konerko to seal Humber’s place in the history books.

In my humble opinion I do not believe that Brendan Ryan should have been called out on strikes and I believe that the producers at Fox knew that they couldn’t show the replay. As much as not showing is has made the game’s results questionable, showing the replay would probably prove that Ryan didn’t swing making it even worse. We all remember the debacle that occurred after Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was robbed by umpire Jim Joyce, and we don’t need another episode like that in baseball. Human error is part of the game, part of the beauty of baseball; we don’t need to give any more ammunition to those fans who believe we need to institute more technology into one of America’s purest sports.

If MLB Commissioner Bud Selig refused to overturn the Joyce call in Detroit baseball fans can almost guarantee that it will not happen in the future, although the Ryan check-swing is a compelling argument. Humber saw 27 up and put 27 down, striking out 9 batters and throwing just 96 pitches, the 2nd lowest pitch total (only trailing David Wells 88). It’s interesting to know that White Sox Manager Robin Ventura skipped Humber’s first start but in reality this 29 year old journeyman hasn’t pitched very well despite being the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 Draft, making the feat that much more Humber-lievable.

Philip Humber’s PG was actually the first time he has pitched a complete game during his 7 year career and has only 2 innings of experience pitching in games after the 8th inning. Humber was drafted by the New York Mets in 2004 just after the Detroit Tigers took Justin Verlander and right before the Tampa Bat Rays took Jeff Niemann and 9 picks before Angels’ pitcher Jered Weaver. Tommy Johns Surgery and two years later the Mets agree to a deal with the Minnesota Twins to package Humber, CF Carlos Gomez, and others for multiple Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Two seasons with the Twins and Minnesota had seen enough and granted him free agency. He signed with the Royals but after one season he was selected off of waivers by the Oakland Athletics and the very next year the White Sox did the same.

If you read some of the Windy City media coverage surrounding Humber’s PG they all talk about the use of Humber’s slider. It’s a pitch that he picked up during his first season with the White Sox (2011) and was the same pitch that was called for a strike by Runge to end the game as well as Jaso and Saunders’ at-bats during the 9th. I, however, believe that Humber was the beneficiary of facing a team with a .223 team batting average. The Seattle Mariners are a young team, one might even say the equivalent to a AAA minor league team playing in the pros. Sure, Ichiro Suzuki is still in the outfield at Safeco but the 38 year old’s batting title days are well behind him. The Seattle Mariners are extremely bad, I mean rebuilding, but they aren’t being no-hit every game and what Humber did was special, actually perfect. Too bad for him and the Chicago White Sox, they are going to hit the field tomorrow and Saturday’s event is just a single game in the win column.

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