Over the weekend, Tyler Gilbert threw a no-hitter in his first major league start. In any other year, this is all we would be talking about. In 2021, it feels a little expected. That’s not to take anything from Gilbert’s accomplishment. Just try to watch the video of his father’s reaction without getting misty-eyed. Of all the no-hitters thrown this year, Gilbert’s is probably the most memorable.
The only issue is that Gilbert has a lot of competition. His was the eighth no-hitter of the season which broke a modern record for most no-nos in a single year. At the end of 2021, the Sporcle Quiz for naming all the pitchers to throw a no-hitter is actually going to be pretty hard.
Part of what makes no-hitters cool is their rarity, but for a while, no-hitters were more common than just regular complete-game shutouts. That’s not true any longer, but in today’s game, some rather mundane things have become less common than historic moments.
There have been more no-hitters than...
Games reaching the 13th inning
Free baseball isn’t free nor is it as plentiful as it used to be. Manfredball has drastically cut down on the number of games stretching into the wee hours of the night. In 2021, no game has gone longer than 13 innings, and only two have gone that long.
On April 6, the Rockies and Diamondbacks engaged in a knockdown, drag-out, Coors Field slugfest that ended in the Diamondbacks’ favor 10-8. The 13th inning wouldn’t be seen on scorebugs again until June 23. A pitcher’s duel between Kevin Gausman and Shohei Ohtani finally ended when the Giants erupted for seven runs in the top of the 13th.
2021 isn’t over, of course, but for comparison, 37 games went at least 13 innings in 2019. Four games went at least 18 innings, including one 19-inning contest between the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. Whether this lack of long games is good or bad depends on your perception, man, but 2021 is sure to be unique in its ratio of no-nos to Weird Baseball™.
I didn’t have to look this one up because I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a pitchout. In fact, I’ve never seen a pitchout work and neither have you. Any memories you have of it working are just the result of the Mandela effect. Thinking that a pitchout has ever worked is no different than thinking the line is “Luke, I am your father” or that Sinbad starred in a genie movie in the mid-90s.
This year, Myles Straw, Jonathan Villar, Brett Phillips, and Elvis Andrus have supposedly been the victims of pitchouts, but these videos are clearly deep fakes or were filmed on a sound stage by Stanley Kubrick or something.
Replay needed to overturn the Andrus and Straw cases, and if the umpires in New York are in on it, there’s no telling how down this goes. If we keep pulling the thread, it will all unravel.
Anyway, there have been 31 pitchout attempts which is on track to be the lowest number in any 162-game season in the Pitch Tracking Era (since 2008). Most of these attempts were made by the Angels and Yankees. Of those 31 tries, a throw was only made seven times. So more often than not, managers were just giving balls away for free. It’s no surprise that pitchouts have gone the way of the non-pitcher sacrifice bunt. Pitchers have gotten quicker to the plate, catchers are faster, and steal attempts are down. Pitchouts were always a risk-reward proposition, and the risk keeps growing while the reward keeps decreasing.
In 7 of 31 plate appearances where a pitchout was attempted, the batter ultimately walked. In one case, Corey Seager was walked intentionally after a pitchout attempt in an 0-2 count resulted in Dom Nunez’s throw going into centerfield.
Three Stolen Base Games
It’s no secret that runners are stealing less often. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Brian Duricy found that the stolen base attempt rate is less than four percent. This is a number that has fluctuated throughout baseball history, but the last three years have been the lowest of the Divisional Era.
As such, it’s become rare for a player to swipe more than two bags in a single game. In 2021, only seven players have managed three stolen bases in a game. Those seven are Starling Marte, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Bryce Harper, Garrett Hampson, Nicky Lopez, Whit Merrifield, and Wil Myers. No one has managed four since Jon Berti did it on September 24, 2019.
30 years ago, three steal games used to happen about once a week. Now, they’re less common than no-hitters.
Intentional Walks by the Astros, Yankees, Tigers, or Orioles
Even with the DH removed from the National League and with an extra-inning rule that would promote putting runners on, intentional walks haven’t rebounded to pre-2020 levels. The league is on pace to issue roughly 100 fewer free passes than it did in 2019 and that year saw the lowest number of intentional walks since 1957.
The entire league is shying away from putting four fingers up, but a handful of teams are being incredibly stingy. The Astros, Yankees, Tigers, and Orioles have all issued seven intentional walks or fewer. For the Astros, this isn’t new. In 2019, they didn’t issue any intentional walks.
Still, it’s interesting that Manfredball hasn’t resulted in an uptick of free passes. If the visiting team doesn’t score in the top half of extra innings, there’s little reason not to put the first runner on. The run at first doesn’t matter, and it sets up a force at any base but home. Unless walking the first batter results in a less favorable matchup for the pitcher, it’s beneficial to create a double-play situation.
Opposite Field Homers by Right-Handed Hitters at Oracle Park
Okay, this one is overly specific, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to inform people just how hard it is to hit an oppo taco in San Francisco as a right-handed hitter. There have been six such homers at Oracle Park this year by four different hitters: Austin Slater, Matt Chapman, Buster Posey, and CJ Cron. Posey and Cron both have two.
Six is actually a lot for Oracle, even if the Field of Dreams stadium saw five in a single game. In the Pitch Tracking Era, San Francisco has never seen more than seven opposite-field tank jobs by a righty in a single season. Since 2008, there has only been 43 total. For comparison, the next closest stadium on the list that has been open the entire time is Kauffman Stadium at 68. Then it’s Citi Field at 106. The field with the most is New Yankee Stadium which opened in 2009 but has seen 407 big flies.
Oh, and this section isn’t unique to 2021 either. Since 2008, there have been 54 no-hitters thrown (counting perfect games, but not counting seven-inning no-hitters), so it’s easier to “make history” than it is to get the ball over the Willie Mays wall as a righty.
Research conducted with Baseball Reference’s Stathead and Baseball Savant.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.