Top 10 Pitching Performances From The 2010 Baseball Season

Dmitriy Ioselevich@dioselevSenior Analyst IIIOctober 3, 2010

Top 10 Pitching Performances From The 2010 Baseball Season

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    In the 'Year of the Pitcher,' the batters never stood a chance.

    There were five no-hitters thrown (but really six), including two perfect games. There were also nine one-hitters, and a major-league debut that featured 14 strikeouts by a certain Stephen Strasburg.

    Several pitchers, among them Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, and Ubaldo Jiminez, have had so many jaw-dropping performances this year that they could populate this top 10 list all by themselves.

    But 2010 was no ordinary year. It was the pitcher's year.

    So let's separate the great from the truly sensational and rank the best pitching performances from this historic season. As always, share your thoughts below.

Honorable Mention

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    It didn't seem fair to make this list and leave off King Felix, so here's his performance and a few others worthy of mention.

    Felix Hernandez @ New York Yankees 6/30: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K

    R.A. Dickey Vs. Philadelphia 8/13: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K

    Roy Oswalt Vs. Pittsburgh 7/8: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K

    Ubaldo Jiminez @ Atlanta 4/17: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 BB, 7 K

    Mat Latos @ San Francisco 5/13: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K

10. Armando Galarraga Vs. Cleveland 6/2

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    Some readers may be surprised to see Galarraga this low on the list, who was one ill-fated Jim Joyce call away from pitching the third perfect game in MLB in less than a month.

    But that just goes to show you the quality of this year's pitching.

    Galarraga tossed eight and two-thirds perfect innings against the Cleveland Indians. The 27th batter, Jason Donald, hit a grounder to the first basemen, and beat out the throw for a single, except he really didn't.

    Still, Galarraga gets credit for one of the most memorable pitching performances not just in 2010, but of all time.

    He finished the shutout to go along with three strikeouts in an incredible 88 pitches.

    Galarraga gets knocked to the bottom of this list because the shutout came against the 12th-ranked offense in the American League (only Baltimore and Seattle have scored less runs, and only Seattle has less hits). Recording only three strikeouts against a squad that has struck out more times than every team but the Mariners and the Rays doesn't really help either.

    Still, at least he's on the list!

9. Matt Garza Vs. Detroit 7/26

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    Our first no-hitter!

    The hard-throwing righty was near perfect against the Tigers, walking only one batter and striking out six as he polished Detroit off in 120 pitches while facing the minimum 27 batters.

    Detroit's offense, while not great, does have more hits this year (1,509) than both the Boston Red Sox (1,503) and the New York Yankees (1,477). With a .269 team battering average (fourth in the AL) and a lineup featuring several fearsome hitters, including the lethal Miguel Cabrera, it's remarkable that Garza was that good.

    The Tigers do strike out quite a bit though (fifth most in the AL), so those six strikeouts are going to push Garza further down among the elite. Although the performance was in line with his 5.6 SO/9 IP average.

8. Anibal Sanchez @ San Francisco 7/29

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    Only three days after Garza threw his no-hitter, Sanchez nearly threw another one of his own.

    In his first complete game since September of 2006 (the same month he threw his first no-hitter), Sanchez pitched a gem.

    He retired the first 13 batters before surrendering a single to Pablo Sandoval. He finished the one-hitter in 118 pitches, while striking out eight and walking one.

    The Giants offense is not one to sneeze at either. Despite only having two hitters that could be considered serious threats in the lineup (Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey), San Francisco still has the ninth-ranked offense in the National League. They are also seventh in hits and 12th in strikeouts.

    So kudos to Sanchez for neutralizing one of only three playoff teams on this list. 

7. Ted Lilly Vs. Colorado 8/19

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    I know what you're thinking.

    What is Ted Lilly doing on this list? With a two-hitter, no less! Isn't this the same guy who was let go by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006 after three consecutive seasons with an ERA over 4.00? 

    Why yes, he is.

    But what Lilly did in mid-August against the Colorado Rockies was nothing short of spectacular.

    Nine shutout innings, two walks, and 11 strikeouts in 110 pitches. He threw a first-pitch strike to 22 of the 30 batters he faced, and 79 strikes in all.

    The Rockies were without MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez in this game, but that shouldn't take away from what Lilly accomplished.

    Colorado strikes out as much any team in the NL except for Florida and Arizona, but the offense sure does hit (Troy Tulowitzki in particular). Only Cincinnati has more runs, and only Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Philadelphia have more hits.  The Rockies' .263 batting average and .336 on-base percentage are both second best in the league.

    It was Lilly's fifth career complete game, but first since 2004.

    The Dodgers must wish they got Lilly from the Cubs sooner because the 34-year old lefty has been simply incredible. He shut down the Rockies again last week, pitching eight, four-hit innings for his ninth win of the season. 

6. Travis Wood @ Philadelphia 7/10

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    Wood has the honor of being the only player on this list who didn't actually win the game he pitched in. But it certainly wasn't his fault.

    Wood hurled nine one-hit shutout innings against the Phillies, walking none and striking out eight in 109 pitches.

    But the Reds couldn't get anything done against Phillies starter Roy Halladay (to be featured later on in this list), and lost 1-0 in 11 innings.

