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2021 MLB season: Why have there been so many no-hitters?

(AP Photo / Phil Long)

A record nine no-hitters have been thrown in Major League Baseball games throughout the 2021 season, as of this writing. Yes, you read that correctly. Nine. A perfect baseball number for such a rare feat. 

The nine this season include:

  • April 9 – Joe Musgrove (San Diego Padres) vs. Texas Rangers
  • April 14 – Carlos Rodon (Chicago White Sox) vs. Cleveland Indians
  • May 5 – John Means (Baltimore Orioles) vs. Seattle Mariners
  • May 7 – Wade Miley (Cincinnati Reds) vs. Baltimore Orioles
  • May 18 – Spencer Turnbull (Detroit Tigers) vs. Seattle Mariners
  • May 19 – Corey Kluber (New York Yankees) vs. Texas Rangers
  • June 24 – Zach Davies, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, Craig Kimbrel (Chicago Cubs) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
  • August 14 – Tyler Gilbert (Arizona Diamondbacks) vs. San Diego Padres
  • September 11 – Corbin Burnes, Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers) vs Cleveland Indians

Wow.

Cleveland was no-hit three times this season (a record), and Texas was on the wrong side of history twice. The Padres have both thrown a no-hitter and been no-hit.

There have even been two seven-inning no-hitters (that don’t count as official no-hitters) by Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner and a collective effort by Tampa Bay Rays hurlers.

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Ben Verlander, brother of two-time no-hitter thrower Justin Verlander, wrote an article about why there were so many no hitters this season…all the way back on May 23.

Three more nine-inning no hitters have happened since then. 

Experts like Ben Verlander would attribute the historical anomaly to a combination of factors.

For example, there is a notion of hitting in professional baseball that the three true outcomes of a plate appearance are the new normal. Home run, walk, or strikeout.

Therefore, if you take into account the rarity of a home run, the commonality of a strikeout, and the walk not being counted as a hit, you have a lot of room for outs. If a great player only gets a hit three times out of 10, then the seven other times leave a 70% chance of an out. It’s a lot of mumbo jumbo.

Point is, the ball is getting put in play a lot less, and when it finally is, 70% of the time (in theory), it’s going to be an out. 

Another reason is that pitchers are throwing harder on average. Jacob deGrom’s average changeup speed is 91.4 mph. Imagine a car blazing passed you at 91 mph, and that’s supposed to be the slower car.

Ted Williams often said the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. That would be like me saying the hardest thing to do in life is eat salt and pepper chips in front of the TV after 9 p.m. Still, he may be right, based on the fact that pitchers like deGrom and the Tigers’ Gregory Soto are coming at you with 98 mph sinkers.

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There is also the school of thought that hitters, based on the three true outcomes, are only looking to drive the ball out of the ballpark. Launch angle has become a hot topic in the game. It leads to more strikeouts as mentioned, but also more fly and pop outs.

I feel that regardless of why they are happening more frequently, it’s still super exciting to see a no-hitter. No real baseball fan is ever going to truly be upset by a no-hitter. It’s super exciting! In fact, I’d say it’s damn near perfect.

I’ve never been fortunate enough to see one in-person. But, with the way things are going, I should soon! 

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