The epidemic of pitching greatness has not yet reached the proportion of Bob Gibson and Denny McLain, but 2012 may yet go down as The Year Of The Pitcher II. No single pitcher is going to compile a 1.12 earned run average like Gibson and no single pitcher is going to win 31 games like McLain, but pitching staffs in the entire American League and the entire National League are taking turns doing their finest imitations.
Flagship carriers of this trend are the pitchers who have thrown five no-hitters this season (and it’s only mid-June!), including two perfect games. The spotlight will always be on the big achievement, and rightly so, but it’s the underlying supporting evidence that leaps out if you are looking. Every day, it seems, there are several low-scoring pitching duels.
Phil Humber threw a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox and Matt Cain threw a perfect game for the San Francisco Giants. You can’t ever say ho-hum about a perfect game when there have been a grand total of 22 in history. No, any witness to such a feat is forever blessed as a baseball fan, and those stroke-of-lightning games are good for the sport.
But really, how many of us would be truly shocked if there is another perfect game this season? We might shake our heads with a smile and say, “Amazing,” which it would be, but the way things are going we won’t be genuinely surprised.
Oh yeah, this year we have also had no-hitters by Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels, Johan Santana of the New York Mets, and what seemed like the entire Seattle Mariners staff (six guys contributed). Heck, we have almost had no-hitters by Johan Santana and Ervin Santana of the Angels (who threw a one-hitter the other day) in the same season. Not that Ervin should be jealous because he already has a no-hitter on his resume.
There have been 277 no-hitters recorded since 1875. The 2010 season was also pretty generous with five. There were seven no-hitters in 1991. Nolan Ryan had one of those, one of the seven in his career. You get the feeling that this year Ryan, who is only 65, could come out of the Texas Rangers’ owner’s box, suit up, and toss one this year. Or come close. Ryan also threw 12 one-hitters.
Among other great years for no-hitters: 1884, when there were eight; 1908, when there were six (Cy Young had one of them); 1915 and 1917, when there were six each. The season of 1968, when Gibson went 22-9 for the Cardinals with 13 shutouts, and McLain went 31-6 for the Tigers, there were actually five no-hitters and neither one of them collected. The Cards scored just 12 runs in Gibson’s defeats–and he was on the losing end of a Gaylord Perry no-hitter.
Baseball is a flukey game, so we may not see another no-hitter in 2012. Or, we may have two in a day. Sunday, pitcher’s duels were everywhere on the baseball map. Some final scores: Baltimore 2, Atlanta 0; Cincinnati 3, Mets 1; Angels 2, Arizona 0; San Diego 2, Oakland 1; Dodgers 2, White Sox 1. Can’t anybody hit anymore?
Cy Young, who retired in 1911 with his record 511 victories and three no-hitters, and died in 1955, probably wishes he was still around. They’re playing his way.
Topics: AL East, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Bob Gibson, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cy Young, Denny McLain, Detroit Tigers, Ervin Santana, Gaylord Perry, Jered Weaver, Johan Santana, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Cain, New York Mets, NL West, No-Hitters, Nolan Ryan, Oakland A's, Perfect Games, Phil Humber, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, St Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers