Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett threw the first no-hitter of the season last Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies, the 21st in Dodgers history and the 283rd in baseball history, but as one of the most rare and unpredictable achievements in baseball, many would not have thought Beckett would be the first one to accomplish it this season.
Last year he pitched in only eight games, going 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA before being sidelined for the remainder of the season because of a July surgery that removed a rib pressuring one of his nerves and causing numbness in his fingers.
Now 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA, Beckett has the chance to continue his momentum and finally be a formidable part of the Dodgers rotation for a full season.
What Beckett and many others have shown, however, is that there is no rhyme or reason to a no-hitter. There are so many different factors at play that it seems any pitcher could conceivably throw one. Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton and Don Sutton are examples of dominant pitchers who never accomplished such a feat.
But it’s not impossible. Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game in 2010 against the then-Florida Marlins and threw a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. He would go on to win the Cy Young. Or Bob Gibson in 1971 coming off a Cy Young season, Nolan Ryan’s four spanning 1973 to 1975 or Justin Verlander’s two in ’07 and ’11.
Then there have been no-hitters by virtually unknown players, most recently former Chicago White Sox Philip Humber, whose perfect game on April 21, 2012, will most likely come to define his entire career. His became an instant star, but then took a sharp downturn: In the rest of his 87.2 innings that season he gave up 72 earned runs, missed a month with a right elbow strain and moved to the bullpen. He is currently a relief pitcher for the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
Josh Beckett has already had a long career, highlighted by two World Series championships, so the remaining question is whether or not he can remain healthy for the rest of this season. In recent no-hitter memory, Beckett most resembles Johan Santana who threw the first no-hitter in Mets history June 1, 2012, against the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, Santana suffered two disabled list stints, the latter of which kept him out from mid-August through the rest of the season.
Another question this season is exactly how many no-hitters will occur. Despite their rarity, since 2010 baseball fans have already been treated to 20 no-hitters and five perfect games, only four 10-year spans have more no-hitters, and none has more than four perfect games.
There are many different arguments one might make to account for this. Most would point to the trend of declining offenses and more dominating pitching: Runs per game and OPS are at their lowest since 1992, hits per game and batting average are at their lowest since 1972 — the last year before the designated hitter went into effect in the American League — and strikeouts have risen for a ninth straight year to 7.74 per game, an all-time high.
Sure, these stats may be the reason we’ve seen such an increased incidence of no-hitters in the past four years, but we might not see any more in 2014, and we may see only two or three more in the next five seasons. That’s the beauty of the no-hitter. For one day, no matter who it is, a pitcher essentially does his job perfectly, and he treats the baseball world to an experience like no other. The truth is, no matter how many are thrown, each one will be celebrated like it will never happen again.
Robert DePaolo is a rising junior in the College. Sideline Summer appears every other Friday at thehoya.com