The Commish Online www.thecommishonline.com
Major League Dominance
July 15, 2008
A month ago, a reader posed the question as to what is the most dominant performance in a baseball game. We both agreed that it has to be a pitcher since he can control half of the game by himself. In addition, it has to be a pitcher who can hit so the offense comes from him as well. After dwindling it down some more, it was decided that the most dominant performance would be a complete game shutout in which the pitcher also accounted for the entire offense (namely, solo home runs).
Thanks to baseball-reference.com's fantastic Play Index feature, I was able to go back as far as the mid-1950s and find every game in which the above occurred. How rare was this occurrence? The last time a pitcher accounted for the entire offense and pitched a complete game shutout was over 25 years ago, courtesy of Bob Welch blanking the Reds and going 2 for 3 with a solo home run being the Dodgers only offense of the day. The most dominant performance of all (since 1956), however, came in 1959. Early Wynn of the White Sox pitched a one-hit shutout against the Red Sox, struck out 14 batters, and went 2 for 3 including a home run in a 1-0 victory. That means Wynn needed NO help on offense. In fact, the hitters didn't even need to come to the plate since they never manufactured a run without him. In the field, despite walking seven batters, Wynn only needed his fielders for less than half of the outs. He would have struck out the 14 batters with or without players behind him (I suppose a catcher would be needed), so his teammates contributed something positive on just 13 of the 51 total outs in the game (the White Sox were the home team).
Some other dominant performances in recent years:
In 1971, Sonny Siebert of Boston defeated the Orioles 3-0, throwing a complete game 3-hitter, striking out seven, and knocking in all three runs with two long balls. Siebert's catcher Josephson was on base for one of the home runs so the offense wasn't all due to Siebert's actions, but an impressive feat nonetheless. Also in 1971, Philadelphia hurler Rick Wise was one walk away from perfection, no-hitting the Reds in a 4-0 win, striking out three along the way. Wise also knocked in three of the four runs with two home runs. Allowing only one baserunner while accounting for most of the offense is dominant indeed, but Wise did need the use of his fielders most of the time, so he didn't quite crack the top of the list. Almost on par with Wynn's performance was Milt Pappas one Sunday in 1961. While defeating Minnesota 3-0, the Baltimore pitcher allowed just two hits, walked three, and struck out 11. Two of the three runs scored were the result of two Pappas solo shots as well. Rumors persist that Pappas might have sold beer between innings as well. In 2002, Odalis Perez could have cracked the list if manager Jim Tracy would have let him pitch the ninth inning. Instead, Perez had to settle for 8 innings of 5-hit shutout ball and a solo home run giving his team a 1-0 win over the Diamondbacks, yielding to Eric Gagne in the ninth.
Throwing a shutout and accounting for all of your team's offense is far more rare than throwing a no-hitter, hitting for the cycle, or going 5 for 5, but just because it's not public knowledge, Perez didn't get a chance at history. It's akin to a manager putting his closer in with a 3-run lead but not with a 4-run lead - regardless of what they admit, managers make decisions based on well known stats, even though they might not be the stats that dictate a win or loss. If Perez's feat was broadcast to Tracy and the fans while it was happening, Odalis might have been the first in a quarter century to demonstrate such total dominance in a single game.