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Will we see a No-Hitter in the Month of April?
There have been sixty-six (65 regular-season, one post-season) no-hitters thrown in Major League Baseball this millennium, with the majority (62.1%) happening before the All-Star break. In 2021 we saw the record set for no-hitters in the modern era with nine, (10 if you count Madison Bumgarner allowing 0 hits against Atlanta on April 25th, 2021 as part of a 7-inning doubleheader) and recent years have suggested no-hitters are becoming more common than ever before.
Starting in 2010 MLB really saw an influx of pitchers add their names to the record books, with a total of 6 no-no’s that year. The trend carried on with seven no-hitters in 2012, five in 2014, and seven in 2015, before a lull from 2016-18. In 2019 MLB saw a total of 4 no-hitters and the Covid-shortened 2020 season even saw a couple. This was a dramatic increase compared to the previous decade which averaged 1.5 no-hitters per season. This increase has been attributed to a myriad of reasons including; the rise of analytics allowing pitchers to have more feedback and attack the batters more effectively, defensive shifts that take away hits, and the increasingly common all or nothing (home-run or strike-out) approach to hitting.
The 2021 season started out with an unprecedented rate of no-hitters. Joe Musgrove and Carlos Rodón started the party off with a pair of no-no’s in April and the month of May followed with four more from the arms of John Means, Wade Miley, Spencer Turnbull, and Corey Kluber. Following MLB’s ban on sticky stuff in early June, spin rates declined across MLB and only two no-hitters were thrown in the second half of the season. MLB sent all 30 ballclubs a memo on March 25th, 2022 stating they will be cracking down even harder on sticky stuff in the upcoming ’22 season, citing data that suggest pitchers may have found a way to circumvent the checks.
Pitching staffs are often said to have an early season advantage due to a variety of reasons. Cold and dry weather conditions result in a decrease in the flight distance of a batted ball when compared to those batted in warm and humid conditions. Pitchers are also typically slightly ahead of batters in terms of readiness to start the season after spring training. Pitchers have used the last few weeks to get stretched out, as have batters to work on their timing and seeing the ball, it seems like a fair trade-off but pitchers are primarily working on bulking up their pitch counts and refining their repertoire, not necessarily focused on making batters miss.
With that information in mind, one might expect April to be the most common month for no-hitters to take place. However, that isn’t quite the case as you can see from the table below.
Since the year 2000, May has been the most common month for no-hitters to take place with nearly a quarter of regular-season no-hitters thrown during the month. May 2019 also saw the highest number of no-hitters thrown in a single calendar month with four (two of which were thrown on back-to-back days).
With an abbreviated spring training preceding the 2022 regular season, it will be interesting to see the dynamic between pitcher and hitter once games get underway. Several pitching staffs are electing to start the season on an unconventional six-man rotation to curtail the injury risk for their starters. This means teams may be more heavily reliant on their bullpen to start the season than in years past and with 28-man rosters for the month of April, most clubs are using those extra roster spots for pitching depth.
If we see a no-hitter in the month of April, it will likely come in the form of a combined no-no, utilizing both a starter and at least one relief pitcher given the injury concerns facing starting pitchers following a shorter than average spring training. Last season we saw two combined no-hitters, one from the Cubs staff v. Dodgers in late June and another from Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader against Cleveland in mid-September.
Out of all 30 teams, two teams stand out in their likelihood to be on the winning end of a no-hitter in the early days of the ’22 season. In the American League, Tampa has a relatively mild schedule to start the season. The Ray’s top two starters, Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen will face the Orioles, A’s and Cubs over their first three starts, and none of these line-ups are capable of striking fear into the heart of opposing pitchers.
In the National League, keep your eyes on Atlanta. If the Max Fried that pitches for Atlanta this season pitches like Max Fried in game 6 of the World Series, opposing hitters are going to be in for a long night when he is on the mound. Atlanta starts the season off with a particularly soft schedule as well. Fried is expected to make starts against the Reds, Nationals, and Cubs before the end of April. Fun Fact, the last no-hitter thrown by an Atlanta pitcher was April 8th, 1994.
A no-hitter in April is not impossible or even an improbable feat, but with so many teams employing an injury prevention approach to their pitcher usage this season, it will be difficult. The more relievers called upon to keep a no-hitter intact, the lower the odds of actually accomplishing the feat. For that reason don’t expect a no-hitter until the month of May.
The Magic Baseball Says: Don’t Count On It
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Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)