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No No on No Noes

"Nolan (Ryan) says throw it high because amateurs get out there, no matter how good they are, and throw it in the dirt. You get more of an 'oooooo' if you heave it over the head instead of going with the fast breaking deuce into the dirt." - President George Bush

I question if Nolan Ryan threw it high because he wanted, but there's a point here. Ryan and other pitchers don't always throw strikes, they use posturing and foresight to set hitters up for the pitches Bush mentions or a slider that sweeps out of the zone, or a number  of other pitches, but there's a time for intentional wild and then there's extreme wild, or as some would say "wildly effective". I've heard the latter term thrown out by Chip Carray when discussing Kerry Wood a few times due to his high hit batsmen rates, Wood also struck out 20 one time and if not for  Ricky Gutierrez would've had a no-hitter.

As I mentioned in the Nolan Ryan comments I wanted to use that piece as a set-up for one about pitcher control and no-hitter frequency. Essentially my theory is that pitchers with iffy control are more prone to throw a no-hitter than their more accurate counterparts. Obviously a few questions must be answered before we look at the data.

I’m defining good control as pitchers with BB/9 below the league average of the given year. As for timeframe we’ll go with 1970 and beyond, also this piece is solely about no-hitters, meaning I threw all the perfect games out the window, along with the combined no hitters, because as you know I hate when people share credit that just complicates matters more.


The data I did collect included the pitcher’s BB/9 ratios for that given season for each of the 71 cases.


On the graph the yellow line represents league average (separated by NL/AL) since 1970 and the blue represents the pitcher's BB/9 during that given year. The two radicals you see are Nolan Ryan and Milt Pappas, with Ryan's BB/9 being 6 and Pappas' at 1.34. Interestingly Ryan is the example who sparked my interest in the idea of wild pitchers throwing more no hitters, and it's no surprise that he holds 6 of the 20 "wildest" no hitters.

Of the 71, 30 were marked as "wild", leaving 41 as "control", below I've listed the top 10 of each type:

Control Wild
Milt Pappas (1972) Nolan Ryan (1975)
Jerry Reuss (1980) Nolan Ryan (1974)
Ken Forsch (1979) Jim Bibby (1973)
Dennis Eckersley (1977) Al Leiter (1996)
Derek Lowe (2002) Randy Johnson (1990)
Mark Buehrle (2007) Dwight Gooden (1996)
Dick Bosman (1974) Wilson Alvarez (1991)
Bret Saberhagen (1991) Juan Nieves (1987)
Terry Mulholland (1990) Joe Cowley (1986)
Rick Wise (1971) Nolan Ryan (1973)

 So my theory was inaccurate, but I'd like to think we at least learned that pitchers can be effective and still reach the holy grail of in game accomplishments.

"There's not that type of pitcher anymore. They're few and far between. If you look at the pitchers who pitched no-hitters, you're talking about a potential no-hitter every time they went out there. Who can you name today whom you'd say he can pitch a no-hitter?"  --Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson

What we can draw from the pitchers who have thrown no-hitters is that a there a certain aspect of luck is needed. Despite that if I have to guess which pitcher would throw a no-hitter this season, I'd go with Brandon Webb.