MLB League News: 15 Best 2012 Pitching Performances
Fans show their appreciation for the strikeout
The 2012 MLB season was full of outstanding pitching performances. They began in April and continued through October. There were six complete game no-hitters and three perfect games. After years of inflated power numbers during the 1990's and early 2000's it is nice to see pitching return to the game.
Now, it is time to look back at the top 15 pitching performances of the 2012 season. Most of them were pitched by familiar names. Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners and R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets could have taken up half of the list, but there are others who deserve to be mentioned.
In putting together this top 15 list, perfection and performance in the post season will outweigh everything else. It is impossible to pitch better than perfection, so those who did it will be ranked at the top of the list. Though, no hitters are almost as good as it gets, they will not guarantee top recognition. Since the pressure ramps up in post season, those who performed well under it have a good chance of making the list.
There may be a surprise or two, but for the most part, each game mentioned will probably be one that most people remember. After all, this is a top 15 list.
Though the long ball is nice and high scoring games fun, there is nothing like a dominant pitching performance. It makes for a tense game where every pitch counts.
There were plenty of well pitched games in 2012 in both the American and National Leagues.
Here are, arguably, the top 15.
15. April 14: Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals vs. Cincinnati Reds
This game won't be remembered by many, but Jackson's Nationals home debut was a work of efficiency. In a 2-0 complete game victory, Jackson pitched a two-hitter and struck out nine. It took him a grand total of 96 pitches to do it. It was, without question, the best game he pitched all season.
14. October 2: James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles
Though the game did not mean anything in the standings as Tampa was already eliminated from the post season, Shields ended his season professionally.
In the only loss on this list, Shields pitched a two hitter against the playoff bound Baltimore Orioles. His only mistake was giving up a fourth inning home run to Chris Davis which defeated him 1-0. Shields struck out 15 Orioles, did not walk anyone and faced 29 batters.
13. August 4: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees:
At Yankee Stadium, Hernandez gave up two hits, walked two and struck out six on 101 pitches. These numbers may not be impressive, but they led to no runs. This is important, because Seattle won, 1-0.
12. June 13: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets vs. Tampa Bay Rays
On his way to winning the NL Cy Young Award, Dickey put together the first of back to back gems. In a 9-1 victory over Tampa Bay, he gave up one hit and one run while striking out 12. Dickey did not walk anyone and faced 29 batters.
11. June 18: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets vs. Baltimore Orioles
The second of Dickey's back to back gems came against Baltimore. Though he walked two, Dickey gave up one hit and struck out 13 in a 5-0 shutout of the Orioles. In back to back complete games against the Rays and Orioles, Dickey gave up one run on two hits, walked two and struck out 25.
10. June 1: Johan Santana, New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals
It is hard to keep a no hitter out of the top 10, even if it does include five walks. A case could be made that both of Dickey's performances were better. However, a no-hitter, even with five walks, is nothing to sneeze at, especially if it leads to an 8-0 victory.
9. September 28: Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Bailey threw the last no-hitter of the 2012 season. Just because it was the latest this does not mean it is the greatest, but Bailey was as close to perfect as a pitcher can get. He shut out the Pirates, 1-0, by personally allowing one base runner to reach base as Andrew McCutcheon drew a walk. Pittsburgh's only other base runner reached on an error. Bailey struck out 10 while facing 29 batters.
8. May 2: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels vs. Minnesota Twins
In a 9-0 victory, Weaver, pitched as close to perfection as Bailey. The only things which kept him from throwing a perfect game were a passed ball by Angels catcher Chris Iannetta on a strikeout of Chris Parmalee in the second inning and a walk to Josh Willingham in the seventh. Weaver struck out nine and walked one in facing only 29 batters.
7. October 25: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants vs. Detroit Tigers
In game two of the World Series, Bumgarner shut down one of the most potent offenses in baseball. Though he did not pitch a complete game, Bumgarner threw 7 shutout innings in a 2-0 Giants victory which put them two games up in the series.
In a completely unexpected performance, Bumgarner gave up only two hits and did not walk anyone while throwing 86 pitches. San Francisco went on to sweep Detroit for their second world championship in three years.
6. October 11: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
In the deciding game 5 of their 2012 ALDS battle with Oakland, there was no mystery that Verlander was going to get the ball for Detroit. The only question was how dominant would he be?
Verlander ended the A's season by allowing them only four hits and one walk while striking out 11 in a 6-0 shutout. That is how dominant he was. This performance rates higher than Verlander's game three gem against the Yankees, because New York was already a team of dead men walking.
5. October 19: Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals
This performance was even more unexpected than Bumgarner's. Down three games to one and facing elimination in game five of the NLCS, San Francisco sent Zito to the mound in hopes that he could hold the fort.
Like Bumgarner, Zito did not go the distance, but his 7 2/3 shutout innings turned the tide of the series. Zito gave up six hits and struck out six in a 5-0 Giants victory. San Francisco went on to win games six and seven and won the NL pennant.
4. October 12: C. C. Sabathia, New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles
With the Yankees season on the line, Sabathia came through. He had to, because the New York offense was all but non existent in the post season.
Knowing that he would get very little run support, Sabathia shut Baltimore out for seven innings on his way to a 3-1, complete game, victory. He gave up four hits and struck out nine.
Even if one is not a fan of New York sports, they have to admit that no one had more pressure on them to pitch well in one game this season than Sabathia did that night.
3. June 13: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants vs. Houston Astros
Sure the Astros were bad, but Cain still had to get them out. He did so in a big way by pitching a 10-0 perfect game. Cain's was the second of three perfect games thrown in 2012 and his performance may have been the most dominant as he struck out 14.
2. April 21: Philip Humber, Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners
Humber set the tone for pitching performances in 2012 as he threw the season's first no hitter and perfect game. In a 4-0 shutout that took two hours and seventeen minutes, Humber did not let a single Mariner reach first base. His perfecto included nine strikeouts and he threw a grand total of 96 pitches.
1. August 15: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Like his game against the Yankees, Hernandez had no choice but to pitch a gem against the Rays. Though the other perfect games on this list were outstanding, Hernandez' stands out, because he did it in a 1-0 game. From the first inning to the last, he was one swing away from losing or getting a no decision.
Hernandez struck out 12 batters in a lineup that is one of the best in baseball. He got stronger as the game wore on and Tampa simply had no answers for him.
Because of the weight that Hernandez had to carry from the first pitch to the last, this performance ranks above all others in 2012.