This no-hitter comes on the heels of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, in which the MLB instituted seven-inning doubleheader games to save the participating teams four cumulative innings of work. Last year also featured the first implication of the extra-innings runner rule, where a runner is placed on second at the start of every half inning in extras to speed up the pace of the game.
How to treat Madison Bumgarner’s no hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks
All of this is to say that the MLB has undergone a host of changes in the past 365 days or so, give or take a few.
Bumgarner struck out seven of the 21 batters he faced, walked none and, with a 5-0 lead after the first frame, kept the calculated win probability for Arizona above 87% the entire rest of the game. If not for an error by Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed in the second, Bumgarner would’ve been perfect: incredibly hard to do on any day, regardless of a start’s duration.
The veteran pitcher took it from there, retiring the last 17 batters in a row and shutting down a potent Braves lineup.
It seems weird to say that MadBum had not yet thrown a no-hitter in his storied career: since landing in the MLB with the San Francisco Giants more than a decade ago, heir apparent to a rotation that featured the likes of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain, Bumgarner became the Bay Area team’s long-tenured workhorse before joining the D-backs prior to 2020.
His three World Series rings with the Giants speak for, as does his legendary pitching performance in the 2014 Fall Classic: 2-0, a 0.43 ERA and 17 strikeouts, all on top of a relief appearance to win Game 7.
Yet no perfect game or no-hitter gleams on his already-blinding resume.
No, the seven-inning games aren’t what we’re used to, but it’s what we have for now. There’s some merit to the argument that a seven-inning no-hitter shouldn’t count, since plenty of pitchers have gone that distance before losing the no-no in the eighth or ninth, but those games were nine innings. This was seven.
If other stats count towards players’ totals – be it the alteration of a pitcher’s ERA, a player hypothetically breaking the single-season home run record this year, one (or several) of which were hit in these shortened games or even a single that slightly changes someone’s batting average – shouldn’t Bumgarner (or anyone else’s) excellence on the mound be recognized within the parameters he was playing within?
The game was seven innings. Bumgarner no-hit the Braves for all seven frames.
It should count, even if certain aspects of the game as we now know it have changed. Same with the runner on second rule. Many aren’t exactly fans of it (myself included), but if it helps a team win, that win counts in the record books, right?
So add Madison Bumgarner to the 2021 list with Joe Musgrove and Carlos Rodon; perhaps with an asterisk to indicate the difference and the change in how doubleheaders are played as of 2020 and onward, but add him nonetheless.