    Wood took a perfect game into the ninth before surrendering his first hit, a double to Carlos Ruiz. He only threw 19 pitches, while he was behind in the count and only had five three-ball counts all day. Oh, and it was also the 23-year-old's third career start. Not bad for a day at the office.

    The playoff-bound Phillies are no slouches with the bat either. Anchored by slugger Ryan Howard, and hit-machines Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth (but no Chase Utley), Philadelphia has the third highest-scoring offense in the NL (ironically enough behind Cincinnati and Colorado).

    Wood may not have gotten the win, but he deserves praise for an outstanding performance nonetheless. 

5. Johnny Cueto @ Pittsburgh 5/11

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    Seemed only fair to put Wood's teammate, Cueto, on this list as well. Though we still don't know who Cincinnati's best pitcher is. Wood? Cueto? Game 1 playoff starter Edinson Volquez? Future ace Homer Bailey? Second-year pro Mike Leake? Fireballer Aroldis Chapman? Opening day starter Aaron Harang? Oh, and Bronson Arroyo leads the team in wins with 19. If you thought Cincinnati's rise back to relevance was fueled only by Joey Votto, think again. Anyways.

    Cueto toyed with the Pirates over nine one-hit innings as he struck out eight. The only hit he gave up was a third-inning single by Ronny Cedeno that just barely bounced off the shortstop's glove. 

    It was the first complete game in the 24-year-old's career. 

    Pittsburgh is home to one of the most anemic offenses in baseball. It'd be historically bad if it wasn't for what the Mariners were doing (or not doing) in Seattle. But they're still a major-league team (barely), so give Cueto a little credit.

    Let's just move on.

4. Matt Cain Vs. Arizona 5/28

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    Tim Lincecum may be the ace of the Giants' staff, but it's Matt Cain who had the team's best pitching performance in 2010.

    Cain took the mound in late May at AT&T Park and proceeded to one-hit the Diamondbacks over nine shutout innings. He struck out a season-high nine batters over 122 pitches, only giving up a second-inning double to Mark Reynolds.

    It was the second consecutive complete game for Cain, who also pitched a one-hitter in 2006.  

    Arizona, by any measure, has a very average offense. They are eighth in the league in runs scored and 10th in hits, with a .250 team batting average. One thing the Diamondbacks do a lot, though, is strike out. 

    Arizona hitters have struck out a major-league leading 1,504 times, almost 150 times more than the second place Florida Marlins. Six separate batters in the Diamondbacks lineup have struck out at least 100 times in 2010, led by the free-swinging Mark Reynolds with 211.

    The bigger surprise here may be that Cain didn't strike out 15. But a one-hitter isn't bad either.

3. Dallas Braden Vs. Tampa Bay 5/9

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    It was definitely a Mother's Day to remember.

    Braden let his pitching do the talking instead of his mouth as he shut up the Rays over nine perfect innings. He struck out six batters over 109 stellar pitches for his first career complete game.

    The performance came just days after Braden told Alex Rodriguez to "go do laps in the bullpen" if he wanted to walk across the mound. But Braden silenced A-Rod, and his critics by shutting down baseball's hottest team (Tampa Bay was 22-9 at the time).

    The Rays, despite an unusual history of being no-hit, are still the AL's third highest-scoring offense. Somehow, however, they are second to last in the league in hits and strike out more than anyone, a lot more.

    So maybe it's not entirely a shock that Braden did what he did. But a perfect game is still a perfect game, and for that I award the 27-year-old left-hander third place on this list.

2. Brandon Morrow Vs. Tampa Bay 8/8

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    Not sure how a team that will likely win the AL East can occupy two of the top three spots on this list, on the receiving end. But Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon probably has more important things to worry about.

    Brandon Morrow, on the other hand, couldn't be happier that he got to face the Rays in early August.

    Morrow delivered one of the most dominating performances we've seen in recent years as he one-hit the Rays and struck out a major league leading 17 batters. He also walked two batters while throwing 137 pitches and earning the 1-0 win. It's nearly impossible to pitch a statistically better game.

    Morrow just missed the no-hitter, making it to the ninth inning and getting two outs before surrendering a single to Evan Longoria. It was Morrow's first career complete game, as he mixed a devastating breaking pitch with a mid-90s fastball to befuddle Tampa Bay hitters.

    The 26-year old probably wishes he could take that pitch to Longoria back. But a one-hit shutout with 17 strikeouts is still pretty good for a day's work, and second on this list. 

1. Roy Halladay @ Florida 5/29

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    When the 33-year old Halladay was traded to the Phillies in the offseason, some baseball pundits talked about how he could go undefeated in the National League. The Cy Young favorite didn't quite accomplish that, settling for a 21-10 record, but he did throw a perfect game.

    In nine brilliant innings Halladay showed the baseball world exactly what he was capable of as he struck out 11 helpless Marlins hitters over 115 immaculate pitches in a 1-0 win. It was the 20th perfect game in MLB history and the first no-hitter of Halladay's career.

    The Marlins may not have baseball's most dynamic offense. In fact, they have the seventh highest scoring offense in the NL and are ninth in hits. 

    But against a pitcher of Halladay's caliber and experience, there was just nothing Florida could do.

    In the 'Year of the Pitcher' it is Halladay who is the ultimate victor. There is only one more thing left for Doc to accomplish, and he'll have his shot at that later this month.