Week 2 best & worst

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

When I was a teenager and heard that a baseball pitcher tossed a no-hitter, it was a big rush for the afternoon newspaper. There was Rick Wise, Steve Busby, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Nolan Ryan, but those gems were never on TV.

MLB-TV announcers during games now frequently say, “a swing and a miss” by a batter, most times he’s trying to bash the ball over the fence. The game is now on pace for the fewest hits and the most strikeouts in a season in history. Before last weekend, MLB batters struck out 24.1% of their total plate appearances.

As a result, there have been six no-hitters (Joe Musgrove, Carlos Rodon, John Means, Wade Miley, Spencer Turnbull and Corey Kluber) thrown already in the season’s first seven weeks, including four in 15 days and back-to-back no-nos last week by Turnbull and Kluber. Musgrove and Rodon missed perfect games because of hit by pitches, and a strikeout/wild pitch spoiled Means’ perfect game bid. MLB does not recognize Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-hitter against the Braves in the second game of a doubleheader April 25.

It has been 104 seasons since six no-hitters were thrown at this prolific rate before the end of May. There were only six no-hitters thrown from opening day in 2016 through July 11, 2019.

The Rangers, Mariners and the Indians have all been on the receiving end of a pair of gems. Seattle entered Thursday batting .198 with a .639 OPS — both last in the big leagues. Offenses are on the defensive like they haven’t been since 1968, the last season before the mound was lowered from 15 to 10 inches.

The most no-hitters in a season of the modern era (post-1900) is seven. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see around 12-to-14 no-hitters in 2021.

Today’s batters are more concerned about launch angles and modern metrics, especially with defensive shifts designed to outsmart hitters. The common hit-and-run plays and bunting for hits are scarce. In an average three-hour game, there may be only a combined 10 minutes of action. If you want to predate the modern era (19th century), the record for most no-hitters is eight in 1884.

It is strange to note that two of the game’s best pitchers — Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom — have yet to toss a no-hitter in their careers, though it could be a matter of time for both.

Despite the bevy of 2021 no-hitters, it has been nearly nine years since a perfect game was last tossed by the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez on Aug. 15, 2012 — the majors’ longest drought for perfection since between 1968 and 1981.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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