No-hitters are stupid.
Yes, I said it.
Before we begin, I acknowledge the fact most readers will claim “sour grapes” as I cheer for the only Major League team without one. Let me save you from typing the inevitable comments and tweets that include some permutation of the following:
“You’re only saying that because you’ve never seen your team have one.”
“My team, the… , has no-hitters.”
“You’re just bitter.”
Maybe I am, but I think there’s a pretty compelling case supporting my conclusion. A pitcher not allowing a hit in a game really means very little. Some would even use the word “nothing.”
Let’s recap the two games with no-hit implications so far this year for the Padres.
First, the most recent, the Dodgers put a combined no-hitter on the home nine. I think I can summarize my first point with one question; “who cares?”
I’m not trying to be glib here. Seriously, though, does that game on May 4th really change anything in the baseball world? Suppose the Padres had scratched out a soft single in the 6th inning and got 1-hit. Would a looper over the shortstop really make the result any more enjoyable for the Blue, or any worse for the Friars?
Let me answer that. No, it wouldn’t. The Padres won the series, despite Friday’s result. It’s one win–not unlike the non-no-hitter variety.
In addition, no-hitters are not, necessarily, a sign a pitcher is any more dominant than on any other night. Go look at AJ Burnett’s no-hitter in 2001. His WPA was 0.453. For those of you scoring at home, it means his effort added less than a half of a win of value to his team that night. I won’t bore you with more examples. Okay, maybe just a few:
Francisco Liriano in 2011 benefitted from BABIP gods like Scrooge McDuck in his vault. Not to mention Liriano struck out two batters and walked six. Anyone else want to volunteer for a 3:1 walk to K ratio?
Edwin Jackson in 2010 walked eight batters on his way to throwing 149 pitches. Anyone who watched this game will tell you he was anything but dominant.
Dock Ellis in 1970 claimed he was HIGH ON ACID and threw one.
Please don’t tell me a no-hitter is a sign of a pitcher’s dominance. If you get knocked all over the yard and every single batted ball ends up in a fielder’s mitt, I am not impressed. Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens striking out 20 batters? Impressive. Randy Johnson throwing a perfect game AT THE AGE OF 40?! Stunning. Nolan Ryan’s seven career no-hitters? Staggering.
Edinson Volquez threw a 1-hitter against the Astros in 2012 and the only hit could have been scored an error. It was an infield single that was a tough play, Volquez did not field it cleanly.
Consider this: if the official scorer had given an error on the play, would we really care?
Chad Gaudin combined for a 1-hitter in 2009 with Heath Bell. Do you remember that one? Probably not, his WPA was only 0.577, but it was better than A.J. Burnett’s no-hitter. Does that make sense to you? Because it shouldn’t.
But, here is the curse of the no-hitter. Managers sometimes do stupid things to help a pitcher get one. Case in point: Tyson Ross on April 20th. The Padres got within four outs of a no-no. The Padres manager decided to let Tyson Ross be the guy to break the seal.
Let me put that another way and see if this changes your perspective.
Andy Green let a guy, who had been the staff’s best pitcher to that point, keep throwing pitches despite an escalating pitch count, numerous signs of fatigue, and a history of injury problems just so he could take a shot at what essentially amounts to a statistical anomaly.
Does that sound intelligent to anyone? Beuller?
Want more evidence it was stupid? Since that attempted no-no, and the 127 pitches, Ross is (0-2) while not lasting more than 6 innings and surrendering a total of 10 earned runs with nine walks.
Would it be too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that maybe pushing Ross to 127 pitches in only his fourth start of the year, while coming off a year that was lost to injury, was a bad idea?
And for what? For a magical unicorn? Nah. Just an update to the Padres’ Wikipedia page and a few headlines on sports websites.
I don’t care about cycles, I don’t care about no-hitters. No other sport does this to such an insane degree. The only thing that even comes somewhat close is the “perfect quarterback rating” in football, but it doesn’t cause the announcers to give us minute-by-minute updates on the QB’s stats. Triple-doubles in basketball are like 3rd paragraph mentions in game recaps. Goalies get shutouts in hockey, but no one sprints from the bench to tackle the guy.
The baseball media’s obsession over this useless achievement is pointless. Can we please stop worrying about these things. And can we stop verbally flogging announcers for “jinxing” them, too? That whole “you can’t say the words ‘no-hitter’ during a no-hitter” is the ultimate facepalm. I might be wrong, but I don’t think the pitcher can hear what’s said in the booth.
At the end of the day, a no-hitter is (usually) just another W and little else. Can we please lower the mythical level of this achievement? And no, I won’t write a retraction of this when MacKenzie Gore throws the Padres’ first one in 2020.