Adam R. Rosen
The 2021 Major League Baseball season has been quite an odd one, and it’s only the middle of May. We’ve seen some incredible storylines, including Yermín Mercedes breaking out with a historic 8-for-8 to start the season, and continuing to hit well. Byron Buxton finally breaking out as a hitter, Corbin Burnes pitching out of his mind, setting the record for most strikeouts without a walk to start a season, and more.
However, the biggest headline has to be the insane number of no-hitters that have already occurred this year. It started on April 9th with Joe Musgrove throwing the first no-no in San Diego Padres franchise history, then Carlos Rodón of the White Sox going 8 1/3 perfect innings before hitting a batter but completing the no-hitter. Then John Means of the Baltimore Orioles threw a no-hitter on May 5th, and then two days later, Wade Miley of the Reds threw a no-hitter against Cleveland. That is a total of four no-hitters, and if you include Madison Bumgarner’s hitless outing in a 7-inning complete game doubleheader, (I personally do), that makes it five no-hitters in just over a month.
There have also been numerous no-hit/perfect bids that ended late. Zach Plesac had a no hitter through seven innings, Corbin Burnes and José Berríos both had no-hit bids through six innings against each other, Sean Manaea had a perfect game through six innings on May 7th, and there are several others who could be listed.
There seems to be a genuine loss of interest in no-hitters now though, as some people have said it is happening so often that it no longer feels impressive. To me, that’s outrageous, a no-hitter is always impressive, no matter how poorly the league offenses have been, and it is true, they have been historically bad in terms of batting average this season.
The batting average across all Major League Baseball this season is .234 which is the lowest in MLB history. However, I do not find this to be that big a of a problem, obviously it is a significant decrease from past seasons, but in reality, the league batting average has been going down over the last several years. In 2020 it was .245 and in 2019 it was .252. This is all a part of a general pattern of much better pitching, but also much more aggressive hitters. Hitters are swinging heavier and missing a lot more. We all know that home run rates are going up, which does in fact correlate with strikeout rates skyrocketing. Slugging is .418 which is not truly that terrible.
I do not believe that there is a “no-hitter problem” or that they are becoming less impressive. A no-hitter is still a ridiculously incredible feat, and something that very few people will ever accomplish. I truly believe that the issue is with hitters not adjusting to the pitchers, and the fact that Major League Baseball and Rawlings allegedly tried to “fix” the baseball after it was clearly juiced in previous years, which more than likely contributed to the skyrocketing homerun rates. If a batter believes they can hit a home run with any
swing, imagine how they will feel if the pitcher is dominating. It seems more than likely that a batter like Javier Báez, who is notorious for striking out very often and walking on rare occasions, will swing and miss at any pitch just to try and boost a team up.
This is not a pitching problem, it is a hitting problem, but honestly I do not feel like there is any problem with what is happening this season. I find great pitching to be much more entertaining than great hitting. Great pitching takes incredible dedication, (as does great hitting), but great pitching feels like it comes and goes all the time.
In the case of Carlos Rodón, he had struggled for much of his career due to unfortunate health concerns that plagued him. But this season he has been healthy, and on a one year “prove it deal”, he has exploded onto the scene and broken out. His story has been beautiful to watch, and as somebody who loves the White Sox (yes, I like the Cubs and White Sox, deal with it), it is truly awesome to watch, and even better as a baseball fan, because success stories after unfortunate experiences are beautiful.
So, I hope we see more no-hitters, they are fun to watch, hard to accomplish, and for the pitchers who complete them, they will always get to say one day that they did something very few people have ever or will have ever done.