Let's just say it: We might be in for another crazy no-hitter year. We went through a no-hitter downturn in 2016 and '17 -- in large part because so many home runs were being hit. You can see it clearly when you look at the entire decade:
2010: Five no-hitters
2011: Three no-hitters
2012: Six no-hitters
2013: Three no-hitters
2014: Four no-hitters
2015: Seven no-hitters
2016: One no-hitter
2017: One no-hitter
Those seven no-hitters in 2015 is a record -- well, there were actually seven no-hitters in '12, but one of them was delivered by six Seattle pitchers, so we'll not count that one. In all, there have been 31 individual pitcher no-hitters in this decade, and the decade isn't over yet. This is more than double what baseball had in the 2000s (14).
Those numbers, as mentioned, have been down lately. But less than a month into the 2018 season, there are signs that the no-hitter alerts on our phones might be buzzing. There has already been one no-hitter (Oakland's Sean Manaea against the Red Sox) and a whole bunch of near no-hitters.
And the trends are pointing toward a no-hitter year. It's only April, sure, and the weather has been terrible, which affects bats in a big way. But even if you compare April to April, batting average is down six points to .241 and strikeouts are way up to an all-time high of 8.87 per nine innings. More strikeouts equals lower average equals more potential no-hitters.
Home runs countered this trend somewhat the last couple of years. Last year there were five games where a team managed only one hit ... but it was a home run. That was a record. Well, home runs are down somewhat in 2018. Look out below.
With all this no-hitter talk, we thought it would be fun for this Throwback Thursday to look at ... the worst no-hitters ever thrown. Here's the caveat: There is no such thing as a bad no-hitter, but some are better than others. We are so used to lists of the best-pitched no-hitters in baseball history. Well, what about the roughest ones?
Here we go:
1. Matt Young, Red Sox vs. Indians, April 12, 1992
Unofficial:8 IP, 2 ER, 7 BB, 6 K's, 6 SB
Final score: Indians 2, Red Sox 1
Young only pitched eight innings, so it was not an "official" no-hitter. Someone asked him after the game if he had a different word for it.
"Purgatory," Young said.
This was a nutty game, and it was that way right from the start. Young walked Kenny Lofton to lead off the first. Lofton promptly stole second. During a strikeout of Glenallen Hill, Lofton stole third. Lofton scored on a ground ball (the ball ended up being booted for an error but he would have scored anyway).
So 1-0 Cleveland, and Young has given up an earned run but no hits.
In the third, Young walked Mark Lewis and Lofton. Lewis moved over on a ground ball and then scored on another ground ball. Young had given up two earned runs but still had not given up a hit.
And so it went. Young walked Lofton three times, and Lofton stole four bases. Young threw 120 pitches over eight grueling innings. He did not pitch the ninth because Cleveland had already won the game. But Young never did give up a hit.
"It's irrelevant," Young said about not getting the opportunity to pitch the ninth, "because we lost the game. A no-hitter's supposed to be where you strike out the last guy, and the catcher comes out and jumps in your arms."
When someone asked him how he felt about it not being considered a no-hitter -- this was just a few months after a committee came up with the rule that a no-hitter had to be at least nine innings -- Young shrugged.
"I don't feel I pitched that well," he said. "But they didn't get any hits. And the game's over."
2. Edwin Jackson, Diamondbacks vs. Rays, June 25, 2010
9 IP, 0 R, 8 BB, 6 K's, 1 HBP, 149 pitches
Final score: D-backs 1, Rays 0
The headline in the Arizona Republic the next day was "NO-HIT WONDER," which, well, it was that. It's a wonder that Jackson made it out of the first three innings, to be honest. He walked seven those first three innings, including the bases loaded with nobody out in the third.
How did Jackson get out of that? He then coaxed a short fly ball that didn't score a run.
And then something remarkable happened. Melvin Upton Jr. and Hank Blalock both grounded out. That in itself is not remarkable but what is remarkable is that they each did it on the first pitch of the at-bat. We'll get back to that in a moment.
Jackson threw 70 pitches those first three innings. Seventy! What do you think the odds were that a guy who had seven walks and had thrown 70 pitches in three innings would end up throwing a no-hitter? They have to be astronomical. It's almost impossible to conceive.
But Jackson became a different pitcher after the third. He retired 13 of the next 14 batters (with only a hit batter in the process) and he worked around an error in the eighth and a walk in the ninth to finish off one of the craziest no-hitters in baseball history.
But let's get back to Upton and Blalock for a second. Seriously, the guy has walked seven in three innings. His pitch count is out of control. The bases are loaded. How could you possibly bail him out by swinging at the first pitch of each at-bat?
3. A.J. Burnett, Marlins vs. Padres, May 12, 2001
9 IP, 0 R, 9 BB, 7 K's, 1 HBP, 3 SB
Final score: Marlins 3, Padres 0
This is the most walks in a nine-inning no-hitter. Jim Maloney, who did not make this list, walked 10 in his no-hitter in 1965, but he pitched 10 innings -- it's hard to put a 10-inning no-hitter on the worst list.
