The Worst No-Hitters

No-hitters are exactly what their name says they are. They’re games in which a pitcher doesn’t allow a hit. However, that leaves so much unsaid. It doesn’t mention anything about a pitcher’s ability to miss bats, throw with control, keep runners off-base, keep runners from scoring, or even win the game! This is different from a perfect game, which definitively answers all of those questions except the ability to miss bats.

Francisco Liriano’s May 3rd no-hitter was far from perfect. In his 9 innings, he struck out just 2 batters while walking 6. He induced just 6 groundballs for outs (3 were double plays, so they accounted for 9 outs), meaning that left 16 to be either fly balls or line drives. He wasn’t particularly in control, as he threw 66 strikes compared to 57 balls.

Francisco Liriano has had much better games than this one.

Among all 173 no-hitters in games of 9 innings or more (there have been a few thrown in games shortened by weather; some were for as few as 5 innings), Liriano’s does not seem so elite. Game Score, a stat developed by Bill James to describe a pitcher’s overall performance in a game with just one number, ranks Liriano’s no-hitter as the 3rd-worst in history. The two worst were Andy Hawkins (1990 Yankees) and Matt Young (1992 Red Sox). These two were the only ones to lose the game despite throwing no-hitters.

Matt Young lost 2-1 to the Indians because he walked 7 and gave up 6 stolen bases. With runners aboard constantly, a fielder’s choice here and there brought in enough runs for him to lose the ball game. Andy Hawkins, on the other hand, entered the bottom of the 8th with the score 0-0. He got the first two outs of the inning, but an E5 let the final out of the inning reach base instead. Andy then walked his 4th and 5th batters of the game to load the bases with two outs. On consecutive plays, Jim Leyritz in LF and Jesse Barfield in RF made errors on fly balls and 4 runs crossed the plate. Andy Hawkins and the Yankees lost, 4-0.

Matt Young walked 7? Andy Hawkins gave up 4 runs? In no-hitters?! This got me thinking, what are some of the records for bad stats in no-hitters? Here’s what I found:

  • Most Runs (4)- Andy Hawkins. He and Young are the only ones to give up multiple runs, although 10 have given up at least one.
  • Most Walks (10)- Jim Maloney (1965 Reds). He walked 10 batters in a 10 inning game, and also hit a batter. New York favorite AJ Burnett ranks second with his 9-pass performance as a Marlin.
  • Fewest Strikeouts (0) “Sad” Sam Jones (1923 Yankees) and Ken Holtzman (1969 Cubs). All 27 outs put in play. With the league average on balls in play being .300, this is amazingly lucky.
  • Most Hit Batsmen (2) Virgil Trucks (1952 Tigers) and Bo Belinsky (1962 Angels). Before you think they both just lacked control, note that Virgil Trucks walked just one man. Perhaps, with the no-hitter lost in the second inning on an error, Virgil just had it in for the two he hit.
Complete game no-hitters don’t have to be great. For a pitcher to throw one, he doesn’t need to know where the ball is going, since he can walk as many as he wants. He doesn’t need to dominate, since there is no strikeout criterion. He doesn’t need to be good, since frozen rope line drives and warning track bombs can make up all 27 outs theoretically. He doesn’t even need to win.

Andy Hawkins was let down by the Yankees both defensively and offensively.

So why do we celebrate them? Is it because they’re rare? With 173 of them since 1900, they happen every 2/3 of a season, or about once every 4 months. That’s not exceptionally rare. With 231 cycles in history, those happen about once every 3 months. Yet those are not nearly as lauded. Rather, in this man’s humble opinion, no-hitters are overrated.
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