MLB Perfect Game: Matt Cain Adds to the Devaluation of a Pitchers Gold Standard

Austin ChampagneContributor IJune 14, 2012

Cain tossed the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History late Wednesday Night.
Cain tossed the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History late Wednesday Night.Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Another night, another no-hitter.

Matt Cain was as dominate Wednesday night as any pitcher has been in well, two weeks. Since the 2009 season, there now have been five perfect games and 11 no-hitters. That is an average of four no-hitters and perfect games combined per year. And this season is not even half done.

Not to take anything away from Matt Cain's special night, but we have been spoiled as baseball fans.

There have been 277 no-hitters in MLB history since 1876. In the last four years, 5.7 percent of all no-hitters in history have been pitched in only 2.5 percent of the seasons played. This clip is well above the rate no-hitters have occurred since the last dominant pitching era of the late '60s and early '70s.

So what does all this mean?

It means a new era of pitching dominance is upon us. Since the demise of the steroid era, runs scored per game have been trending downwards. We have to wonder how much longer this trend will continue. Is all the perfection diluting the significance of these phenomenal feats?

The answer is it most certainly is.

Never before have we seen so many no-hitters at such a pace.  The no-hitter is one of the most sacred events in baseball.  Previous no-names such as Bud Smith have thrown no-hitters, and while it is rare, there have been some players who aren't very good that have done so.

When mediocre pitchers such as Phillip Humber, and a 38-year-old Kevin Millwood, along with a slew of middling relief pitchers have struck pitcher's gold, tossing no-hitters already this season, you know there is a problem. 

Fans previously had expected two to three of these per year, with perfect games being few and far between. There have only been 22 perfect games in all of MLB history.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Baseball has been around for 136 years (for our purposes). We have had nearly one quarter of all the perfect games in history within the last 4 calender years.  The list of pitchers who have thrown perfect game previous to these past four seasons is littered with Hall of Famers (and Charlie Robertson, rumors of a doctored ball make this perfect game a tad bit questionable). Now the likes of Dallas Braden, Phil Humber, and Armando Galarraga (well almost) soil the list. Unfortunately there is not much we can do about it.

But Matt Cain deserves a whole lot of credit.

In any era, Cain deserved a perfect game. With the aid of Gregor Blanco's game saving catch, Cain dominated the Astros, striking out 14. In the waning moments before the last pitch of the game, Cain took in the surreal moment looking around the stadium almost as if he knew it was in his clutches.

After signing the largest contract ever for a right-handed pitcher (6 years, $127.5 million), he's been the rare big money player who has lived up to his contract so far. Cain, at only 27 years old, is a pitcher in his prime and is finally breaking out on the national scene.

If you said he is the best pitcher in baseball right now, I would not argue with you.

He is the perfect candidate to actually throw a no-hitter. Matt Cain's performance may have been one of the best in baseball history. Cain tied Sandy Koufax's record of most K's in a perfect game with 14. According to Bill James' Game Score (a stat which measures a pitcher's dominance), Cain's score of 101 is not the highest ever, but it's up there.

Congratulations to a great pitcher in the prime of his career reaching this historic feat.

Now the ball is in the court of MLB. 

It has long been believed that offense is what brought fans to the park. However, with the game at its near peak all-time attendance, this is no longer true. I remain cautiously optimistic that fans have moved past the dark days of the steroid era and no longer expect the offensive fireworks that led to Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa to obliterate long standing HR records.

The game has a decision to make: either try to correct the trend away from absolute pitching dominance or let the game police itself. If they choose incorrectly, the long-term health of the game could be damaged. These types of trends tend to be cyclical, but we will have to wait and see.

In the past, every no-hitter would be so rare, I would wake up every morning hoping to see one. With the rate of occurrence so high this year, I wake up expecting to see one at least once a week.

For the sake of the game I love, I hope one of its momentous achievements occurs less frequently. The glimmer and excitement of a no-hitter needs to be returned and I hope it does as soon as possible.