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MLB No-Hitters: Why 2021 Is Great for Baseball

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Out of 311 all-time MLB no-hitters, six have come in 2021 with a seventh coming attached with an asterisk.

As they increase in occurrence, do they become less special?

No.

Each no-hitter, especially those completed by one pitcher, is unique. It is a shred of baseball history that is still in rarefied air. Even in the 2021 version of baseball with a deadened ball, high strikeout rates, and managers getting mad at their players for hitting home runs, all no-hitters are special. Fans remember where they were as they watch the pitcher mow through the order, recording 27 outs.

Baseball games operate on a sort of excitement index. The exact index fluctuates from person to person, but in general, more hits and more runs lead to more exciting games. However, the beginning of this graph, zero hits/zero runs, is likely one of the best parts of the excitement index. While a one-hitter or two-hitter might come off as boring, a no-hitter is history, regardless of how dominant the pitcher is.

MLB No-Hitters, Episode 1: Joe Musgrove

A popular breakout candidate heading into the season, Joe Musgrove twirled a no-hitter in his second start as a San Diego Padre. After five seasons and about 500 innings of league-average pitching (ERA+ of 96), the change of scenery from Pittsburgh to San Diego seemed to put Musgrove on pace for an age-28 breakout season.

Musgrove faced 28 batters, retiring 27, and plunking Joey Gallo. He struck out 10, but he may have been a tad lucky, allowing a .206 expected batting average. Luck or not, Musgrove kicked off his 2021 campaign with an electric start. As of writing, he has an ERA of 2.47, and he is a fringe Cy Young candidate.

What Makes This No-Hitter Special?

After three seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Musgrove showed what kind of pitcher he could be: an ace.

Also, Victor Caratini became the first catcher in MLB history to catch two chronologically consecutive no-hitters for different teams. He caught the final no-hitter of 2020 (Alec Mills) for the Chicago Cubs and 2021’s first no-hitter with the Padres.

MLB No-Hitters, Episode 2: Carlos Rodon

Like Musgrove, Carlos Rodon had a history of being painfully average before 2021. He had an ERA+ of 100 in his first six seasons with the Chicago White Sox. However, Rodon’s April was far from average as he ended the month with a microscopic 0.72 ERA. The gem of the month was a seven-strikeout no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. Rodon faced 28 batters, losing his perfect game with one out in the ninth.

Rodon surrendered an expected batting average of .154, getting help from his outfield defense on a pair of missiles hit by Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez.

What Makes This No-Hitter Special?

Rodon has broken away from his history of average pitching, and he is currently among the contenders for American League Cy Young. He has a 1.27 ERA through 42.2 innings pitched in 2021.

MLB No-Hitters, Episode (Redacted): Madison Bumgarner

Perhaps the player that is the most likely Hall of Famer out of this collection, Madison Bumgarner tossed a no-hitter in the second game of a doubleheader. This is the asterisk game (note “redacted”) as it is not an official no-hitter. While Major League Baseball should count this because the game was scheduled to be seven innings, it presently does not count.

Bumgarner faced the minimum, retiring 21 batters with the aid of a double play that wiped away the lone baserunner: an error. He struck out seven and allowed a .117 expected batting average. Oddly enough, the Atlanta Braves combined for just one hit across the two games of the doubleheader, posting a .111 expected batting average in the first game.

What Makes This No-Hitter Special?

It is the first shortened no-hitter since 2006 when Devern Hansack tossed five hitless innings for the Boston Red Sox in a rain-shortened game.

MLB No-Hitters, Episode 3: John Means

A 2019 All-Star, John Means is the clubhouse leader for the 2021 AL Cy Young. He leads the AL in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and hits per nine. Means brought a new meaning to domination for his first start in May: a 12-strikeout no-hitter in Seattle. Means faced the minimum, allowing just one baserunner on a dropped third strike.

Means held the Seattle Mariners to an expected batting average of .114, allowing just one ball hit at more than 95 miles per hour. It is the most dominant no-hitter in the Statcast era from a hard-hit balls allowed perspective.

What Makes This No-Hitter Special?

Not only is Means enjoying a breakout season, but this is also the only no-hitter of its kind. Perfect games have been lost with walks, errors, and hit by pitches, but a 27-batter, 27-out performance like Means’ has never happened. A dropped third strike is rare in its own right, but to lose a no-hitter? History.

MLB No-Hitters, Episode 4: Wade Miley

Is it really a baseball season if a random journeyman does not throw a no-hitter? Wade Miley, and his 11-year tenure, fits the bill. An All-Star in 2012, Miley has pitched for seven teams, spending each of the last two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. In his no-hitter, Miley struck out eight Cleveland Indians. He allowed a measly .132 expected batting average. Cleveland managed two baserunners with Amed Rosario reaching on an error and Cesar Hernandez drawing a walk.

While he is currently on the injured list, Miley got off to a solid start. After blanking the Indians, Miley had a 2.00 ERA. While he has come back to earth after allowing nine runs in 7.2 innings, his 3.50 ERA matches up with a 129 ERA+.

What Makes This No-Hitter Special?

Miley is the oldest National League pitcher to toss a no-hitter since Randy Johnson threw a perfect game at age 40 in 2004.

MLB No-Hitters, Episode 5: Spencer Turnbull

The fourth player on this list that is in his age-28 season, Spencer Turnbull no-hit the Mariners. Turnbull struck out nine Mariners, but he lost his perfect game with a pair of walks. Seattle had an expected batting average of .137.

After a bit of a rocky stretch to open May (six earned runs in eight innings), Turnbull has been dominant in his last two starts. He has lowered his ERA from 4.74 to 2.88, and he struck out 16 batters across 15.1 innings pitched. If he settles for the rest of the season, Turnbull should be in All-Star consideration for a poor Detroit Tigers team.

What Makes This No-Hitter Special?

Turnbull etched his name in immortality. As a league-average pitcher, this is a random fact that makes baseball timeless.

MLB No-Hitters, Episode 6: Corey Kluber

A two-time Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber turned back the clock to blank the Texas Rangers. Kluber struck out nine Rangers and allowed a .149 expected batting average. Kluber faced 28 batters, walking Charlie Culberson in the bottom of the third. He shaved off 0.62 from his ERA, lowering it to a prime-Kluber-like 2.86. He is currently in the top 10 in the AL in both ERA and ERA+. While he is unlikely to continue to be a top-tier pitcher, it is great to see a swansong for the 35-year-old.

Kluber made just eight starts in 2019 and 2020 combined. His no-hitter was his ninth start of 2021.

What Makes This No-Hitter Special?

It is the first New York Yankees no-hitter since David Cone’s perfect game in 1999. Kluber is also one of three pitchers to no-hit a team he played for in the season prior.

Over time, some accomplishments begin to mean less. Russell Westbrook redefined the triple double. Drew Brees turned passing-yard marks into dust. The no-hitter is different. There is an element of luck in each no-hitter as well as the requisite skill and stamina to pitch nine innings of Major League Baseball. Jacob deGrom, perhaps the best pitcher ever, has the most dominant outing of the season, but even he allowed a pair of hits.

Every no-hitter is special, and let’s hope the 2021 season features several more.


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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.