In case you live under a rock and missed the news, Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game in yesterday's action against the Rays. He was dominating; he struck out 12 Rays, and shut down an offense that had recently begun to look like it was getting back on track. It was the 23rd perfect game in MLB history, the sixth perfect game since 2009, and the third perfect game against the Rays since 2009.
It's a very weird feeling to have perfect games thrown against your favorite team so often. After the first one -- Mark Buehrle back in 2009 -- I was frustrated and embarrassed with the Rays. After the second one -- Dallas Braden back in 2010 -- I was ready to rip my hair out. It's Dallas Braden, for crying out loud! If you're going to get perfect game'd, at least make it against a dominant pitcher.
But after the third one yesterday? Eh, whatever. Good for Felix, and congrats to Seattle fans for having something to be excited about. I've gotten so numb to the Rays getting no-hit or nearly no-hit, that this sort of thing feels way too inevitable these days. Felix was spectacular yesterday, pitching at the very top of his game, and he is easily one of the top pitchers in all of baseball. There's no shame in being perfect game'd by him.
I do wonder, though: considering the Rays have been no-hit or perfect game'd so often over the past few years, is there something about their offense that makes it more prone to these sort of occurrences? They have recently been a low batting average, high strikeout team, which increases their odds at being no-hit. If a pitcher is particularly dominating and your team is already prone to striking out a lot and getting few hits, the odds of a no-hitter must go up dramatically.
If you look at the list of all the no-hitters thrown recently, many of them have come against teams with either weak offenses or high strikeout offenses. The Astros also had a perfect game thrown against them this year, and they are one of the few teams that has an even higher strikeout rate than the Rays this season. Since 2009, the Rays have the fourth lowest team batting average in the majors, and the fifth highest strikeout rate.
But even then, the Rays haven't been such an extreme low batting average and high strikeout rate team to make this sort of occurrence likely. Is there something else about them that makes them susceptible to no-hitters? Is their offense wildly more inconsistent than others? (It can feel like it at times, but my guess is that's just our emotion getting the best of us.) I'd love to see someone investigate this question.
My guess is that it's a fool's errand to try and explain away the Rays' no-hitter tendencies. They may be marginally more likely to get no-hit than other teams, but in the end, this sort of streak feels more like a product of random luck than anything. Is it really that improbable that sometime over the history of baseball, the same team would have a perfect game thrown against them three times in three years? Well....yeah, I guess that actually is quite improbable when you put it like that. But I still think luck is more likely at the root of this than any sort of other explanation we can concoct.