Who Threw the Greatest Regular-Season No-Hitter since 1901?

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Author: Gary Belleville
Date: Spring 2021
From: The Baseball Research Journal(Vol. 50, Issue 1)
Publisher: Society for American Baseball Research
Document Type: Report; List
Length: 6,195 words
Lexile Measure: 1600L

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A pitcher usually needs good command and quality stuff to toss a no-hitter. (1) Stellar fielding and a dollop of good luck doesn't hurt, either. A bad-hop single or a flare off the end of the bat that falls for a hit is all it takes to break one up. Between 1901 and 2020, a no-hitter was thrown in the American, National, or Federal League 263 times. (2) It has been done just once in every 769 regular-season games. (3)

Although joining this exclusive club is a significant accomplishment, some no-hitters are more impressive than others. The two no-hitters thrown under postseason pressure, Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay's no-no in the 2010 NLDS, are truly remarkable. At the other end of the scale are the no-hitters thrown in the dying days of the season against a weak-hitting, second-division club. In extreme cases, a pitcher may have the dubious honor of tossing a no-hitter in a losing cause, which is exactly what happened to Baltimore's Steve Barber when he walked 10 batters in his combined no-hitter with Stu Miller in 1967.

Setting aside the two postseason no-hitters, an interesting question comes to mind: Who threw the greatest regular-season no-hitter since 1901? (4) Some might suggest Max Scherzer's 17-strikeout, zero-walk performance against the New York Mets on October 3, 2015, was the best of them all. I'd argue it may be the most dominant no-hitter of all time, but it's not the greatest. It's probably not even the most commendable no-hitter that Scherzer threw in 2015. Less than four months before his no-no at Citi Field, he no-hit a much stronger Pittsburgh lineup, striking out 10 without walking a single batter.

Rather than focusing on who threw the most dominant no-hitter, this paper will identify a short list of the greatest no-hitters thrown since 1901 based on their difficulty. An objective, quantitative method will be used. The results are not intended to be a definitive list, because different methodologies may lead to different results.

This article will also highlight the particularly noteworthy no-hitters identified and list some of the more interesting bits of trivia uncovered during the data analysis.

METHODOLOGY

The key factor when assessing the difficulty of each no-hitter is the batting average of the hitters in the opposing lineup. Statistics that measure speed, on-base ability, and power are important in generating runs, yet they are less relevant when it comes to breaking up a no-hitter.

The end-of-season batting average will be used for each player instead of the batting average at the time of the no-hitter. This will provide a better measurement of a hitter's ability, since batting averages in early-season no-hitters can be misleading. For example, all Chicago White Sox batters had a .000 batting average immediately after Bob Feller's Opening Day gem in 1940.

Neutralized batting averages ([BA.sub.n]) will be used instead of regular batting averages to eliminate the impact of a player's home ballpark. This will allow, for instance, the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A667587619