7-28-10: No-Hitter Madness

Hello again everybody...

It's almost uncanny. Nearly every time I end a column with something like:

“You know, unless something breaks that blows my initial idea out of the water...”

My initial idea gets blown right out of said water. Coincidence? Irony? Whatever god you believe in amusing him/herself at my expense... again?

You decide.

Whatever the case, the latest edition of “Peek at the Picks” will keep - and if it improves my Kelley Formula score, mores the better.

Instead, today I have to talk about Matt Garza's no-hitter from Monday night. In and of itself, it was no more or less remarkable than any other no-hitter. But put in the context of what's happened this season, and in baseball history, it merits some discussion.

And discuss I shall!

Right after the quote...

”Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.”
- W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965), English playwright, novelist and short story writer

I always enjoy it when someone can take a simple phrase like, “Hey, live a little!” and make it sound like a profound bit of philosophy!

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No-Hitter Madness

2010 - The year of the pitcher?

That's what a lot of people are calling it. Run scoring is down. Power numbers are down. And we've had a no-hitter each month of the season so far.

(Ed.'s Note: Some would argue that June should've had two, what with Armando Galarraga's perfect game being kicked by a bad umpiring call. Sorry folks. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Yes, it was a bad call. Yes, replay would've fixed it. But as far as the record books are concerned, Galarraga faced 28 guys, and one of them got a hit. Sucks for him, but we've got to accept it and move on.)

Matt Garza was the latest pitcher to perform the feat, no-hitting the Detroit Tigers on Monday night for the first no-no of his career, and the first in Tampa Bay Rays history.

This immediately brought to mind several questions:

First, has a team ever been involved in more no-hitters in a single season than the Tampa Bay Rays?!

They've been no-hit twice this season. Oakland's Dallas Braden threw a perfect game against them in May, and Arizona's Edwin Jackson no-hit them in June. In fact, the Rays have been no-hit three times in less than a calendar year if you go back to last season and Mark Buehrle's perfect game.

Now Garza gets the first no-hitter for the club.

So are they alone in that distinction? Turns out, the answer is no.

The 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers were the last team to be involved in three no-hitters in the same season. Carl Erskine and Sam Maglie both threw no-no's for the Dodgers that season, while the Dodgers got no-hit themselves in a game a few of you might remember.

Don Larsen? Game 5 of the 1956 World Series? El Perfecto? The only no-hitter in post-season history? Yep, thought that might ring a bell.

Prior to that, the 1917 St. Louis Browns were involved in three no-no's in the same season. Interestingly, all three involved the Chicago White Sox. Bob Groom and Ernie Koob both no-hit the Whities - on back-to-back days, no less. Both of those games came just shy of a month after the Browns got no-hit by Eddie Cicotte of the White Sox.

Why does his name ring a bell? Because two years later he was involved in the most infamous sports-gambling scandal of all time. Yes, Cicotte was a member of the '19 Black Sox.

One last historical note. If you throw in 1916, when the Browns got no-hit by Dutch Leonard of the Boston Red Sox (whom I hate, even in a historical setting), the Browns and Rays virtually mirror each other by being involved in four no-hitters in a calendar year!

So while what the Rays have experienced is exceedingly rare, it's not unprecedented.

The second question that comes to mind is: are we kind of over the no-hitter at this point?

Personally, I can't get enough. No-hitters aren't just historic, they're about as dramatic as any baseball game can be, especially in the regular season. I've never been to a no-hitter. I've never even watched one from start to finish on TV. But if you offered me the opportunity to choose between seeing a no-hitter, or watching a player hit four home runs in a single game, I'll take the no-hitter every day of the week and twice on Sunday (I do love a double-header).

But that hasn't stopped some people from suggesting that in a season with a no-hitter every month, perhaps the no-no has lost some of it's luster.

Poppycock, I say!

Allow me to borrow some statistics published by the erstwhile LaVelle E. Neal, III of the Star Tribune:

Since 1952, there have been 114,225 major league baseball games. In that time there have been 159 no-hitters.

159 may seem like a large number, but let's do some math. 159 equals .1% of 114,225. I'd say that one-tenth of one percent qualifies as rare enough for the the no-hitter not to have lost its shine.

Plus, five in one season isn't even the record. In the modern era (post-1900), the record for most no-hitters thrown in one season is seven. It happened in 1990 and 1991, marking that two-year span as having the greatest two-year frequency of no-hitters in baseball history.

Mind you, it won't surprise many people if 2010 joins 1990 and 1991 on that list, or even if that record is broken this season. But until it is, let's not get carried away with this “ho-hum, another no-hitter” business.

Finally, can we just enjoy the wonder of the no-hitter for what it is?

I must have heard a dozen comparisons of the frequency of various statistical anomalies to that of no-hitters over the last 48 hours, and they pretty much all made me want to vomit.

The number of cycles versus the number of no-hitters; the number of 3+ home-run games versus the number of no-hitters; the number of double-digit RBI games versus the number of no-hitters... blah, blah, blah.

It's like a giant conspiracy has been launched to discredit the historical significance of the no-hitter, and I can't fathom why any baseball fan would do that?

The one that really drove me nuts was published in the same LaVelle blog I linked to earlier. Fortunately for him, he was just re-printing something the Twins communications department had come up with:

“Mauer's night last night was actually SIGNIFICANTLY more rare than Garza's.....

If we check since 1952, there have been 159 no-hitters compared to 23 player games with 5+ hits and 7+ RBI”

Really? We have to try and compare these two things?

I was geeking out as much as anybody over the night Mauer had against the Royals. Not only because of its historical significance, but because it's hopefully the beginning of a long and fruitful hot stretch for a guy the Twins sorely need to get hot.

But this nonsense about Mauer's night being “SIGNIFICANTLY more rare than Garza's” does a disservice to everyone involved.

Mauer had a fantastic night. Garza had a fantastic night. How about instead of jumping up and down and kvetching about people paying more attention to Garza's no-no than Joe's 5-hit/7RBI night, we say something like, oh I don't know...

“Matt Garza made his mark on baseball history last night by throwing the 225th no-hitter in the modern era. And hey, Joe Mauer made history too. Not only was he the 23rd player with 5+ hits and 7+ RBI in one game, he was only the third catcher in history to pull off the feat!”

See what I did there? Instead of trying to pump up Mauer's accomplishments at the expense of Garza, I celebrated them both by framing them in their proper historical context.

I know. I'm crazy like that!

To me the bottom line is this: no-hitters are great. They've always been great. They're always going to be great.

So let's all sit back and enjoy a season where greatness has appeared with abnormal regularity.

Think we can do that?

I thought we could!

That's going to wrap things up for today. I'll be back on Friday with the (mostly) weekly Update column.

You know, unless...

Dammit, I'm not going there again!

Until Friday, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I like a no-hitter, especially late in the innings, when everyone KNOWS what is going on, but no one talks about it. And then I go like I'm going to say something about it, just to see who the superstitious people are. :-D