Perfection

At 3:12 PM local time on May 09, 2010, Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics retired Gabe Kapler to finish off only the 19th perfect game in major league history, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays. Braden struck out six batters in the process and only required 109 pitches to record the 27 consecutive outs.

As for the other 21 outs, seven of them came on ground balls, ten on fly balls, and four on line drives. The A’s outfield defense was certainly kept busy, as left fielder Eric Patterson made four plays, center fielder Rajai Davis made four, and right fielder Ryan Sweeney made one more. The infield of C Landon Powell, 1B Daric Barton, 2B Adam Rosales, SS Cliff Pennington, and 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff combined, between ground outs and five air outs, to record the other 12 outs. Braden did a great job of keeping the ball in the ballpark, and his fielders were there to make the plays when needed.

How unlikely was this performance? Dallas Braden, over the course of his career, had allowed 6.9 hits per 27 batters, 2.0 walks per 27 batters, and 0.2 reached on errors per 27 batters. Overall, that’s 9.1 runners allowed per 27 batters – his numbers for this season alone are similar. According to a basic binomial distribution, the odds of Braden allowing no runners in 27 batters, as he did on Sunday, are .00001517, or 0.001517%. Braden’s perfect game wasn’t quite one-in-a-million. It was more like 15.2 in a million.

Perhaps this means that Braden has taken a step forward. That would be great news for the Athletics, as the former 24th-round pick has a career 4.62 ERA and a 4.10 career FIP – a useful pitcher, certainly, but not a centerpiece of a rotation. If Braden can continually step up in big ways behind Brett Anderson and Ben Sheets, the Athletics will have the best rotation in a tight AL West, with Sheets, Anderson, Braden, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Justin Duchscherer when healthy.

Finally, myself and the entire FanGraphs team (except for maybe R.J. Anderson) offer a hearty congratulations to Dallas Braden. His accomplishment today will go down in baseball history.




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75 Responses to “Perfection”

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  1. Seideberg says:

    Proof that there is no such thing as karma.

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  2. Kevin C. says:

    Better than a healthy Mariners pitching staff? Felix/Lee/Bedard/Fister/RRS or Vargas? I disagree.

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    • Jack Moore says:

      It would be close, but I would take the Sheets/Duchsherer/Anderson/Braden/(Cahill/Gonzalez), especially if Braden makes any sort of significant step forward.

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      • OremLK says:

        Gotta disagree. The A’s don’t have a single reliable ace; Anderson is young and promising but still unproven. Same for Braden, but even moreso with the “unproven” part, today notwithstanding.

        Sheets hasn’t shown this year that he’s still capable of sticking in a starting rotation, let alone anchoring the top of one. Duscherer, like Sheets, missed 2009, and has to prove he can still handle the job with the added burden of being a soft-tossing righty.

        There are a number of rotations in the majors I would take over the A’s, including the M’s.

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      • Are you kidding? I’d take the M’s staff hands down. Those are two certifiable aces in Seattle. Oaktown can’t compare with their crew of “what if’s” and walking wounded.

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      • BobLoblaw says:

        HAH! This ain’t 2008 any more, Jack. Sheets and Duchshserer are some Sheety Dookie.

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      • Jon says:

        I think his opinion probably takes it into consideration that Bedard, even if healthy, isn’t likely to be more than a 4.00 FIP pitcher. Even a 4.00 FIP would be pretty remarkable this year considering the injury he’s recovering from.

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      • BobLoblaw says:

        Not to mention that Colby trumps the entire OAK and SEA rotations all by himself.

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  3. Am I having a senior’s moment, as I get that to be 1/0.0001517 = 66,050 or one in 66,150?

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  4. Jeremy says:

    Congratulations Dallas. Now please do not take your accomplishment as some sort of sign you were right to act like a petulant snot. Not that he’ll be on his own here – considering how sycophantic Mychael Urban was before the perfecto, I’m sure ESPN, Fox, and the Bay Area sports media will jump all over themselves to crown Dallas the King of All That Is Right About Baseball and give him as big a soapbox as he wants.

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  5. I like anyone that bitches at ARod, really. Braden should mail him a half-centaur self-portrait.

