Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter Tuesday night was just so unoriginal. The White Sox countered the struggling Minnesota Twins ace with a pitcher that tossed his own no-hitter as an Arizona Diamondback last season. Ironically, Liriano’s no-hitter closely resembled Edwin Jackson’s history-maker. The common thread between them, however, is less obvious than it may seem, but it exposes a growing trend in professional baseball.
First, let’s acknowledge the similarities between the two no-no’s of Liriano and Jackson. First and foremost, strikeout-to-walk ratio. Each pitcher walked more opposing batters than they struck out for a combined K/BB ratio of 8/14 or 0.57. Typically, the average K/BB ratio among MLB pitchers hovers around 2.0, and as you’d expect, it is much better in no-hitters. Because of the high walk totals, each pitcher threw over 120 pitches (Jackson’s 149 pitches are the most ever thrown in a no-hitter). Both pitchers won the game 1-0 on the road with the tying run on base in the 9th inning.
But hidden behind the numbers and the comparisons are the eight other men on the field when that 27th out was recorded. When a pitcher puts that many men on base and allows that many balls to be put in play, he has to rely on his teammates. Jackson needed help from catcher Miguel Montero and third basemen Mark Reynolds to etch his name in the record books. Likewise, Liriano’s effort was boosted by a controversial double play in the 8th inning and a masterful pick and throw by Danny Valencia in the 7th. Three double plays also aided the southpaw.
It seems that no-hitters have become increasingly more common in the past few years. There could be many explanations for this phenomenon, but I believe the real reason lies beyond the pitcher or the opposing hitters. According to historical data, fielding percentage has been rising steadily. Because fielding methods have improved over time, major leaguers commit fewer errors. With solid defense backing them up, Jackson and Liriano completed the feat without inducing a large amount of swings and misses.
This is not to rain on Liriano’s parade. He pitched a wonderful game. His pitches had a lot of movement and he kept his composure throughout the game.
Nonetheless, this was a team no-hitter tonight, something Edwin Jackson can relate to.