If you have paid attention to Major League Baseball at all so far this season, you likely know how regularly we have already been seeing no-hitters. If you’re a baseball novice that has just started watching this season, you may not fully understand how rare these events typically are.
To break it down, a no-hitter is when a pitcher allows no hits during a game. However, they have let batters on base by walks, or by being hit by a pitch. Something even more rare than no-hitters are perfect games, where the game is truly perfect. Meaning, no hits, no walks, no runners on base, period.
With that being said, both a no-hitter and perfect games are still mostly rare, but recent years have definitely seen an uptick in no-hitters. However, to put 2021 into perspective, more no-hitters have already been thrown this season than in 2019, where four were thrown that year, and even that seemed like a lot. We aren’t even two months into this season.
So far, there have been five no-hitters thrown: Padres’ Joe Musgrove against the Texas Rangers, White Sox’s Carlos Rodon against the Cleveland Indians, Orioles’ John Mean against the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds’ Wade Miley against Cleveland, and Detroit Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull against Seattle. So, not only have there already been five no-hitters this season, but two teams — Seattle and Cleveland — have been no-hit twice. Also, there is technically a sixth no-hitter by Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who threw seven no-hit innings during a doubleheader. A newer rule, though, shortens doubleheader games to just seven innings, so he technically did pitch a no-hitter, being that it was a complete game under those circumstances.
Now, all of this brings us to the big question: why are no-hitters becoming increasingly common? Upon doing my own research and of course, just watching games, I do not have a straight answer. Players like Andrew McCutchen have speculated it may just be the way the game is changing. More players are swinging for the fences, and that results in more strikeouts. On top of that, the league’s current batting average is .236, just barely up from an average of .234 earlier this month, which was an all-time low. And, with the defensive shift also becoming more common in games, it limits the room a hitter has to make impactful contact with the ball. Now, this is not to take away from the talent of a pitcher to be able to carry the weight of going all nine innings without a hit, and the ability to pitch a complete game in general, but all signs also point to it being the best time for a pitcher to be able to do so.
Of course, these are all things that can change, as more players and fans are calling for a ban of the shift, which would obviously open up opportunities for hitters, and if MLB eventually implements a universal designated hitter, that would be one slot for every National League team that could potentially increase chances for a hit. If anything, an increase in no-hitters, even if just for the moment, is bringing more excitement to baseball, and could potentially even bring in more fans in the long run.