Does A No-Hitter In Baseball Mean Anything Anymore?
When I was 11 years old, I threw a no-hitter in a Little League game. I’d say I was happy when it happened, but I’d be lying. It was actually a pretty ugly performance. The game ended with the score being something like 5-2 and I wouldn’t have even known I had pitched a no-hitter if my coach at the time hadn’t gone back through the box score of the game later that night and called me up after he discovered that I’d actually thrown a no-no thanks to a series of errors, walks, and wild pitches that allowed plenty of base-runners and even a couple runs but no actual hits. Do I look back now and brag about doing it? Um…yeah! But realistically, I threw what had to be one of the ugliest no-hitters in Little League history.
I bring this up because Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson recently threw a no-hitter of his own. And while I wouldn’t exactly compare it to my Little League performance, it was (almost) as ugly. Jackson walked eight batters during the course of the game, hit another and threw a wild pitch. In the third inning of the game, he actually managed to load the bases—with no outs!—before working himself out of a jam. But regardless of the trouble that he ran into, he went on to claim a 1-0 victory and a no-hitter when it was all said and done.
This brings up a number of interesting questions. Should Edwin Jackson’s no-hitter be called something other than a no-hitter? Do you give him credit for his no-hitter? Should walks count against a pitcher who throws a no-hitter? Why are so many pitchers suddenly throwing no-hitters? And the most interesting one to me: Does a no-hitter in baseball mean anything anymore?
Unfortunately, it seems like the answer right now is no. After the rash of perfect games that have occurred in Major League Baseball this year (including one game that should have been a perfect game), it feels like the luster of throwing a no-hitter has worn off.
If you’re not familiar with the sport, there’s a big difference between a no-hitter and a perfect game. A perfect game occurs when you retire all 27 batters you face. They step into the batter’s box and you get them out. No walks. No errors. No baserunners. A no-hitter, on the other hand, can include any number of walks, errors, and even runs—just no hits. So, naturally, there have been just 20 perfect games in Major League Baseball history, compared to more than 250 no-hitters.
When you consider that Major League Baseball has been around for more than 100 years now, that’s still a relatively low number. But when you turn on an episode of ESPN’s SportsCenter and feel like you see a no-hitter every night (amidst all the amazing catches, miracle touchdown passes and half-court buzzer beaters), it’s only natural that all of the no-hitters that are being thrown these days have started to dilute exactly what it means to throw one. And when you consider that a guy like Edwin Jackson can get away with throwing a less-than-perfect game and still manage to throw a no-hitter, it seems even less significant in the grand scheme of the game.
I say all this to prove a point, not to take away from Jackson’s accomplishment. All props to him. Throwing a no-no isn’t easy and it takes a certain amount of skill and luck to work your way into Major League Baseball’s history books. But when you heard that Jackson threw a no-hitter, were you surprised? Impressed? Overtaken with joy over the fact that another guy made a name for himself?
Probably not. Did you immediately put Edwin Jackson’s name up next to Nolan Ryan? Or Roger Clemens? Or Greg Maddux? No, no, and no. Because while a no-hitter used to be a scared thing, it’s gotten to be an all-too-familiar sight and made it far less meaningful than it used to be. No matter how perfect—or imperfect—it might appear to be.