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    • Jeremy says:

      What does a half-centaur look like? Is it a regular guy with hooves?

      ARod deserves bashing for sure. “Bitching” is annoying and unsportsmanlike, especially when the bitching is about an inconsequential or imaginary breach of baseball etiquette. Neither Braden nor any other player should bitch.

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • I like to leave mistakes in my jokes so that when people don’t find them funny I can just tell myself it was because of the mistake :)

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      • Oh and I agree with you, though I will say the bitching that then occurs online following the initial bitching is *almost* as annoying.

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      • Jeremy says:

        True enough. ARod is good at inciting bitchfests of all kinds, deliberately or otherwise.

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      • scatterbrian says:

        Half-centaur/half-horseman.

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      • Ronnie says:

        Or he more likely made am unintentional mistake and is now trying to cover it up? (instead of just saying oops)

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      • Ronnie, if you’re talking to me, ‘oops’ was what I meant by my reply, just stated with sarcasm, self-deprecation, and, hopefully, a touch of humor. As for my original comment, I had the ideas “half-Dallas Braden, half-horse” and “ARod’s centaur painting” in my head and just kind of combined the two. Oops.

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    • Funny stuff. I forgot about the half-centaur portrait! Half-Centaur staring at himself in a mirror even.

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  6. PL says:

    This is cooler than anything Curt Schilling ever did.

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  7. Al says:

    GET OFF MY LAWN!

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  8. Kevin S. says:

    Congratulations, Dallas.

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  9. William O'Brien says:

    I don’t know about major steps forward, but he’s really walking almost no one this year. Just 7 walks in 46 innings, and a 4:1 K:BB ratio despite a low k-rate.

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  10. Mike Witt says:

    Today is May 9th. Jack Moore… You are not perfect.

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  11. GhettoBear04 says:

    Why do you keep talking about Sheets like he is the ace in that rotation? He of the 6.82 ERA/5.46 FIP/5.19 xFIP with 5.89 K/9 and 4.66 BB/9? Also, average FB velocity’s down below 92 mph for the first time since 2003, the only other time he’s been below 92 mph in his career.

    I’m not saying he can’t turn it around, I’m just saying that perhaps you should stick with Anderson-Braden-Duchscherer/Gio/Cahill or some such. But then, I’m still not sure how that’s better than Felix-Lee-Fister. Even CJ Wilson-Colby Lewis-Harden/Holland is looking pretty good right now (though that would be looking more at performance so far this year).

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  12. Greg says:

    Jeremy,

    As a hitter or position player, you don’t run across the pitcher’s mound. You’re taught that in high school if you have a decent coach. Nobody does that. It is odd, and yes, it is a breach of etiquette. A lot of times, it happens to be “the quickest way back to the dugout”, but nobody runs across the face of the mound because they are normal human beings who are conscientious of what that action symbolizes.

    You wouldn’t go to your mother-in-laws place for dinner and shovel food into your mouth with your hands and while everyone looked at you like a weirdo say, “What’s the big deal? It was the quickest way to get the food into my stomach”.

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    • Hank says:

      It’s great that you know the rule…. perhaps you can teach John Smoltz that rule as he was unaware of it… (Though admittedly he might not have your vast experience on the subject matter)

      The issue with Braden is 3 fold:
      - He made up a rule so that he could support why he was angry… if he wants to be angry fine, but don’t just make something up to back up your story
      - Do something about it or shut up… The cups in the dugout did not walk across the mound, the water cooler did not roll across the mound.
      - Don;’t bring it up over 10 days later (isn’t another unwriten rule take care of it on the field, not in the media… you’d think a guy so well verse on baseball etiquette would no better)

      Regardless of whether what ARod did was right or wrong, Braden mishandled it (several times).

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    • Rob says:

      I played baseball for 16 years and was a pitcher through many of those years including 4 in college ball. No coach, instructor, scout, former or current player ever mentioned a single word to me about not running across the mound, and as a pitcher I couldn’t give a crap when/if anyone did it. If the guy is running across your mound to the dugout, it’s because you just retired him. You won, he lost. Why WOULD you give a crap?

      There’s no unwritten rule, other than the one that states Dallas Braden is an idiot. A perfect-game-throwing idiot, perhaps. An idiot nonetheless.

