If no-hitters are archaic so it baseball. Manny Machado's rocket arm. Bullpen issues ahead of the trading deadline.
July 08, 2013 - Our No-Hitter Defense
Homer Bailey

Opening Pitch

We love Brian Kenny, a radio and television host who has done much to banish and ridicule ignorance in baseball. We covered fondly his debate with Hawk Harrelson, and recognize that numbers on the page tell you more about baseball than positing a mysterious “Will to Win.”

But last week we allowed Brian Kenny to bait us when he said that the no-hitter was an “archaic” concept and that we shouldn’t pay attention to them. That fans were “brainwashed” and “conditioned.”  There was an element of showmanship in Kenny’s provocation. He’s promoting a radio show, and much of his audience is comfortable with a kind of unthinking traditionalist outlook which Kenny apparently believes can only be upset by a sense of shock and scandal. 

But we see two problems with Kenny’s crusade against the no hitter. The first is a minor but important point: Unlike the pitcher “win” and “save” stats, almost no one’s knowledge of baseball is confused by the no hitter. Not a single paid analyst and no fan blog I can find maintains that Homer Bailey has been the most effective or “best” starter in MLB during the time between his two no-hitters. This extends to perfect games as well: nobody believes that Philip Humber’s perfect game was any indication that he was going to become a dominant mound presence. The list of no-hitters is exactly what most fans would expect, a collection of mostly great pitchers throwing against weak teams with a few oddities in them.

The second problem with Kenny’s crusade against the no hitter is more serious and if taken too far threatens to make Kenny and like-minded statheads enemies of baseball: his too-fierce opposition to “narrative.” Readers will recall earlier in the year that The Slurve noted that Kenny called the sabermetrics movement a “revolution.” We agreed with that term.  Broadly speaking, the rationalized baseball movement not only changed the way people thought about baseball, it also sought to dethrone an older ruling class of “baseball men” and empower a new class of “nerds.” That’s a revolution. 

But we noted that this revolution had so far failed in transforming bullpen usage to the revolutionary ideal precisely because, like many revolutions, it fails to take into account human nature. Because statheads only allow themselves to see numbers and only allow themselves to think in terms of leverage in a given baseball situation they cannot take into account player psychology. In extreme cases player psychology is denied altogether.

Again, we are not agitating for some mysterious “Will To Win.” We simply believe in the normal human desire to achieve a historically recognized stat and the normal athlete’s intuition, especially pronounced in baseball, that he performs best in a predictable role. Our suggestion was that statheads should continue to educate fans, players, and managers in a stat like “shutdowns” and “meltdowns.” If stat guys want more rational bullpens they have to align the institutions and expectations within baseball to the knowledge derived from the stat sheet.. Make “fireman” the important role, that’s how you diminish the “save” and the “closer.” 

Kenny has generously sought to understand why no-hitters became a thing. He offered explanations that in the 19th century baseball was built on singles and to deny a team any hits meant to deny them all offense. In other words, no-hitters used to signal statistical dominance. We think Kenny is transposing his own mode of thought onto previous writers. 

The real nub is that no-hitters are a useful descriptive term for what happened in a game. It’s narrative. Kenny is interested in evaluative and predictive terms. And like a lot of stat guys he is developing a too-sensitive allergy to “narrative.” No-hitters are flukey, they can involve pitching badly, issuing walks or even runs. They are not wholly the responsibility of the pitcher. You can almost sense that Kenny wishes that the headlines the morning after Homer Bailey’s no-hitter said this instead: “David Price marginally improves his xFIP in return to Tampa rotation. Rays adjusted run differential about to improve with it?”

But the no-hitter is emphasized in headlines because when people wake up and fire up Twitter or their local sports section’s website they aren’t primarily interested in making an evaluation of players, they aren’t looking for data that is useful in predicting the next start or making a rational contract to a player in the coming off-season. They want to know what happened in the game. They want narrative. 

And there is a tiny element of the stat community that seems to hate that so much of the public conversation about baseball belongs to the public, the people who care more about standings rather than run differential, or their players rather than adjusted performance.

Of course the principle by which Kenny would destroy the no-hitter would also destroy the concept of baseball games themselves. To the most Jacobin statguy a “baseball game” is a just a sampling error, a collection of nine innings in which an inferior team like the Pirates (+42 run differential) can temporarily seem better than the Cardinals (+122). Whole seasons can go like that. These archaic “games” then determine standings, which determine the playoff teams and eventually the World Series itself. Until “games” are abolished as a meaningful concept, baseball will always be corrupted by narrative. Narrative will always be king. Is that tolerable? 

The personalities, the leather and eye black, the broken bats, the headlines, the standings, the World Series winners, the stories and lore of the game: what neanderthals could possibly be interested in that crap anymore? 

Kenny needs a better class of traditionalist as a sparring partner. We’re happy to play the role. 

