Who's Most Likely to Throw a No-Hitter the Rest of 2013?
When Matt Harvey took a no-hitter into the seventh against the Braves yesterday, the baseball-loving world collectively shrugged and said, "Well, we saw that coming."
How could you not? Harvey has been positively dominant this season - an MLB-best 0.904 WHIP, strikeouts to 28.9 percent of opposing batters faced, four homeruns allowed in 104 innings pitched. Harvey has gone at least six innings in all but two of his 15 starts, and those other two games were both outings of 5+ innings against Miami. As any half-sober Mets fan could tell you, he can't do anything wrong.
Before the season, we named Matt Harvey as the 19th most likely pitcher to throw a no-hitter. Two and a half months later, though, we have more information from which to draw. So I decided to re-run the expected no-hitter numbers, primarily using a Bill James formula that measured expected no-nos for all-time historical pitchers in conjunction with numberFire's own remaining projections.
And wouldn't you know it: Matt Harvey is indeed the most likely pitcher to throw a no-hitter the rest of the way. But he's not the only big change on our overall chart.
The Full List
|Rank||Player||Preseason Rank||Proj. '13 No-Hitters|
The Top Chances
1. Matt Harvey: .040 projected no-hitters
We already gushed about him up top, but really, it's no surprise that Harvey dominates this list. Sure, he gets strikeouts, but more importantly for something called a "no-hitter", the boy simply doesn't give up any hits. Only 63 percent of opposing batters are even able to put a ball in play against him; only one additional percent is able to hit a homerun. Harvey's .266 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) against may not be exceptional, but it's definitely below average and likely more sustainable than, say, Hishashi Iwakuma's .238 BABIP.
Given his numbers this season, Harvey is one of the few pitchers with more projected no-hitters than at the beginning of the season. That's what happens when you come out and pitch the way that he has. All it takes is one conducive matchup - you know, like the Marlins and Nationals who are both in the bottom four of OBP (along with his own Mets and the White Sox) and are in his division.
2. Clayton Kershaw: .033 projected no-hitters
He was our most likely no-hit pitcher before the season, and we haven't exactly soured on his chances. In fact, given his lowered .249 BABIP, we've increased our hopes for him per outing if anything. The only reason his projected no-hitters has gone down is because he has less time with which to get one this year.
The scariest stat for opposing hitters may not even be his 0.969 WHIP this season. No, it's his 0.977 WHIP from 2011 and 1.023 WHIP from 2012 that prove this exceptional pitching performance is no fluke and likely to continue every single outing. His 21 percent line drive rate, the highest of his career, does indicate that batters are making more solid contact against him this season, but I'd expect even that to decrease over time as well given regression to the mean.
The High Risers
1. Shelby Miller: .025 projected no-hitters
Well, I think it's obvious why we didn't have him on our preseason Top 20: Shelby Miller had only ever started one career MLB game before this season. But given his numbers so far, seeing him throw a no-no isn't so far of a stretch at all.
All told, Miller has very similar stats to Matt Harvey: a 28.6 percent strikeout rate, a 0.961 WHIP, a .274 BABIP, and 6.7 hits allowed per nine innings. The only stat that scares me a tiny bit more for Miller is the percentage of balls in play that are hit for line drives: 22 percent, right at the MLB average. In time, those hits will fall rather than find gloves, and statistically, we expect Miller's hit percentage allowed to rise a tiny bit. But until that time, we'll accept the guy who only allows 63 percent of opposing batters to put a ball in play and a 1.8 percent homerun rate.
2. Jeff Samardzija: .023 projected no-hitters
Last week, I wrote about the Cubs' surprisingly solid pitching staff and how, at the time, the Cubs were in our top ten most efficient teams because of it (they're now tied for No. 12). At the center of it all was Samardzija, the former football star who holds a 4-7 record and 3.35 ERA this season. However, those conventional numbers do a poor Cubs offense-type job at telling the true story of his season.
Samardzija allows even fewer balls into play than Miller, Kershaw, or Harvey, thanks to a 26.9 percent strikeout rate and 8.8 percent walk rate. But remember: this is about no-hitters, not perfect games, so those walks barely matter. What does matter is Samardzija's hits allowed on only 20.5 percent of opposing plate appearances, his below-MLB average 2.2 percent homerun rate, and the 25 percent of his batters faced that reach an 0-2 count. He can also make bats miss: 20 percent of his strikes earned are swinging, which sits five percent over the MLB average.
1. Cole Hamels: .016 projected no-hitters
To be fair, Hamels missed our top 20 list by the hair on his chinny chin chin. But still, dropping from seventh-most likely to 21st most likely to throw a no hitter demonstrates that something is indeed off with the Phillies pitcher's game. And it's hard hit balls to blame.
Before this season, Hamels had never allowed more than 20 percent of balls hit in play to be line drives. For a no-hitter, that's obviously preferable - the fewer hard-hit balls, the better. And in turn, his batting average on balls in play was also low, as except for one outlier season in 2009, his BABIP had not topped .291. This year, however, hitters have been making more solid contact, and it has hurt his bottom line. Hamels' 22 percent line drive rate has led to an above-MLB average .303 BABIP, the main reason behind the second-highest WHIP of his career.
2. Yovani Gallardo: .013 projected no-hitters
Despite his 2-10 record, at least Hamels is still close to the Top 20. Meanwhile, Yovani Gallardo has dropped from No. 9 preseason all the way to the 36th most likely pitcher to throw a no-hitter. Not that it's a particular surprise when you allow five percent more batters to hit a ball in play than you ever have before as a starter.
Be it a loss of fastball power or just a few too many cheese curds, Gallardo has lost the strikeout spirit. After four straight years with a strikeout rate at 23.7 percent or above, Gallardo has only struck out 18.6 percent of opposing batters this season through 371 plate appearances. Although his .306 BABIP remains right around his career average, the increase of balls in play leads to more hits overall. That's how his WHIP has risen to 1.346, his highest mark since 2010.