Ross Stripling was on the mound, making his Major League debut as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ fifth starter. Against the Dodgers’ storied rival, the San Francisco Giants, on enemy turf, Stripling threw exactly 100 pitches—with no hits allowed.
There’s only one pitcher who threw a no-hitter in his Major League debut, and that was Bumpus Jones.
Who was Bumpus Jones?, you might ask.
Jones was a pitcher in the old days of yore—and by old days, the very early days of baseball; in this instance, 1892—for the Cincinnati Reds. He made baseball history when, on October 15, 1892, the last day of the season, he made his Major League debut and no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds went on to win 5-0 and finished the season 82-68-5. Jones would never pitch that well again at that level; his MLB career ended in 1893 at the age of 23.
Since then, no one’s really come close to throwing a Bumpus Jones—a no-hitter in their Major League debut. That is, until Ross Stripling.
There have been been 13 different pitchers dating back to 1913 (this is as far as Baseball Reference’s Play Index goes back) who, in their Major League debut, recorded zero hits, but they never exceeded 3 innings pitched and did not finish the game, nor was it even close to being a game on the books.
|Ross Stripling||April 8 2016||LAD||SFG||L 2-3||GS-8||7.1||0||1||1||4||4||0||0||74|
|Walter Anderson||May 14 1917||PHA||CHW||L 2-6||GS-||3||0||0||0||5||1||0||0||55|
|Tim Leary||April 12 1981||NYM||CHC||W 2-1||GS-2||2||0||0||0||1||3||0||0||58|
|Ralph Beard||June 29 1954||STL||CIN||L 4-11||GS-3||2||0||4||2||4||0||0||2||40|
|Clay Roe||October 3 1923||WSH||PHA||L 8-12||GS- L||1.2||0||4||0||6||2||0||4||43|
|Steve Adkins||September 12 1990||NYY||TEX||L 4-5||GS-2 L||1.1||0||3||3||8||1||0||0||35|
|Cesar Tovar||September 22 1968||MIN||OAK||W 2-1||GS-1||1||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||53|
|Bill Fincher||April 23 1916||SLB||CLE||L 2-14||GS- L||1||0||2||0||2||1||0||2||48|
|Pete Sims||September 16 1915||SLB||WSH||L 2-8||GS-||1||0||1||1||2||0||0||0||47|
|Dan Sherman||June 4 1914||CHI||KCP||L 4-5||GS- L||0.1||2||0||2||0||0||2||45|
|William Ford||September 27 1936||BSN||PHI||W 7-3||GS-1||0||0||2||2||3||0||0||0||39|
|Johnny Stuart||July 27 1922||STL||NYG||L 7-12||GS-||0||0||2||0||1||0||0||2||45|
|Ray Gordinier||September 17 1921||BRO||CHC||L 6-7||GS-||0||0||2||2||3||0||0||0||39|
|Jim Scoggins||August 26 1913||CHW||WSH||L 3-5||GS- L||0||0||1||0||1||0||0||1||47|
Then came Ross Stripling.
Stripling, 26, is a former fifth-round pick by the Dodgers whom, as John Sickels noted at Minor League Ball, the projection systems didn’t love. This season, PECOTA sees him at 33.9 IP, 3.73 ERA, 4.25 DRA, 2.0 VORP, and 0.2 WARP, which seems fairly decent for a fifth starter who is a stop gap until other pitchers are healthy. That’s not saying that Stripling isn’t good, however. Baseball America ranked Stripling as the Dodgers’ 10th best prospect after the 2012 and 2013 seasons, then 17th after 2014. MLB ranked him as their 16th best prospect before the season began. There’s certainly value in Stripling as a ballplayer.
He underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2014 and didn’t return to the field until the middle of 2015. The pitching depth chart was thin, especially with starters like Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson on the disabled list, and the Dodgers selected Stripling to be their fifth starter to begin the 2016 season.
Stripling’s Major League debut had him throwing 7.1 innings, allowing four walks, one run, and no hits. After he allowed a walk to Angel Pagan, he reached 100 pitches and was promptly taken out of the game by manager Dave Roberts for the sake of Stripling’s health. Stripling is less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery recovery, and Roberts wanted to help preserve the rookie’s arm so that Stripling could have a long and lengthy career in the Major Leagues. While the decision was controversial—when would the kid ever have the chance to throw a no-hitter again?—Roberts' reasoning was sound.
The projection systems won’t tell you this. They won’t tell you if a kid will get hurt again, or if he’ll throw a no-hitter in his first career start, or if he’ll throw a no-hitter ever. You can certainly rank a player based on their current potential, and give a projection on their overall future potential, but whether they’ll hit the ceiling or the floor is always in question, or even if they’ll break it. And rivaling an over 100-year-old feat? Who can tell you that will happen?
No one expected Bumpus Jones to throw a no-hitter, let alone make a Major League start. Jones was a semi-pro ballplayer who caught the attention of Reds player/manager Charlie Comiskey, who gave Jones a chance.
Circumstances and decisions led to Stripling earning the role of fifth starter. There are numbers that can tell you what Stripling might throw in a year. But intangibles, damned as it may, find their way into the game to give the numbers a run for their money.
And that’s the beauty and glory of baseball, isn’t it? There’s always the unexpected, the unknown, and the rookies. There are things that the projections and grades can’t catch, and Stripling’s debut was one of them.
Jen Mac Ramos is a Contributing Writer for Beyond the Box Score. Their work can also be found at Purple Row and BP Wrigleyville. You can find them on Twitter at @jenmacramos.