King Felix’s 20 Greatest Starts Of His Career

So, I’ve been playing around with numbers this morning.  I think it’s patently obvious that yesterday’s perfect game was Felix’s best start of his career, but until you really start to root around in the numbers, you don’t realize just how great it really was.

Now, in the pantheon of all time great games in MLB history, it might not have been the best ever, but I want you to just look at what he did yesterday.

Aside from the obvious indicators – hits & walks given up – there are other, more subtle ways to differentiate a mere good start from a transcendent one.  How many groundball outs did he generate?  As a pitcher, you want more groundballs than flyballs, because flyballs have an annoying tendency to go out of the park for home runs.  If you’ve got a flyball pitcher vs. a groundball pitcher, you take the groundballer every time.  Also, you want to look at the number of strikes a pitcher throws.  Sounds simple, right?  Throw more strikes than balls, you’re gonna have a good time.  But, they can’t just be ANY strikes.  If you throw too many strikes (I’m looking at you, Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi), then the opposing batter knows you’re always going to be in the zone and that makes you eminently more hittable.  The answer?  Swinging strikes!  You want those batters swinging over or through your pitches!  The higher the percentage of swinging strikes, the likelier you are to get a high number of strikeouts.  The higher number of strikeouts you generate, the less you have to rely on your defense (and things like babip).  Make sense?

Yesterday, Felix got 12 strikeouts.  That means, 12 of 27 outs involved the defense doing pretty much nothing.  Of the 15 remaining outs, 8 were groundball outs.  From what I recall from the compilation of all the outs, I remember there being 2 line-drive outs (a hard liner hit right to Seager and a soft liner hit right to Ackley).  That means there were only 5 flyball outs, only 1 of which was all that difficult to track down (which just so happened to be the first out of the game, hit to Thames in right field).  So, there’s that.

Felix also threw 77 total strikes out of 113 total pitches.  That’s a strike rate of 68%, which is very good.  Over 2:1 is very good.  Now, of those 77 total strikes thrown, 24 were swinging strikes where the batter whiffed completely.  That’s a swinging strike rate of 31.17%.  That … is absolutely mindblowing.  Overall, when you lump the balls back in, you’re still talking about a whiff rate of 21.24%.  21.24% of all pitches thrown by Felix yesterday afternoon were pitches where the other team swung and missed.  Incredible.

Anyway, here’s the list.  In it, you’ll see most of the numbers I just talked about.  As a guide, I generally tried to stick to Felix games where he went either 8 or 9 innings and gave up 0 or – at most – 1 earned run.  When there was a difficult decision to make, I tried to look at the number of ground ball outs and the swinging strike percentage to break the tie.  Also, I tried to favor games played against superior opponents.  I did not take game result into the equation; it’s just there for your reference.  These are the greatest Felix-pitched games, in order, starting with yesterday’s perfecto.

