By Andy Lindberg
Say what you wish about hitting, but in order to completely dismantle or dominate a baseball team, you have to start with pitching. No other position in the game of baseball asserts their will as much as the starting pitcher. There is a reason it is they, the pitchers, and not the left fielder or shortstop, who get a win or a loss on any given day. The pitcher, the pitcher who decides the pace and the comfort of any batter at the plate, dictates the ebb and flow of any game strictly.
So it is no surprise that the no-hitter and perfect game have special places in baseball lore. They are the extreme rarities of the game. Beginning with Joe Borden’s July 28, 1875 no-hitter over the Chicago White Stockings, and continuing until the most recent no-hitter thrown by Detroit’s Justin Verlander over the Toronto Blue Jays, there have been a total of 268 no-hitters sanctioned and recognized by Major League Baseball. There have been 20 perfect games, not including the two pitchers who threw nine perfect innings (Harvey Haddix and Pedro Martinez) only to see their offenses not support them and lose the perfection in extra innings.
While the perfecto (27 up, 27 down) is the ultimate baseball rarity, the no hitter (merely not allowing a hit, no matter how many walks or errors occur) still held considerable appeal until recently.
For some reason, there seems to have been a rash of no-hitters popping up in recent years, inexplicably clumping together. In 2010 there were six no-hitters, including two perfect games. There would have been seven, and a third perfecto, had umpire Jim Joyce not missed the final call of the game to rob Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. However, after the game Joyce admitted he missed the call and the runner was out, so I’ll count that one, too.
From 2001-2010, there were 20 no-hitters, including four perfect games.
But what is most appalling is the emergence of the really crappy no-hitter. On June 25, 2010 Detroit’s Edwin Jackson no-hit the Arizona Diamondbacks by a score of 1-0. However, it took Jackson 149 pitches and eight walks to do it. Yeah, eight walks. That’s not so dominant. This year’s first no-hitter, thrown by Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano over the Chicago White Sox, featured 132 pitches (only 66 of which were strikes) and six walks. Also not dominant. Teams are more and more apt to get impatient against pitchers they should beat. Verlander’s no-no was unquestionably dominant, though. Verlander only needed 108 pitches and walked one in his second career no hitter.
The last comparable year to 2010 in terms of no hitter was in 1990, which featured six. However the names on the list from 1990 are pretty impressive. Randy Johnson threw his first, Nolan Ryan, Terry Mulholland, Dave Stewart and a Fernando Valenzuela all tossed no-no’s that year, along with Dave Stieb.
Once you have names like Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Fernando Valenzuala on a list like that, you can be fairly certain there were no flukes involved. But guys like Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, and the unproven (and more than likely not Hall of Fame caliber Dallas “Stay Off My Mound” Braden, are finding ways to shut teams down. To give credit where credit is due, Roy Halladay threw two in 2010: one in the playoffs and a perfect game in the regular season. Not to mention Braden’s was a perfect game.
It might be just me, but the no-hitter is rapidly beginning to lose its appeal.
Now that I’ve given you my take, here are some interesting no-hitter facts:
* Nolan Ryan holds the all-time record for most no-hitters thrown with seven. He took five more into the ninth inning in his career. Sandy Koufax is second with four.
* Only five pitchers have 3+ no-hitters. Ryan with seven, Koufax with four, and Cy Young, Bob Feller, and Larry Corcoran all have three.
* Only one man has ever throw back-to-back no hitters. That man was Johnny Vander Meer, who tossed his first on June 11, 1938 and his second on June 15th of that same year.
* Since their inception in 1998, Tampa Bay has been no-hit three times, including being perfected in 2009 and 2010.
* Since 1962, the San Francisco Giants have been no-hit nine times, good for most in baseball.
* The Yankees and Pirates have each been no-hit once since 1962.
* The Chicago Cubs have gone the longest without getting no-hit, the last time coming 45 years ago on September 9, 1965, a Sandy Koufax perfect game.
* The only pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Colorado is Hideo Nomo. The park is known for it’s copious amounts of home runs and hits allowed due to the altitude.
* Mark Buehrle has the record for consecutive batters retired with 45 from July 18, 2009 to July 28, 2009.
* There is a three-way tie for fewest strikeouts in a no-hitter, with Earl Hamilton, Sam Jones, and Ken Holtzman striking out none in their no-hitters.
* The youngest pitcher to throw a no-hitter was the Mets’ Amos Rusie at 20 years and 2 months old.