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    • Jeremy says:

      Greg, there’s clearly a difference of opinion about the existence of the Mound Rule based on the comments by MLB players. Tim McCarver, Bert Blyleven, Goose Gossage, and of course Dallas Braden have said that the Mound Rule is not only real, but carries major consequences if violated (as in, the pitcher has license to throw at the guy who walks on the mound).

      Jim Palmer, John Smoltz, and Morgan Ensberg have said there’s no such thing as the Mound Rule.

      So while Braden clearly didn’t invent the Mound Rule singlehandedly, the idea that everyone in baseball knows and should respect the Mound Rule is false. The Mound Rule is not a rule at all, but a matter of personal preference that varies from pitcher to pitcher.

      But even assuming that ARod was in the wrong to jog across the mound, Braden’s reaction was out of line. Considering your knowledge of baseball, you should be aware that throwing a tantrum on the field and whining to the media are not how a player should behave. If a pitcher feels wronged by an opposing player he retaliates by hitting that player or a teammate, not by bitching.

      If ARod had hit a monster home run off Braden and admired it excessively, and Braden’s reaction was to scream at ARod and call him out in the press, we’d probably think Braden was going about things the wrong way. I just don’t understand how ARod’s probably unintentional violation of the Mound Rule, which might or might not exist, could entitle Braden to do things that just about any other violation of an unwritten rule would not allow him to do.

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      • Nick says:

        I know that I’ve stated this before, but it seems so many of you still have no idea why Braden was bitching at ARod the way he did. It was not b/c ARod violated some unwritten rule, and Braden has stated this. The reason Braden went off on ARod was b/c after ARod violated the unwritten rule, and was confronted about it by Braden, ARod treated Braden with disrespect. Braden took exception to ARod intentionally being a douche and then disrespecting him.
        And all the comments from Braden have come from openly answering questions from the media, not from him refusing to let it go.

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      • Jeremy says:

        Nick, this is simply not true. Braden screamed at ARod and threw a fit on the field. ARod ignored Braden (ostensibly because ARod did not know Braden was screaming at him) which caused Braden to scream at ARod even more. This caused ARod to make his “go away” gesture. Afterwards the players made their respective comments from their teams’ locker rooms. ARod’s comment was obnoxious but there never should have been a war of words in the clubhouses in the first place.

        Braden did get a lot of questions about his conduct and ARod’s statements from the media (including a revoltingly sycophantic interview by Mychael Urban). In response to these questions Braden made a variety of comments about ARod’s character, touted his own toughness and ability to Play the Game the Right Way, and threatened violence against ARod.

        Your version of the facts does not comport with reality. Braden embarrassed himself. This does not excuse ARod for being a generally obnoxious person, but ARod does not excuse Braden’s misbehavior either.

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      • Hank says:

        I suggest you read the ESPN interview again – Blyleven and Goose both said they would be bothered by it, but made no assertion that it was an unwritten rule… as is the case with Braden, simply being bothered/upset does not turn it into an “unwritten rule”. Goose said he would not be bothered by people bunting late during no-hitters… does that mean he is asserting there is no unwritten rule on this?

        One person (or even several people) being bothered by something does not make it a universal unwritten baseball rule – it just makes it an action that annoys some people.

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  13. DC says:

    Dallas is so good he throws perfect games before the day (May 10th) has even occurred.

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  14. Creek Johnson says:

    Can you explain how to apply the binomial distribution to his career numbers to calculate the probability?

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    • anon says:

      going by braden’s numbers to date,

      P(runner gets on base) = 9.1/27, as described in the article.
      P(runner does not get on base) = 17.9/27

      P(27 runners do not get on base, 0 get on) = (9.1/27)^0 * (17.9/27)^27 = 0.00001514

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      • Creek Johnson says:

        Thank ye kindly.And I accidentally gave you a negative vote trying to reply. Sorry, I’m new.

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  15. Steven Gomez says:

    Both perfectos against the Rays (Buehrle and Braden) had in common a soft tossing lefthander with an effective changeup.

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    • Jon says:

      The Rays also earn the dubious honor of being perfect’ed in back to back seasons. Unless I made an error in my research, that’s a first.

