Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Geek Out Stat: A New Dead-Ball Era?

     Yesterday, New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey threw his second consecutive one-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles in a 5-0 win. He struck out 13 O's while walking two in a complete game shutout and was the first MLB pitcher to throw back-to-back one-hitters in nearly 24 years. The knuckle baller matched his previous outing last Wednesday at Tampa in which he threw a complete game and a one-hitter against the Rays. He struck out twelve in a 9-1 win that would make Tim Wakefield and Steve Sparks blush. In fact, he almost had a no-hitter in that game when MLB decided to review Rays center fielder B.J. Upton's single in the first inning. The play consisted of Mets third baseman David Wright being unable to field the ball with his bare hand and the play was ruled a hit for Upton (MLB declined to overturn the call). Nevertheless, Dickey's performance as of late has been second-to-none and has even conjured talks of Dickey possibly winning a Cy Young. His knuckleballs are hitting 80 MPH on the gun. The average knuckleball goes at 68 MPH. The 37-year-old has an ERA of 2.00 while striking out 103 and has a record of 11-1 for the season. Did I mention that his WHIP is 0.89?
     But Dickey wouldn't have been the first Met to throw a no-hitter. Teammate Johan Santana threw a no-no on June 1st versus St. Louis where despite walking five Cardinals, he struck out eight in a 8-0 win. That game had a close call that was quite similar to Upton's infield single last Wednesday. In the sixth inning of Santana's gem, Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran hit a line drive over third base that ended up hitting the foul line. The ball was ruled foul by third base umpire Adrian Johnson despite the rule that any ball that hits the foul line should be ruled a fair ball.
     Overall, this is turning out to be "The Year of the Pitcher". We've already seen:

  • Two perfect games 
    • April 21, White Sox RHP Philip Humber at Seattle (4-0 win); threw 96 pitches and struck out nine.
    • June 13, Giants RHP Matt Cain vs. Houston (10-0 win); threw 125 pitches and struck out 14.
  • Two no-hitters
    • May 2, Angels RHP Jered Weaver vs. Minnesota (9-0 win); threw 111 pitches, struck out nine and walked just one.
    • June 1, Mets LHP Johan Santana vs. St. Louis (8-0 win); First no-hitter in Mets' history.
  • A combined no-hitter; June 8, six Seattle Mariners pitchers combined to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 1-0 victory.
    • SP Kevin Millwood: Six innings pitched, one walk and six strikeouts; left the game after six innings with a mild right groin strain.
    • RP Charlie Furbush: 2/3 IP and a strikeout.
    • RP Stephen Pryor: 1/3 IP, two walks and a strikeout; Pryor was the winning pitcher in this game.
    • RP Lucas Luetge: 1/3 IP; Luetge got his fourth hold of the year.
    • RP Brandon League: 2/3 IP and a strikeout; League got his third hold of the season.
    • CL Tom Wilhelmsen: One IP; Wilhelmsen recorded his third save of the year.
     But it's not like this trend only began this year. 2011 saw three no-hitters thrown that year, all by American League pitchers. The year before that, there were six no-hitters which include two perfect games and a no-hitter during the postseason (Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay threw both the postseason no-hitter and one of the perfect games). What's even more interesting is that Halladay's postseason no-no against Cincinnati is only one of three no-hitters thrown after July in the past five years. Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has already thrown two goose eggs in his career and came close to throwing a third one on May 18th against the Pirates.
     It seems like throwing a no-hitter is becoming just as easy as throwing 300 yards in an NFL game. Since 2007, there has been 21 no-hitters with four of those being perfect games and one a combined no-hitter. According to the Baseball Almanac, MLB has seen the league batting average dip in the last twelve seasons. It's gone from .271 in 1999 to .255 in 2011. As a matter of fact, the strikeouts per game has risen by almost a whole in that same time frame (From 6.41 in 1999 to 7.10 in in 2011) while the league's average on-base percentage has gone down as well (From .345 in 1999 to .321 in 2011). Is this the dawn of a new era? Maybe. But I bet that the New York Yankees are a little peeved by all of these no-hitters!

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