On April 21st, Philip Humber was dominant in Seattle on the way to posting the 21st perfect game in baseball history. Humber was extremely efficient in his dispatching of the 27 Mariners he faced, needing only 96 pitches to complete the feat. On top of the low pitch count, Humber managed to accumulate nine strikeouts; his use of all of his major pitches while commanding the strike zone was masterful. In his post game interview, Humber showed humility, giving credit to AJ Pierzinski and his defense for getting him to that point. In this column, we'll look at how Humber mixed up his pitches en route to his perfecto.
What might be most amazing about Humber's start was his ability to live in the upper two thirds of the strike zone and still be effective; over 70% of Humber's pitches were at or above the horizontal middle of the zone. Below is a breakdown of Humber's pitch location throughout the game.
Over the first three innings, Humber set down the first nine by focusing mainly on his fastball and curve, using those eighty percent of the time. He threw only 37 pitches while notching four strikeouts, all swinging, three on curves and one on a changeup. By using his off speed pitched effectively early, he was able to set the Seattle hitters off balance. All other outs were contained within the infield, which can be seen below.
The next time through the line up, Humber featured his slider 31.6% of the time, 5% more than the fastball or the curveball. This stretch was key to his success, as he needed only 20 pitches to retire the nine batters he faced. This allowed him to stay strong all the way to the end of the game. As can be seen below, worry may have arose as Humber gave up seven outs in the air, though only one were hit particularly hard but directly at the right fielder.
Through the final three innings, Humber labored the most, throwing 39 pitches while racking up four strikeouts. He focused specifically on spotting his fastball, throwing it 41% of the time, thirteen percent more than the slider and the curveball. The first batter of the ninth watched the first three pitches for the first three ball count of Humber's night, but he battled back to get the strikeout on a slider. The second batter of the ninth inning flew out to right field and Humber was one out away from his date with destiny. After battling to a 3-2 count, Humber went to the slider down and away, catching Brendan Ryan on a check swing called out by the home plate umpire. Pierzinski had to block the pitch and throw down to first to close the deal, but Ryan was so convinced he had walked there was no effort to run to first.
After the game, Humber was mobbed by his teams and drenched in the typical ice bath of success. A Perfect Game: not too bad for a guy with 30 career starts.