We are roughly a quarter of the way through the 2021 baseball season, and six no-hitters have been thrown (seven, if you count Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-no, and I think it should be, but that’s a topic for a different day).
The record for a single season is eight, set in 1884, but I’m going to discount that because in 1884, the pitching distance was 50 feet, the pitcher stood in a “box” instead of a mound and it took six balls to register a walk. The current pitching distance of 60 feet, six inches was established in 1893, and since then the record is seven, set in 1990 and matched in 1991 and 2012.
Some are saying there have been too many no-hitters this year, but few if any were saying that those three years. Why? Likely because they were spaced out a bit more in 1990, 1991 and 2012, with the exception of June 29, 1990, when two were thrown (by Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela), the only date in MLB history where two no-hitters happened.
The fact that the MLB batting average, currently at .237, would match the worst for any season has some thinking that the number of no-hitters is some sort of trend, just because six have happened already and two in the last week.
This isn’t the first time such a “cluster” of no-hitters has happened. Emma Baccellieri of SI.com noted in this recent article that a similar cluster (or “spike,” as she termed it) happened in 1917, when there were also six no-hitters thrown.
Five of those had happened by May 6 and there were three in one week, prompting this story quoted in Baccellieri’s article, from the Los Angeles Evening Express:
“It has been remarked lately that no-hit games are becoming so common that they are no longer remarkable feats,” went that May 21 story from the Los Angeles Evening Express. But this didn’t mean that there was no excitement to be found in them: “The fact that [George] Mogridge was the first Yankee pitcher in the history of the New York American League club to pitch a hitless game indicates that hitless games really are rare and remarkable pitching feats.”
They are, and despite so many thrown early in the 1917 season, just one more was thrown that year after May 6, and that was a particularly famous game June 23, the one where Babe Ruth walked the leadoff man and was subsequently ejected. Ernie Shore entered, the runner was caught stealing and Shore retired the next 26 batters. For many years this was considered a “perfect game,” since Shore retired 27 in a row, but since a batter had reached base it’s now considered a combined no-hitter.
And that was it. No further no-hitters were thrown in 1917.
Despite the recent cluster, I would say we’ve got about as good a chance as not to see no more, or maybe one more, no-hitter in 2021. The weather is warming in many areas, conditions more conducive to hitting, and as is often said, pitchers are usually ahead of hitters when any season begins.
Throwing a no-hitter is hard! It’s happened just 311 times in MLB history, 274 from the 60-foot, six-inch pitching distance. Through Sunday, there have been 223,495 games played in MLB history, 210,150 since 1893. That means just a little more than one-tenth of one percent of games have resulted in a no-hitter (including perfect games).
2021 is the first year where there have been six no-hitters before June (in 1917 there were five, with the sixth in June), and all six have been against just three teams, the Mariners, Rangers and Cleveland. So is this a trend, or are three teams just having trouble hitting? The Mariners are currently dead last in MLB in BA (.200) and Cleveland ranks 28th (.214), while the Rangers rank 17th. (Comparison point: The Cubs, who had trouble hitting early, now have a league-average team BA (.237) and rank 13th.)
I have to say I wouldn’t mind seeing a Cubs pitcher throw one at Wrigley Field this year. That hasn’t happened in almost 49 years, since Milt Pappas threw one against the Padres September 2, 1972. There have been four Cubs no-nos since, all on the road — Carlos Zambrano vs. the Astros in Milwaukee in 2008, Jake Arrieta in Los Angeles in 2015 and in Cincinnati in 2016 and Alec Mills last year against the Brewers in Milwaukee. Give us more scenes like this! [VIDEO]
Whatever happens, we should celebrate no-hitters, every one of them, even if they wind up in a cluster of several in a few days’ time. There’s as good a chance as any that we won’t see another on the rest of 2021.
Regarding the no-hitters thrown so far in 2021...
This poll is closed
... there are too many and it’s making them boring
... it’s just a random event and they’re still exciting
Something else (leave in comments)