      Also, random info. The Rays were 52-44 last year when they got perfected (that’s including that loss). They went 32-34 from that point on.

      It’s possibly entirely coincidental. It’s also possibly entirely an omen.

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  16. Am I missing a joke with Adam Kouzmanoff?

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    • dustin says:

      Perhaps a reference to Adam Kennedy who often played 3B for the A’s last year. More than likely just a typo though. Several commenters have pointed out errors in this article.

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    • Joe says:

      The A’s got him from the Padres. That’s Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mr. Jack Moore, or should i just call you rick? :P know your players b4 posting. it ads credibility to this site, and that’s been lacking lately.

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  17. Creek Johnson says:

    Where do you find the Reached on Error numbers for a pitcher?

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  18. DonCoburleone says:

    Just take this for what it is guys. Don’t worry about what it means to his future or the future of the A’s rotation. It was something that has happened 19 times in well over 200,000 Major League games since 1890…

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      First perfect game was in 1904, then from 1908 until 1980, only 4 were thrown. The longest stretch being over 34 years from 1922 to 1956, (which means Don Larsen’s Perfect Game in the World Series was the first one in 34 years!) It also means this could potentially not happen again until 2044, so enjoy it…

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  19. Sal Paradise says:

    Congratulations to Braden.

    Here’s my question for the math-inclined: are his career average baserunners allowed numbers the best way to calculate the possibility?

    For instance, in 2009 he had an average of 0.23 batters reach on error. But in 82% of his games, that number was zero.

    For the most part, Braden is consistent (he doesn’t seem to vary too much from start to start), but some pitchers aren’t. The possibility of a high-variability pitcher getting a perfect game has to be higher than someone with lower variance, right?

    So how should we be calculating the actual odds?

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      Why not just find out how many Major League Baseball games have been played since it first started and divide that number by 19 – seems crude but still somewhat accurate…

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    • Antonio says:

      Joe Morgan agrees that Dallas Braden achieved this remarkable feat because of his consistency.

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    • Patrick says:

      Sal,

      Previous studies of variance in pitchers have found that in general, there are not many “high variance” and “low variance” pitchers. Amount of variation in success from start to start is something with little correlation from year to year for individual pitchers.

      (To be more precise, the difference between the variance of a given pitcher and the league average variance does not correlate very well. The variance itself correlates quite well, but that’s because the league average dominates.)

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      • Patrick says:

        Sorry, a line in there is kind of muddy. The original:

        “(To be more precise, the difference between the variance of a given pitcher and the league average variance does not correlate very well. ”

        Better:

        (To be more precise, the difference between the variance of a given pitcher and the league average variance does not correlate very well from one year to the next.

        IE, “high variance pitching” is only in small part a “skill”, as it does not repeat much year to year.

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  20. pft says:

    So a 000 BABIP on 21 BIP which included a 20% LD rate. Just goes to show
    no hitters are just as much about luck and defense as they are about good pitching (not saying Braden did not pitch a good game, he did).

    I never saw Pedro pitch a no hitter with the Red Sox despite striking as many as 17 guys out in a game. Sometimes they hit it where they ain’t, sometimes they hit it right at guys. Sometimes a fielder makes a great play.

    It’s amazing the Rays have scored as many runs as they have. They have so many out makers in the lineup when you get past Zobrist, Crawford and Longoria.

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    • don says:

      Pedro of course had the bad luck of pitching 9 perfect innings in a 10 inning 1-0 game.

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      • Neil says:

        I remember watching that game live. It was heartbreaking – and aggravating. The commentators talked about how it ‘didn’t count’ as no-hitter as if the failure to meet all the technical requirements somehow invalidated his entire performance. It couldn’t be a spectacular start if it wasn’t a no-hitter, i guess.

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    • Hank says:

      To further the point on luck, there were 4 fouls popouts (which I don’t think show up in the BABIP?) and at least 2 or 3 of the ones I saw were in the stands in every other park in the majors.