Burnett admitted after the game that his command was not sharp at all. He got into trouble almost every inning with his wildness and inability to keep runners on. In the second, Burnett put runners on first and second with nobody out, but he got a double play to get out of the mess. In the third, he had two walks, a wild pitch and allowed a stolen base so there were runners on second and third with one out. Burnett got a key strikeout of Ryan Klesko and then got Dave Magadan to fly out.
Fourth inning, Burnett walked one and hit a batter but got out of the inning with a couple of strikeouts. Eighth inning, he again walked two in the inning and allowed a stolen base before escaping. It was a 129-pitch tightrope act (only 65 were strikes), but he got stronger in the ninth and got a 1-2-3 inning to finish the job.
"I felt good all night," Burnett told reporters. "And the closer it got, the more confident I was."
4. Dock Ellis, Pirates vs. Padres, June 12, 1970
9 IP, 0 R, 8 BB, 6 K's, 1 HBP
Final score: Pirates 2, Padres 0
This is the famous (or infamous) LSD game. Ellis had dropped acid earlier in the day and still went out and no-hit San Diego.
As Ellis' version of the story goes, he woke up in Los Angeles at noon. He was to start a 6 p.m. game in San Diego, the first in a twilight doubleheader, but he didn't know that. Ellis thought that he was pitching the next day. So it seemed a good time to take acid. A little while later, the girl he was with told him that, no, actually, he was pitching that evening.
She somehow got Ellis to the airport, he somehow flew to San Diego and somehow got to the ballpark. It is unclear -- even to Ellis in the ensuing years -- how any of that happened.
Ellis would say that he was high and gone the entire game; he couldn't feel the baseball or even see the catcher. He remembered almost nothing from the game except for a few trippy things like: "I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home-plate umpire."
Ellis couldn't throw strikes, but the Padres couldn't get a hit. The no-hitter was saved by second baseman Bill Mazeroski, who made a spectacular diving catch on a Ramon Webster line drive. The rest of it was a blur with lots of walks, and Ellis finished it off with a strikeout of Ed Spiezio to clinch the LSD no-no.
5. David Palmer, Expos vs. Cardinals, April 21, 1984
Unofficial:5 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's (perfect game)
Final score: Expos 4, Cardinals 0
There have been five five-inning complete-game no-hitters thrown, and Palmer joined Rube Vickers and Dean Chance as the only pitchers to throw five-inning perfect games. I chose this one because of the sort of sad controversy that followed it.
This was only Palmer's second game back after a horror-show run of injuries. The game was in St. Louis and it was the second in a doubleheader. The rain started falling hard in the sixth, and the umpires stopped the game with two Expos on (including now Cleveland manager Terry Francona) and nobody out. They delayed for 77 minutes before finally calling it.
The way Palmer understood it, he had just entered the Major League history books.
"It's a five-inning perfect game, but it still goes down as a perfect game," Palmer told reporters afterward. "I'll take it."
It was a cool story -- Palmer had been snakebit his entire big league career. He had pitched very well when he was very young and he looked like a potential star. Then Palmer started having elbow problems that did not stop. He missed all of the 1981 and '83 seasons. He had worked so hard to get back and now, finally, something good was happening.
"I'm hoping all the bad luck is behind me," Palmer said.
Well, OK. Palmer got to enjoy the perfect game for about a week. That's when baseball people started wondering, "How can you call that a perfect game?"
Then the Cardinals started talking about how Palmer was throwing a "mystery pitch" during the game -- "I don't know if he was throwing a spitball or what," manager Whitey Herzog told reporters.
Then on Sept. 30 of that year, Mike Witt threw an actual perfect game, the nine-inning variety, and at that point people mostly stopped thinking of Palmer's feat as an actual perfect game.
Just seven years later, a committee determined that a pitcher has to throw at least nine innings for it to be considered a no-hitter or perfect game. And with that Dave Palmer's perfect game was thrown into the asterisk field.
6. Ed Lafitte, Brooklyn Tip-Tops vs. Kansas City Packers, Sept. 19, 1914
9 IP, 2 R (0 ER), 7 BB, 1 K
Final score: Tip-Tops 6, Packers 2
I'm including this one largely because it's so quirky. Lafitte was pitching in the Federal League -- it was the first of five Federal League no-hitters. Lafitte walked seven. His Tip-Tops committed two errors.
In the words of the Brooklyn Eagle, "The achievement was somewhat tarnished by the fact that the visitors scored two runs against him but there was no question about the absence of a base hit of any description."
There's something else that's fun about this -- it was the first game of a doubleheader. And there was apparently real consideration for Lafitte to pitch the second game, at least until he gave up a hit. This would have given him a chance to do something nobody had ever done or, surely, would ever do again: Pitch two no-hitters on the same day.
