Let's face it ... perfect games are a little boring these days. There have been more perfect games (six) since 2009 than there have been between 1989 and 2008. Pitchers are throwing more perfect games these days ... so it's time to give position players their due. Why can't we have perfect games for the guys in the field as well?
When thinking about this, I considered one major thing: a perfect game for a second baseman might not be the same as a perfect game for a left fielder. Each player is expected to do different things for his team, so these perfect games might have to be different for the different positions. At the same time, any perfect game has to have a certain standard for perfection. So I came up with some rules.
Every position player perfect game has a few common characteristics:
- The player cannot make an out, either at bat or on the bases.
- The player cannot make an error / "bad fielding play".
Pretty simple, no? Offensively, you can't call it a perfect game if you make an out. No strikeouts, no hard line drives right at a fielder, and definitely no getting caught stealing or blowing through a third-base coach's sign to get nailed at the plate. And you can't make an error or a should-be-error that costs your team the game. That's hardly perfection.
Below, you can find what my idea of a "perfect game" would look like, based on the expectations for each defensive position. It's all opinion and up for debate, but I think they're pretty good.
- Two or more home runs.
- One or more doubles.
- A walk or HBP.
Jason Giambi is our photo for this article ... because I think he's one of the few players who actually did this in a game somewhat recently. The big hitter did everything an elite slugging first sacker is supposed to do: he belted two homers, smacked a double (and a single), and reached base on an HBP ... all without making an out or an error. That's the kind of run production you'd associate with a "perfect" game. (Giambi's game was on June 7, 2000, against the San Diego Padres.)
- Be the pivot man on a 5-4-3 or 6-4-3 double play.
- Tag out a stealing baserunner.
- Drive at least one ball into the gap for a double or triple.
- Leave the game with dirt on your uniform.
Second base is considered a defensive position, so most of what we require from a perfect game is going to be on the defensive side. It can't be a perfect game without at least one double play with the second baseman as the pivot, so that's on there. And we'll also add a nice tag on a stealing runner. But the second baseman these days needs to have some sort of power, at least gap power, so we'll require at least one well-struck extra-base hit into the outfield gap.
And, lastly, the second baseman has to be a gritty, grinder-type, so let's make sure he leaves the game with a little dirt on his uni. #sabermetrics
- Hit one or more home run.
- Hit two or more extra-base hits (in addition to the HR).
- Score OR drive in four or more runs.
- Make one "did you see that!" fielding plays: diving stop, leaping catch or rocket throw from the knees.
From those whom much is given, much is expected. And getting the keys to a third base job in the major leagues means that you're expected to do quite a bit. Third basemen are usually required to be offensive cornerstones, and often #3 hitters in a lineup. That means they have to provide home-run power, rack up hits, and either score or drive in a host of runs. But third basemen are usually expected to make killer defensive plays as well, so let's require one of those as well -- something of suitable web gem quality.
- Have at least five defensive opportunities.
- Make at least three assists to first base.
- Make at least two "did you see that!" fielding plays: diving stop, leaping catch or rocket throw from the knees.
For shortstops, all I require is excellence on the defensive end -- paired with the not-making-an-out component, of course. We need both quantity and quality here: five or more defensive chances, as well as two excellent plays. And, of course, we need some solid laser-quality throws to the first baseman. Is that really too much to ask?
- Hit at least one home run.
- Hit at least one other extra-base hit.
- Throw out a runner trying to score at home.
Right field is a prototypical power-hitting position, so we've gotta go with a homer and another extra-base hit to cover the power situation. And there's nothing I love more than a right fielder with a cannon mowing down a runner at home, so let's throw that one on there as well. Sounds pretty perfect to me.
- Hit for the cycle.
- Rob a home run.
- Steal a base.
I don't think any position requires the breadth of skills that center field does. These days, center fielders have to be fast, capable defenders who, oh yeah, also have to be able to hit a ton. So, I'd say this is the absolute hardest "perfect game" to knock out ... absolutely fitting given their position.
- Hit a home run.
- Drive in two or more runs.
- Make a diving catch.
- Hit the cutoff man.
The seven is a tough position to address these days, as it really has become something of a dumping-ground position. Have a second center fielder? Put him in left and reap the defensive benefits! Have an extra first baseman? Throw them in left and pray he hits. But left fielders are outfielders, and despite the increased focus on defense, they're still expected to hit and drive in runs. The diving catch can be made by fleet defensive whizzes, but can also be made by a slow-footed fielder going all out to get to a ball. And the cutoff man, well, that's a personal pet peeve, I suppose.
So there you have it. What did I miss? Is there something in the methodology that you'd like to see changed?
(Editor's Note: Whoops. It looks like Giambi's 2000 game against the Padres wasn't so perfect. He was thrown out trying to go from first-to-third in the first inning. But hey, he's caught on with Cleveland this season. There's still hope!)
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