Last night, I was scrolling Twitter as the dulcet tones of Schitt’s Creek provided a backdrop to my evening. In short, I was doing nothing. As the late night baseball game out west between the Seattle Mariners and and the Detroit Tigers wore on, I started seeing familiar tweets in my timeline — we were on no-hitter watch… again.
I let out an audible “meh” to nobody but myself and my dogs, and I kept scrolling. I then immediately looked up from my phone, muttered, “Whoa,” and realized how shockingly sad it is that I would rather re-watch Schitt’s Creek than turn on a potential no-hit bid. I was immediately consumed with shame and frustration.
What happened? No-hitters used to be a magical thing in baseball. I remember watching SportsCenter as a kid with a glove on my left hand, tossing a baseball into it with the other. Stuart Scott would be waxing on poetically, as he was apt to do, commentating on some ridiculous play with a “booyah” or a “cool as the other side of the pillow,” and they would cut in with a “no-hitter watch,” often times taking you live to the game.
It was a big moment. It mattered.
Not last night. As Spencer Turnbull worked over the Mariners, dropping their season batting average below the Mendoza line (yikes), he finished the night off with a strikeout, wrapping up his first career no-hitter, and the first from a Tigers pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2011.
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(By the way, Mario Mendoza was special for hitting under .200. It’s not so sacred if an entire team is doing it.)
Honestly, the greatest accomplishment last night might have been that umpire Angel Hernandez didn’t fuck it up.
How many 2021 no-hitters is that now?
This is already the sixth no-hitter this year if you count Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning hitless, scoreless appearance, which you certainly should. That game was a part of a double-header, with both games scheduled for seven innings. He was credited with a complete-game, he didn’t give up a hit, yet it’s not a no-hitter? Sure, MLB, that makes sense.
I digress. We’ll play by MLB’s stupid rules. Putting Bumgarner’s aside, we already have five no-no’s. It’s May 19. The record for nine-inning no-hitters in a single season is seven. There were only 11 days between no-hitters, which as my colleague Jesse Spector pointed out on Twitter, wasn’t the second-longest gap between no-hitters this year.
If we count Bumgarner’s no-hitter, there have been as many no-hitters thrown this year as five-hit games by a hitter. Between 2016 and 2020, there were 113 five-hit games, and 11 no-hitters.
The stats continue to pile on this year, highlighting the fact that baseball is rapidly spinning out of control in favor of pitchers. Contact is becoming a thing of the past. The league team batting average so far in 2021 is .236. In 2018 it was .248. In 2016 it was .255. Contact is decreasing, strikeouts are increasing, and baseball viewers are being desensitized to the no-hitter as a result.
MLB has a problem, and they better start getting innovative in how to fix it.