  1. 8/15/2012 vs. Tampa Bay:  9 IP, 12 K’s, 0 BB, 0 hits, 0 runs, 8 GB outs, 24 Sw Strikes, 77 total strikes, 31.17% Sw St.  Result:  Perfect Game, Win 1-0.
  2. 7/14/2012 vs. Texas:  9 IP, 12 K’s, 0 BB, 3 hits, 0 runs, 9 GB outs, 17 Sw Strikes, 74 total strikes, 22.97% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 7-0.
  3. 4/11/2007 @ Boston:  9 IP, 6 K’s, 2 BB, 1 hit, 0 runs, 17 GB outs, 9 Sw Strikes, 69 total strikes, 13.04% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 3-0.
  4. 8/10/2010 vs. Oakland:  8 IP, 13 K’s, 1 BB, 5 hits, 0 runs, 8 GB outs, 18 Sw Strikes, 75 total strikes, 24% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 2-0.
  5. 6/28/2012 vs. Boston:  9 IP, 13 K’s, 1 BB, 5 hits, 0 runs, 8 GB outs, 18 Sw Strikes, 84 total strikes, 21.43% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 1-0.
  6. 4/2/2007 vs. Oakland:  8 IP, 12 K’s, 2 BB, 3 hits, 0 runs, 14 GB outs, 17 Sw Strikes, 77 total strikes, 22.08% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 4-0.
  7. 6/30/2010 @ New York:  9 IP, 11 K’s, 3 BB, 2 hits, 0 runs, 6 GB outs, 13 Sw Strikes, 76 total strikes, 17.11% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 7-0.
  8. 8/4/2012 @ New York:  9 IP, 6 K’s, 2 BB, 2 hits, 0 runs, 11 GB outs, 11 Sw Strikes, 69 total strikes, 15.94% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 1-0.
  9. 8/28/2006 vs. L.A. Angels:  9 IP, 4 K’s, 0 BB, 5 hits, 0 runs, 19 GB outs, 10 Sw Strikes, 70 total strikes, 14.29% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 2-0.
  10. 7/21/2010 vs. Chicago White Sox:  8 IP, 8 K’s, 0 BB, 2 hits, 0 runs, 12 GB outs, 9 Sw Strikes, 63 total strikes, 14.29% Sw St.  Result:  Win 2-1 (ND, bullpen BS, then win).
  11. 5/5/2012 vs. Minnesota:  8 IP, 9 K’s, 2 BB, 1 hit, 0 runs, 11 GB outs, 14 Sw Strikes, 71 total strikes, 19.72% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 7-0.
  12. 4/28/2009 @ Chicago White Sox:  8 IP, 9 K’s, 1 BB, 4 hits, 0 runs, 11 GB outs, 14 Sw Strikes, 73 total strikes, 19.18% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 9-1.
  13. 9/5/2010 vs. Cleveland:  8 IP, 9 K’s, 1 BB, 4 hits, 0 runs, 8 GB outs, 15 Sw Strikes, 74 total strikes, 20.27% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 3-0.
  14. 6/16/2009 @ San Diego:  9 IP, 6 K’s, 4 BB, 2 hits, 0 runs, 11 GB outs, 10 Sw Strikes, 71 total strikes, 14.08% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 5-0.
  15. 9/21/2005 @ Toronto:  7.1 IP, 6 K’s, 3 BB, 2 hits, 0 runs, 15 GB outs, 12 Sw Strikes, 64 total strikes, 18.75% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 3-2.
  16. 6/21/2007 vs. Pittsburgh:  8 IP, 9 K’s, 1 BB, 6 hits, 0 runs, 12 GB outs, 12 Sw Strikes, 71 total strikes, 16.9% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 3-0.
  17. 4/6/2008 @ Baltimore:  8 IP, 6 K’s, 2 BB, 5 hits, 0 runs, 14 GB outs, 7 Sw Strikes, 62 total strikes, 11.29% Sw St.  Result:  Loss, 3-2 (ND, bullpen BS).
  18. 6/27/2009 @ L.A. Dodgers:  8 IP, 9 K’s, 1 BB, 4 hits, 1 unearned run, 13 GB outs, 13 Sw Strikes, 73 total strikes, 17.81% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 5-1.
  19. 5/22/2011 @ San Diego:  8 IP, 13 K’s, 0 BB, 6 hits, 1 run, 4 GB outs, 13 Sw Strikes, 75 total strikes, 17.33% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 6-1.
  20. 8/9/2005 vs. Minnesota:  8 IP, 6 K’s, 0 BB, 5 hits, 0 runs, 14 GB outs, 8 Sw Strikes, 69 total strikes, 11.59% Sw St.  Result:  Win, 1-0 (2nd career game).

It’s not an exact science.  There are surely other stats I could have used to determine things with a little more oomph, but I went with what I went with.

I know a lot of people like to point to that game in Boston back in 2007 (where Felix went deep and lost the no-no thanks to J.D. Drew’s late single) as the best before yesterday, but don’t sleep on that game against the Rangers earlier this season.  Yes, I was at that game, so maybe I’m a little biased, but the numbers aren’t biased!  The same number of base runners allowed, more strikeouts in the Rangers game and a MUCH higher swinging strike percentage.  All time, that’s probably the best-pitched game I’ve ever seen in person.

Anyway, I could sit here and defend my picks until I’m blue in the face, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Leave a Reply