Why the Phillies' Combined No-Hitter Was Among the Best in MLB History

Where does the Phils' combined no-hitter rank among all the others?

No-hitters are rare, but not a wholly uncommon occurrence.

The Phillies recorded baseball's fourth no-hitter this year, following no-hit gems from Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett, and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. On Sunday, four Phillies pitchers combined to keep the Atlanta Braves hitless, winning 7-0.

Cole Hamels went the first six innings, but was pulled after his pitch count ran to 108 pitches. He was laboring throughout on a hot and humid day in Atlanta. Relievers Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon finished off the gem, the first combined no-no in team history, and the franchise's first no-hitter of any kind since Roy Halladay had one in the 2010 National League Division Series.

The Phils' combined no-hitter was the 11th nine-inning combined no-no in Major League history, but there was also one that happened in 2008, when Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo combined to no-hit the Dodgers but lost 1-0, thanks to a walk and a Weaver error that scored the game's only run. Because Angels pitchers only threw eight innings in the loss, it is not officially counted among the 11.

The only team to lose a nine-inning combined no-hitter was the Baltimore Orioles, back on April 30, 1967. Steve Barber entered the 9th inning with a 1-0 lead and a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers. But after two walks and a wild pitch tied the game, he was pulled and Stu Miller allowed the go-ahead run on an error. The O's lost 2-1, but Baltimore pitched nine innings of no-hit ball in the defeat, hence their inclusion.

Baseball is weird sometimes.

As for yesterday's gem by the Phils, here is where it ranks among the other combined no-hitters in MLB history, ranked by Baseball Reference's Game Score.

DateTeamOpp# PitchersGame ScoreSOBBUERIP

As you can see from the table above, the Phils' no-hitter against Atlanta yesterday is the third-best combined effort in MLB history, trailing only Pittsburgh's 10-inning no-hitter against Houston in 1997 (Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon were responsible for that one) and Houston's incredible six-pitcher effort against the Yankees in New York back in 2003.

Perhaps the most notable combined no-hitter was the one that took place in 1917, the one with the seventh-best Game Score of 88. That was the game in which Babe Ruth walked the lead-off hitter and was tossed from the game after arguing with the home plate umpire about the strike zone. Ernie Shore then relieved Ruth, and retired the next 26 batters he faced (the runner who walked was thrown out trying to steal second). In essence, Shore had pitched a "perfect game," but didn't get credit for it. Also, with just two strikeouts in that game, it was not as dominant a pitching performance as the ones listed ahead of it.

As for Monday's no-hitter, the Phils' game score of 94 was second-best among the four no-hitters thrown this season.

Player/TeamGame ScoreSOBB
Clayton Kershaw102150
Tim Lincecum9261
Josh Beckett9063

Yesterday, the Phils combined for 12 strikeouts, the second-most ever in a combined no-hitter. Hamels had seven of those Ks (and was also responsible for all five walks, hence his high pitch count), while Diekman notched two strikeouts and Giles struck out the side in the 8th.

Of course, most no-hitters carry with them a lot of luck, and there have certainly been some less-than-spectacular no-hitters thrown. Analytically speaking, no-hitters are not the best indicator of true pitching dominance, which is why Game Score is such a good stat. It assigns point totals to hits, earned runs, unearned runs, innings pitched, strikeouts and walks, and weighs them all accordingly.

Since 2012, there have been 13 no-hitters thrown in the Majors, including yesterday's in Atlanta. Five of those 13 no-hitters had a Game Score below 95. During that same time, there were 10 pitching performances in which a pitcher gave up at least one hit that generated a Game Score of 95 or higher, better than those five no-hitters 94 or lower.

Not giving up hits isn't the best gauge of a pitcher's true dominance. But they sure are fun. And yesterday, the Phillies gave baseball a fun afternoon.

At least, it was fun everyone not rooting for the Atlanta Braves, anyway.