Opinion: With six no-hitters already this season, the feat is losing its importance
It was just a couple of years ago when Washington Nationals right-hander and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer was climbing the career strikeout leaderboard and asked about the thrill of approaching the exclusive 3,000-strikeout club.
“I wish I could tell you it really meant something,’’ Scherzer said, “but back when those guys pitched, hitters were embarrassed to strike out. Nowadays, it’s just so different. Guys don’t really care. It’s just an out.’’
Well, here we are in 2021, and it’s the same sentiment for no-hitters.
It should be a monumental achievement to throw a no-hitter, and forever be cherished in baseball history, but when there’s a no-hit watch every time you turn on the TV, it loses its glamour.
Corey Kluber of the New York Yankees became the sixth pitcher this season to throw a no-hitter Wednesday, with no-hitters on back-to-back nights after Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull’s no-hitter on Tuesday, and the fourth in the past 15 days.
Why it’s the seventh if you count Madison Bumgarner, who no-hit Atlanta in the second game of a seven-inning doubleheader on April 25.
“I would count that for sure,’’ Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Albert Pujols tells USA TODAY Sports. “Why wouldn’t you count Bumgarner? I know it wasn’t nine innings, but not his fault."
Well, the good folks at Elias realize that if we start counting seven-inning n-hitters this year, it could make a mockery of the record book.
Then again, at the rate pitchers are going, we’re quickly becoming numb to the accomplishment, anyways.
Oh sure, it was cool to see Joe Musgrove become the first pitcher in the 52-year history of the San Diego Padres throw a no-hitter, and Kluber, 35, become the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter since David Cone in 1999, but the exhilaration is getting as old as a 10-strikeout game.
Corey Kluber waves to fans after throwing a no-hitter against the Rangers. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)
There soon will be stickers in clubhouses that read: “Raise your hand if you haven’t thrown a no-hitter.
“No-hitters are cool and I have all the respect in the world for Corey Kluber and (Madison Bumgarner) and all those guys that have thrown no-hitters,” Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw said on Wednesday night. “But to have one happen every night … it’s probably not good for the game."
Everyone is becoming Nolan Ryan in this era of disappearing offense.
There have been 14 complete games of nine innings this season, and six no-hitters.
The last three times a pitcher has thrown nine innings, he has pitched a no-hitter.
It is absurd.
The last time we saw a no-hit stretch like this, with five no-hitters by the end of May, Woodrow Wilson was president.
It was 1917.
There were only six no-hitters thrown from opening day in 2016 through July 11, 2019, and now we’ve already tied the record of four no-hitters in a calendar month.
Considering there are 19½ weeks remaining in the season, is there any doubt the record of eight no-hitters in 1884 will be obliterated?
At this rate, it may be shattered by Memorial Day.
Perhaps more frightening is that the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland still have a combined 356 games left in their season.
These teams have already been no-hit twice apiece, with no team in baseball history having ever been no-hit three times in a season.
“First and foremost, there’s a lot of great pitchers right now, pitching is really good,’’ says Yankees manager Aaron Boone, trying to explain the no-hit rage. “I think pitchers – more than ever, based on information – know exactly what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. They’re outfitted with the absolute right repertoire for their skill set, so you don’t have a lot of guys going out there throwing pitches that they probably shouldn’t throw, because you can analyze everything so much.
“You’re able to make little adjustments and learn things in real time, almost, with how the ball spins and what you should be doing a little different. And then I think the game plans are a lot more spot-on than ever.’’
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Hitters have more information, too, of course, but they might as well be reading comic books. They’re hitting .236, striking out at another record pace, and only four teams have produced more hits than strikeouts.
And to think, we’d already have three perfect games this year if not for two hit batters and a wild pitch.
“I got nothing for you,’’ said Rangers infielder Charlie Culberson, the only player to reach base off Kluber with a third-inning walk. “I think it’s just one of those things. These guys are good. Maybe hitters sometimes put a little pressure on themselves, wanting to break it up."
Or maybe the hitters just stink.
The biggest oddity in the game today is that the two best pitchers in each league, Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets and Gerrit Cole of the Yankees haven’t thrown a no-hitter.
You know the game is bizarre when Kluber, a two-time Cy Young winner, pitches just one inning for the Rangers last year with a shoulder tear, and then pitches nine no-hit innings against them.
Robinson Chirinos, who caught that lone inning and is now on the Yankees’ taxi squad, made sure to remind Kluber of the irony.
“Chirinos came up to me," Kluber said, “and said, ‘Congratulations. It was a lot better than the last time you were on the mound here,’ which I hadn’t thought about at that point in time.”
The Rangers, by their own count, hit just two balls hard the entire evening.
“It was a lot of fun,’’ said Kluber, who threw 71 of his 101 pitches for strikes. “I’ve never been part of one, witnessed one, let alone throw one. More than anything, just a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Well, 234 active players have already witnessed or pitched a no-hitter just seven weeks into the season, so by the time this season ends, there will be thousands who can share the same experience.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a two-time Cy Young winner like Kluber, or a pitcher who was non-tendered last year like Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox, everyone’s throwing them these days.
Instead of being thrilling theater, the no-hitter has become too common to watch.
“It’s unbelievable,’’ Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I’m watching games now where no one puts the ball in play for three or four innings.’’
And night after night, everyone is watching games where no one can produce a single hit for nine innings.
Good theatre has turned into dull tragedy.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
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