Philip Humber wasn't just perfect Saturday. He was precise and efficient to a level that was historic as well.
Using just 96 pitches, the White Sox right-hander notched the 21st perfect game in baseball history in the team's 4-0 win against the Mariners, striking out Brendan Ryan on a full-count checked swing to vault himself into baseball immortality.
Humber's pitch count stands as the fewest pitches thrown in a perfect game since David Cone's 88 in his 1999 perfecto at Yankee Stadium. It ranks seventh among the 18 perfect games for which pitch counts are available.
At the top of the list is the 74-pitch effort by Addie Joss of the Cleveland Naps, who would become the Indians, on Oct. 2, 1908. Joss went 24-11 with a 1.16 ERA that season, striking out 130 while walking just 30 in 325 innings of work.
A list of the top 10 pitch counts, from lowest to highest, in perfect games. (Sources: baseball-reference.com, Baseball Almanac)
According to research from MLB.com archives, baseball-refrence.com and Baseball Almanac, Cone ranks second to Joss on the list for his 88 offerings before dropping to his knees upon completing his perfecto. After Cone are the Phillies' Jim Bunning (90, 1964), Charlie Robertson of the White Sox (90, 1922), the Angels' Mike Witt (94, 1984) and the Expos' Dennis Martinez (95, 1991). Humber used one fewer pitch than Don Larsen in his 1956 World Series perfect game.
Perhaps of more relevance, Humber's efficient effort Saturday is far and away the tightest pitch count in the recent spate of perfect games the past three years.
Former teammate Mark Buehrle, now with the Marlins, needed 116 pitches for his 2009 gem, the Phillies' Roy Halladay used 115 for his 2010 perfecto and the A's Dallas Braden needed 109 to get through his 2010 piece of history. David Wells' 1998 perfect game stands as the perfect game with the most pitches used on record, at 120.
Strikingly, Humber's pitch count might have been even lower if the ninth inning hadn't gotten a little more interesting than the first eight. In registering two strikeouts and a flyout, Humber used 16 pitches in the ninth inning -- the most he used in any inning on the day -- and Ryan worked him to a full count before fouling off a pitch and being called out on a checked swing on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.
That was one of only two seven-pitch at-bats in the game -- the other was Chone Figgins in the seventh -- and Humber had two innings in which he threw only six pitches, the fifth and the sixth. The Ryan at-bat that ended it was only the second three-ball count Humber had on the day.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.