Who will throw MLB’s next no-hitter? These 8 pitchers fit most likely description
This has been the year of the no-hitter — and it’s only May.
Already, six pitchers have gone the full nine innings without allowing a hit. Add in a seven-inning, no-hitter from Madison Bumgarner, which MLB is not recognizing as an official no-no, and 2021 would already have tied the record for most no-hitters in a season. As of May 21, it seems almost certainly like the record of seven will be broken this year.
But take a look at who so far owns these pieces of history: Joe Musgrove, Carlos Rodon, John Means, Wade Miley, Spencer Turnbull and Corey Kluber. That’s not exactly Jacob DeGrom, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Yu Darvish.
So who could throw the next no-hitter? That could be hard to predict. Betting markets would likely put the odds on a DeGrom or Darvish type of arm, but in the sample size of seven no-hitters — yes, Bumgarner’s getting credit for his gem on the mound — those pitchers don’t look like the ones who have blanked teams in the hit column.
In a time when velocity is at a premium, none of the pitchers who have thrown a no-hitter would be considered fireballers. Rodon is the only pitcher to average more than 94 mph on a fastball, as he sits at 95 mph, according to Baseball Savant.
He, Means and Turnbull are also the only pitchers who use a fastball more than 35 percent of the time, and only Miley and Turnbull have fewer than three inches of horizontal movement on their heaters. Means is the only pitcher who doesn’t throw a slider or cutter more than 20 percent.
The hurlers also check in above-average in both soft-hit percentage and outside swing rates, with the exception of Bumgarner. Means and Bumgarner are also the only two pitchers to not generate at least a 40 percent ground ball rate.
So who are some other pitchers who might fit this profile of soft-tossing, pitch-to-contact arms? With the data available on the seven pitchers who’ve tossed no-nos so far this season, we’re going to take a stab at who most closely matches the profile of those arms. Here’s the criteria we looked for when putting together this list (pitchers needed to meet at least four of the five):
Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians
All right, so this list isn’t exactly starting out with a real sleeper. Bieber, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has once again been one of the most dominant pitchers in the game this season. But he’s not like other aces in the league who hit triple-digits.
Bieber’s fastball averages just 93 mph, but it’s got plenty of movement, showing 10 inches of horizontal break. It’s his most-used pitch, but at 35.6 percent usage, it’s not a common weapon for him. He also mixes in a slider at 26.6 percent of the time. Batters chase him out of the zone 32.3 percent of the time and make soft contact 16.9 percent of the time. Batters hit ground ball outs
Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins
After making a compelling case to be considered for the Cy Young Award last year, Maeda has struggled in 2021 to the tune of a 5.26 ERA. But does he fit the profile of the other pitchers in the 2021 no-hitter club? Based on our model, he actually seems to be one of the closest fits.
His heater is used just 22.6 percent of the time and he slings it through the zone at an average of 91.1 mph with 7.5 inches of horizontal break. His primary pitch? That’d be a slider he throws at a 40.8 percent rate. Batters are hitting the ball on the ground in 42.3 percent of batted ball events and 20.2 percent of the contact against him is soft. He’s also getting hitters to chase 30.7 percent of his pitches. The problem? Well, he’s getting hit hard 46 percent of the time.
Jordan Montgomery, New York Yankees
Another pitcher who has been inconsistent to this point in the season, Montgomery has what it takes, based on 2021’s group of pitchers, to twirl a no-no.
Montgomery hardly ever uses a four-seam fastball, throwing his 92.6 mph pitch just 12.1 percent of the time, but it’s got seven inches of horizontal break. Batters swing at pitches out of the zone 31.3 percent of the time against him and roll over on grounders 43 percent of the time. His hard-hit rate is only sitting at 35.3 percent as well, so it’s possible the owner of a 4.75 ERA has just been a little unlucky this season.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto Blue Jays
It might be less surprising to see Hyun-Jin Ryu on this list than some others. He’s pitched to an ERA below 3.00 each season since 2017 and has a 2.51 ERA this year.
The 34-year-old southpaw has been a perfect example of how velocity isn’t always needed to dominate lineups. His heater checks in at a steady 89.5 mph, but it gets 10.8 inches of horizontal movement. He uses it 28.6 percent of the time while often turning to his cutter, which he throws 25.5 percent of the time. Batters hit ground balls at a 48.5 percent clip and he elicits soft contact 16.4 percent of the time. Perhaps most impressively about his season so far, batters are chasing at a rate of 32.5 percent, which puts him in the 88th percentile, according to Baseball Savant.
Martin Perez, Boston Red Sox
This has been a breakout season for Perez, who to this point has racked up an ERA of 3.40, the first time he’s pitched below 4.00 since 2013. Could a no-hitter be next?
Perez doesn’t use a straight four-seamer very often — just 9.9 percent of the time, and he throws it at 93.3 mph. It gets 10.6 inches of horizontal break. But his favorite pitch gets plenty of movement, as he prefers to turn to a cutter that gets 22.6 inches of drop and that he throws 34 percent of the time. Batters are rolling over and hitting grounders 41.7 percent of the time and making soft contact a whopping 20.7 percent of the time, the highest rate of his career. Batters aren’t chasing as often as with other pitchers, however, swinging out of the zone 23.7 percent of the time.
Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants
It’s been quite the surprising start to the season for the Giants, and in large part they can thank their starting rotation for becoming one of baseball’s best. Certainly not the ace of the staff, Webb has been a valuable contributor — and he looks like someone who could have himself a no-hitter at some point.
He uses his 93.1 mph fastball only 15.3 percent of the time, more often turning to his slider, which he uses at a 22.6 percent rate. When he does use his fastball, it gets 8.7 inches of break. Batters chase his pitches 31.5 percent of the time outside the zone and he has racked up a 58.7 percent ground ball rate and 22.3 percent soft-contact rate.
Alex Wood, San Francisco Giants
A team hasn’t had two separate starting pitchers throw a no-hitter in the same season since 2014, when Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw each delivered one for the Dodgers. Could Wood and Webb both have no-nos in 2021?
Wood seems exactly like the soft-tossing lefty profile that has already produced a couple this year. He throws a sinker 40 percent of the time that checks in at 91.6 mph and he throws a slider 34.2 percent of the time. That sinker gets 16 inches of horizontal break. He’s posted a ridiculous 61.5 percent ground ball rate this year and batters have made soft contact 20.4 percent of the time. Wood has also seen batters swing at pitches outside the zone 35.5 percent of the time.
Ryan Yarbrough, Tampa Bay Rays
One of the biggest obstacles for Yarbrough might just be whether he can start — and finish — the game. The Rays have had him start five games this season and enter as a long reliever on bullpen days four times. In his five starts, he has yet to pitch more than six innings. Flirt with a no-hitter, though, and maybe he gets to finish what he started.
Another starter who doesn’t use a traditional four-seam fastball, Yarbrough throws a sinker 11.4 percent and a cutter 44.4 percent of the time. His sinker gets 14.1 inches of horizontal break while the cutter has a drop of 33.5 inches. Batters are chasing 28.6 percent of his pitches outside the zone. Yarbrough has pitched to 38.3 percent ground ball and 21.7 percent soft-contact rates.
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