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On the right day (or days), even the most unexceptional of pitchers can achieve remarkable things.

Philip Humber threw a perfect game the proper way back in 2012, retiring all 27 Mariners on 96 pitches. He then went on to allow 20 runs in his next 13 innings, and was designated for assignment in November of that year, ending up with the Houston Astros. Humber now pitches in Korea for the Kia Tigers.

Wandy Rodriguez was not a bad pitcher for the Astros, was okay after being traded to the Pirates, and began 2015 being released by the Atlanta Braves after a mediocre spring. As Rodriguez is left-handed, the Texas Rangers signed him to a minor-league contract on April 6th, and assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock. Rodriguez made two starts, totaling seven innings pitched (2.57 ERA) before being brought up to fill a rotation hole created by Anthony Ranaudo’s disastrous April 15th start. Since then, Rodriguez has allowed seven runs in four starts, and bridging the last two he put together a streak of 34 batters retired consecutively, giving him not only the Texas record, but what I’m dubbing the rare “Hidden Reverse Humber[1].”

What exactly is a “Hidden Reverse Humber?” Well, a Humber is a pitcher who puts together an historic performance, only to be released or designated for assignment soon afterward. A “hidden” Humber would be the same, but across multiple games (usually by a reliever). The “hidden reverse” Humber, then, is a pitcher who was released or designated for assignment, gets picked up, and goes on to put together an historic performance.

Rodriguez put his together across two starts—eight innings against the Houston Astros on May 5th, the last six of which were perfect; and five perfect innings to start yesterday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. During that timespan, his fastball averaged just under 90 mph, and while he generated about 19 percent more swings on it than his historical average, he also induced fewer whiffs. The changeup was his real weapon in the first half of the perfect streak, as he threw it for more strikes, induced more swings, and got more weak contact on the pitch than his historical averages. In the second half, he mostly deserted the changeup—against a lineup with eight right-handed hitters—and leaned on the curve, especially against righties. In both, Rodriguez simply got more extreme in his tendencies. Though he has never been a power pitcher, it’s definitely easy to say that he’s a few years into the veteran crafty lefty phase of his career.[2]

Some of this can be attributed to luck, as all perfect games must. Without Rusty Greer, Kenny Rogers has no perfect game. Without a called strike on a checked swing, Phil Humber himself doesn’t have a perfect game. Taking that luck into consideration (and a controversial swing call that resulted in two ejections), Wandy Rodriguez was one of the best (results-getting) pitchers in baseball for 34 outs.



[1] Thanks to Harry Pavlidis for this term, which I technically can’t even claim.

[2] Making this even more unlikely, Rodriguez almost came out of May 10th’s game before the bottom of the fifth, when the pitcher's back pain got action going in the Rangers bullpen. Rodriguez spent several minutes going through a veritable yoga routine on the field, and pitched the rest of the way in pain. In related news, Adrian Beltre apparently makes a great stabilizing point to hold onto if you have to stretch your back.

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boatman44
5/11
Sadly, (sigh) as a Rangers fan I can categorically say this will not last, and said pitcher will drop below the Wandy line ( to coin a phrase :), ) before the next moon is full. :(
padresprof
5/11
Very cool.