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  21. joser says:

    As weird as it feels to talk about degrees of perfection, or at least gradations of perfect games, it does seem true that Braden’s with 6K is slightly less impressive than, say, Johnson’s with 13K — at least as far as individual pitching performances go. Braden gave his fielders more to do, and so his perfect game is more of a team achievement than Johnson’s. The obverse of that coin, however, is that by giving them more to do, Braden also gave them more to screw up, or for the fates to meddle with. A gust of wind, the glare of the sun, a bad bounce or a nervous throw: it only takes one little thing to break the spell, and you can only have so many plays before one of them does. So Braden’s pefecto could be said to be even more special by being all the more unlikely. Which in no way takes away from his achievement. The list of perfect games includes some obscure pitchers who will never be enshrined in Hall of Fame, but there’s only 19 of them (so far) and that select group gets a prominent place in Cooperstown all the same.

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  22. JayCee says:

    So “small-man syndrome” pervades the blogosphere, right? A-Rod did nothing to Braden, a little man who his own grandmotgher now demonstrates did not fall far from the tree.

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  23. Bill B says:

    Dallas Braden pitched beautifully, and obviously has no control over such things — but can we chalk up a few of these outs to Oakland Coliseum? I didn’t see the whole game, but saw at least two highlights with foul pop-ups that definitely would have been out of play in other parks. Thoughts?

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  24. Joe R says:

    I enjoy how some people I’ve talked to chalk this up as luck rather than congratulating Braden.

    But aren’t all perfectos luck-driven? Even if you go back to Bob Gibson’s 1968 (6.21 baserunners per 27 outs, not counting errors), then we’re talking 8.6 in 10,000, or one perfect game every 1,159.73 outings (not counting attrition rate).

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  25. chongo says:

    On the highlights I saw some of the strikeouts as called 3rd strikes- since he only had 6 for the game then maybe it was most of them. Does that speak to what the Rays were trying to do strategically? Does that happen with a lot of no-hitters? (How many of Johnson’s 13 Ks were called 3rds?) Does the plate umpire’s strikezone change over the course of a game once he knows what is going on?

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    • Joe R says:

      I would love to do a study on that, but the question is: is there enough data to determine if an umpire expands the strike zone during a no hit / perfect game bid? And if so, by how much, and what inning?

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  26. James says:

    I think that the fact that Dallas Braden’s perfect game came with all his pitches under 87 MPH makes his accomplishment even more improbable.

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  27. Jason says:

    Somehow that probability comes out to being off by an order of 10.

    If you apply the same methodology to calculate the expected number of perfect games over the past 110 years (~350K games http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090522120240AA4qfAr ), using OBP and E% (1-FPCT) from the past 10 years (sum of .3516) you get approximately 2.9 games.

    Now if you look at the actual occurrence of perfect games, you’ll see that they’ve become a lot more prevalent lately so, if anything, that extrapolated number should be higher than reality. 29 games instead of 2.9 sounds like it might be reasonable. But just to be sure, let’s look at a couple other decades.

    1921-1930 yields an OBP+E% of .3804, a probability of a perfect game of 2.44×10^-6, and an expected number of perfect games of .853, or 8.5 considering the factor of 10.

    1950-1959 yield an OBP+E% of .3549, which results in an expected PG of 2.535, or 25.4 with the adjustment factor.

    Averaging the three, you get an expect number of PG just under 21, which comes pretty close to jiving with the 19 we’ve actually seen; a lot closer than the 2.1 games predicted by the methodology that gives us Braden having a chance of throwing a PG of 15 in a million.

    I can’t say where that factor of 10 comes from, but it appears that Braden’s chances were likely closer to 150 in a million.

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    • A DC Wonk says:

      Nice post, Jason.

      I suspect the deal is that there are times when a pitcher is “in a groove” and there are time when he’s not. In other words, just because his average “runners allowed per 27 at bats” was 9.1, I would guess that there are plenty of games where the number was substantially lower and others substantially higher.

      In other words, the probability (obviously) varies a lot of “the kind of stuff” the pitcher has that day, and so a binomial probability which uses the probability based on a whole season (or lifetime) isn’t going to work for a particular game.

      Perhaps this relates to the “variability” discussed above.

      OTOH, Jason, you demonstrated that using a few different decades, the number is actually pretty close to the binomial . . .

      Thoughts?

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