Brooklyn manager Bill Bradley decided against it.
7. Ken Holtzman, Cubs vs. Braves, Aug. 19, 1969
9 IP, 0 R, 3 BB, 0 K's
Final score: Cubs 3, Braves 0
Holtzman had come close to a no-hitter twice before ... and he said that he had much better stuff those other two times. Well, what he actually said was that on the day he no-hit the Braves he didn't have his curveball or his changeup or his control. That's quite a way to throw a no-hitter.
What's striking about the no-hitter is that Holtzman did not strike out a single batter in the game. It's the only time since 1923 that a pitcher has thrown a no-hitter without a strikeout.
"I had one pitch, the fastball, and I didn't think I was too fast," Holtzman explained after the game.
The no-hitter was saved when Holtzman did what no pitcher should ever do -- he threw a middle-middle fastball to Hank Aaron in the seventh inning. Aaron didn't miss (how many times in his career do you think Aaron missed a middle-middle fastball?) but the wind was howling in that day. Aaron's ball died in that wind.
"It should have been out of here -- and would have been -- except for the wind," Holtzman said.
8. Johnny Vander Meer, Reds vs. Dodgers, June 15, 1938
9 IP, 0 R, 8 BB, 7 K's
Final score: Reds 6, Dodgers 0
Nobody cared how Vander Meer got this no-hitter, because it was his second in a row, a feat unmatched in baseball history. But he really had to fight to get this one. Perhaps it was the pressure. Vander Meer walked a hitter in the second and third, but he was generally dominant until the seventh, when he walked two batters and needed to get Leo Durocher to ground out to end the inning.
The ninth inning was a carnival. With one out, Vander Meer walked Babe Phelps, Cookie Lavagetto and Dolph Camilli to load the bases. That's when Reds manager Bill McKechnie came to the mound with the crowd shrieking, "DON'T TAKE HIM OUT." McKechnie had no intention of taking him out; instead he told Vander Meer, "Don't worry. Just relax. You'll get this."
And with that, Vander Meer found his control, got Ernie Koy to ground into a forceout at home, and he finished it off by getting Durocher again; this time he hit a lazy fly ball to center for the historic no-no.
Pete Rose loves when people ask him, "Do you think your hit record is the most unbreakable mark in baseball history?" He says, "No. It's Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters. Because to break it you would have to throw three in a row."
9. Chris Heston, Giants vs. Mets, June 9, 2015
9 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K's, 3 HBP
Final score: Giants 5, Mets 0
Heston was a rookie and he was brilliant that day against Noah Syndergaard and the Mets ... except for the hit-batter thing. He hit three batters, the only time a pitcher has done that in a no-hitter the in the last 100 years. Heston actually hit back-to-back Mets in the fourth inning, and it looked like the wheels might be coming off. But he promptly got Michael Cuddyer to ground into a double play, and that saved the day and a little piece of history.
"I'm not sure what just happened," Heston said after the game.
10. Andy Hawkins, Yankees vs. White Sox, July 1, 1990
Unofficial:8 IP, 4 R (0 ER), 5 BB, 3 K's, 1 SB
Final score: White Sox 4, Yankees 0
OK, a couple of points. One, we have included some in here that are not "official" no-hitters because the pitcher did not go nine innings. It's more fun to include them.
Two, Hawkins does not really belong on this list. He was more a victim of circumstance than anything else. Through seven innings, Hawkins was cruising. He retired the first 14 batters that he faced. Then, yes, Hawkins had some control problems -- two walks in the fifth and a walk in the seventh -- but he still looked good.
Eighth inning, Hawkins got the first two batters on infield popouts. Then Sammy Sosa, in his first full season in the big leagues, hit a ground ball to third. Mike Blowers booted it. And the agony began. Sosa stole second. Hawkins walked Ozzie Guillen, which was not an easy thing to do. Guillen walked just 239 times in more than 7,000 plate appearances; he walked once per 30 plate appearances, by far the lowest ratio for any player with that long of a big league career.
But Hawkins walked Guillen, then he walked Lance Johnson to load the bases (Johnson wasn't easy to walk either). Robin Ventura hit a fly ball to rookie left fielder Jim Leyritz. Well, Leyritz wasn't really a left fielder. He was a catcher and a third baseman who Yankees manager Stump Merrill felt comfortable playing everywhere, even during a no-hitter. Leyritz dropped the ball and three runs scored.
"The ball was hit right at me," Leyritz said, "and I made a wrong move."
Then, the finishing touch: Ivan Calderon hit a fly ball to right, where Jesse Barfield played. It was a windy and sunny day. Barfield didn't stand a chance.
"It was brutal out there," Barfield said. "I knew I was in trouble when the ball was hit."
Barfield lost the ball in the sun and dropped it. Because it hit the glove, it was ruled an error (one of the quirks of errors). That's four runs -- but the no-hitter was intact. Hawkins retired Dan Pasqua to make history; the most runs allowed in a no-hitter.