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Bo Belinsky of No-Hit Fame

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Last week, Jered Weaver threw an absolute gem of a no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins. Weaver's no-no was the 10th in Angels' history, the most by any team since their inception in 1961. The great Nolan Ryan threw four of those 10 no-hitters. The list of official Angels' no-hitters is below:

The No-Hitters of Angels' History
Pitcher Year Opponent
Bo Belinsky 1962 Baltimore Orioles
Clyde Wright 1970 Oakland Athletics
Nolan Ryan 1973 Kansas City Royals
Nolan Ryan 1973 Detroit Tigers
Nolan Ryan 1974 Minnesota Twins
Nolan Ryan 1975 Baltimore Orioles
Mike Witt 1984 Texas Rangers
Witt/Mark Langston 1990 Seattle Mariners
Ervin Santana 2011 Cleveland Indians
Jered Weaver 2012 Minnesota Twins

In my opinion, the most interesting member of this list is the lefty who threw the first no-hitter in Angels' history, Bo Belinsky. From 1962-65 the Angels called Dodger Stadium their home. Belinsky's no-no was the first thrown in Chavez Ravine; which would surprise most people. The Dodgers' great Sandy Koufax, who threw four no-htitters (including the second one thrown at Dodger Stadium) was beat out by Belinsky. Most readers probably haven't heard of Belinsky... so who was this pitcher?

Belinsky originally signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956, with whom he spent two minor league seasons before pitching for various minor league affiliates of the Orioles organization, from 1958-61. The Angels gave Belinsky his shot at the bigs by drafting him in the 1961 Rule 5 draft. After a supposedly strange holdout, Belinsky announced with the Angels with a poolside press conference, that according to the sponsor of his page was something he perfected. Belinsky had a Hollywood personality, and what better place to show it off than Hollywood itself?

Belinsky began his MLB career with three victories, including a complete game. In those starts, he threw 20.1 innings giving up 15 hits, 12 walks, and 5 earned runs, with 15 strikeouts, good for a 2.21 ERA. Then Belinsky took the mound against his former organization, Baltimore, on only three days rest. That day, May 5th, Belinsky would make history at Chavez Ravine by striking out nine Orioles, and allowing zero hits, good enough for a 92 on Bill James' gamescore scale. Belinsky didn't allow the four walks and two HBP's he surrendered to take away from his pride in the no-no. In a fantastic Sports Illustrated archived article, they refer to Bo's frequent nights out on the strip dating Hollywood starlets. These nights were a result of a hot-shot rookie pitcher capitalizing on throwing a no-hitter in Los Angeles.

Belinsky had a flair for dramatic; which gave him the ability to, at times, live up to his enormous Hollywood ego. Two starts after his no-hitter, Belinsky made his debut at historic Fenway Park, and he threw another complete game shutout, this time allowing just two hits. At that point in his career, Belinsky had seven starts with a 6-1 record, 48.1 IP, 41 K's, 29 BB's, 6 HBP's, and a 2.42 ERA. Belinsky saw instant success at the Major League level; which by all accounts got to his head, but even if it had not, the numbers he posted look unsustainable. A 5.27 BB/9 rate coupled with hitting almost a batter per start, does not normally translate to success, and it especially doesn't usually translate into a 2.42 ERA. Over his next 24 starts (26 total games), Belinsky continued to have control problems, his BB-rate rose to 6.07 and he hit 7 more batters. His ERA over those 144 innings was 3.81, although he did record a save... for whatever that's worth. Belinsky finished his rookie campaign with three shutouts and a 3.56 ERA; which is a good number, but he benefitted greatly from a lucky .250 BABIP and 0.58 HR/9-rate.

1962 was the last full season that Belinsky would pitch in his career, (28.1% of his career IP came in his rookie season) he would never start more than 22 games or throw over 140 IP again. However, his last season with the Angels, 1964, was a fairly good one. That year, he posted his best K/BB-rate (1.86, which still isn't very good) and a 2.86 ERA to go along with his 3.25 FIP, in 22 starts (135.1 IP). Belinsky's career ended after middling around in the National League with four different organizations, through the late-60's. Over that time he posted an ERA of 4.63 and a FIP of 4.24. Belinsky's Major League career statistics are 102 starts, 665.1 IP and a not so stellar 117 ERA- to go along with his also not stellar 114 FIP-.

The sponsor of Belinsky's BR page claims that, "Bo could've been a regular 18+ game winner, but he chose to party with the Hollywood set." As we all know by now (I hope at least), pitching wins are a pretty much toss-away and irrelevant statistic. Thus, I think what Belinsky's BR sponsor was getting at was that Belinsky could've been good for a long time, if he had not let the no-hit fame and the Hollywood hoopla get to his head. But is there really any weight to this theory?

From everything I have seen/read, my guess is probably not. Hollywood may have caught up with Belinsky and caused him to not put his whole heart into pitching. But it's tough to tell if he would have even been any good before the whole Hollywood issue, because for one, he had a Hollywood image before his MLB debut, and his no-hit fame came after his fourth major league start, so his pre-Hollywood sample size is about as minimal of one as you can find. Even when Belinsky was at his best: his first seven starts of 1962 (2.42 ERA) and his last 11 starts as an Angel (2.36 ERA), his peripheral statistics during those starts don't completely paint the picture of a great starter.

"Bo's Prime"


















These stats cover only 18 starts; which is just over half of a full major league season, so it's tough to read too much into them. It's clear that when Bo was on his game, he got serious benefits from suppressing balls-in-play and home runs. It's tough to tell whether or not Bo was getting lucky, had the ability to actually suppress home runs or hits on balls in play, or if this was just a product of the hitting climate at that time. In both 1962 and '64, the Dodgers and Angels' staffs had two of the three lowest HR/9-rates in baseball. Which makes me think that Chavez Ravine was not very friendly to home runs at that time. Also, the Angels' staff BABIP's in those seasons were .273 and .266, respectively; which also makes it seem as though Belinsky's low-BABIP's are a product of good defense or the hitting environment.

I really don't think there's enough in Bo's best numbers to justify whether or not he had the "stuff" to be a big league star. Belinsky left us with such a small sample size of good (and bad) numbers to analyze, that he remains fairly mysterious as a player... which is probably just what Bo would want.

There's a good chance that Belinsky's heart was never in the game, or that it was there, but then Hollywood stole it. In my opinion, it doesn't really matter. I honestly don't even think it matters if Belinsky was any good. He was electric enough on one day. And on that day he no-hit the Baltimore Orioles and that's all that really matters. That day Belinsky staked his place in baseball history; which is why today, over 50 years later I'm still writing about him. And in the future, any time an Angels' pitcher throws a no-no, the baseball world will have to remember "Bo Belinsky of No-hit fame".

All game data from Baseball-Reference. All other statistics came from Fangraphs.