Oh my! Watch this GIF of Manny Machado throwing out a runner after chasing a ball nearly into his teams own dugout.  [cbs]

Deadspin has cut another angle of the Machado play together with one of Brooks Robinson from the 1970 World Series. Nicely done [deadspin]

Clayton Kershaw says that Met Matt Harvey should start the ASG in front of CitiField “He should,” Kershaw told FOXSports.com. “There’s no reason, especially if it’s in New York, that he shouldn’t start. That’s what the fans will want. I’ve got no problem with that.” [foxsports]

In other endorsements, Adrian Gonzalez says that Yasiel Puig should get the “final vote” over himself. “For me, personally, I want Puig to go,” said Gonzalez, a four-time All-Star. “I'm voting for Puig.” [mlb] 

An odd bit of history is at stake in tonight's game for Dan Haren. “If things go according to schedule, Haren will start in the first game of this week’s Nationals-Phillies series, and if Haren picks up the “W” he will become the 13th pitcher in baseball history to beat all 30 franchises. Right now, he’s at 29 down, Philadelphia to go. Currently, only these 12 men have entered this club: Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, Terry Mulholland, Curt Schilling, Woody Williams, Jamie Moyer, Randy Johnson, Barry Zito, Javier Vazquez, Vicente Padilla, Derek Lowe, and A.J. Burnett.” [hardballtimes]

Jonathan Bernhardt celebrates the Home Run Derby as the really fun exhibition, and gives some suggestions for each lineup. “The current format of the Derby involves two teams of four, each of which is handpicked by a team captain. Since this year's All-Star Game is at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, the National League captain will be David Wright. The American League captain will be the second baseman for that other New York team, the very same Robinson Cano who managed to pick a team for last year's Home Run Derby in Kansas City without including the Royals' only All-Star, slugger Billy Butler.” [soe]

Dave Schoenfield lists ten “bullpen” issues as we head toward the trading deadline [espn]

After the Nolasco deal, Matt Garza is the hottest pitcher on the open market. “So what do you get with Matt Garza? Well, his most stable skill is likely his control. Over the past 563 innings of his career, his walk rate has a range of 2.77 B/9 to 2.86 BB/9 going from year to year. During the last three years, he has attacked the strike zone early–with a F-Strike% of 63.2%–and is generating a SwStr% of 10.5. For some perspective, these numbers are very similar to Anibal Sanchez–who has a 64.7% F-Str% and a 10.7 SwStr% over the same span.” [btbs]

"The whistleblower who claims to have proof Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and other baseball players took steroids … has been threatened and hounded so much … he's being forced into hiding, TMZ has learned. According to sources connected to Major League Baseball's steroid investigation … Porter Fischer has been under constant pressure for more than six months from private investigators – hired by players, he believes – attempting to get their hands on his records from the now infamous Biogenesis clinic in Miami." [tmz]


Trivia:  There are only two players in Major League history who won 90 games as a pitcher, and had 2,000 hits as a batter.  Babe Ruth is one.  Who is the other?            (Answer below)


Major Updates

           R   H   E (Final 9)
BAL   2    6    0
NYY  1    6    0

BAL (49-40): Recap: [sun] • Orioles lose Travis Ishikawa to Yankees on waivers [sun] •  Chris Davis interested in participating in Home Run Derby [sun] • Manny Machado did it again Sunday [sun]

NYY (48-40): Recap: [themoney] • Hiro’s effort wasted by Mo’s second blown save of the year [lohud] • Boo hoo! A-Rod hears jeers in rehab game [nydn] • Yankee Captain looks like old self in rehab game [nydn]

            R   H   E (Final 9)

DET    6   13    0
CLE    9     8    0

DET (48-39): Recap: [blessyou] • Tigers place Darin Downs on DL, recall Reed from Toledo [mlb] • Recap: [detnews] • Recently demoted Tiger Avisail Garcia hits for cycle at Triple A Toledo [detnews] • Tigers' Torii Hunter hitting at torrid pace in July [detnews]

CLE (46-42): Recap: [tribe] •  Columbus Clippers, Akron Aeros suffer defeats -- Minor league report [plaindealer] • Omar Vizquel won Cleveland's heart, on and off field: Terry Pluto [plaindealer] • Carlos Carrasco's bad outing did the Cleveland Indians no favors [plaindealer]

            R   H   E (Final 9)

MIN     5    5    0
TOR  11 13    2

MIN (37-48): Recap: [twinkie] • 'Letting it fly,' Dozier turns around slow start [mlb] • Banged-up Oswaldo Arcia held out of starting lineup [mlb] •  Diamond-Doumit battery working well in '13 [mlb]

TOR (43-45): Recap: [mlb] • Blue Jays face Indians hoping to build off series win [mlb] • Bautista eager to share All-Star recognition [mlb] •  Jose Reyes aims to test ankle with extra-base hits [mlb]

           R   H   E (Final 9)

SEA   3    6    1
CIN    1    6    1

SEA (39-49): Recap: [newstrib] • Smoak blunt about his clutch shortcomings this season [stimes] • Despite another lost season, it's worth considering Jack Z has Mariners pointed in the right direction [lookout] •  Smoak, Franklin power through woes [newstrib]

CIN (50-38): Recap: [reporter] • The Reds lefthanded relief option, Plan 2 [redleg] • Devin Mesoraco sidelined with back spasms [mlb] • Bruce won't pout over not making NL All-Star roster [mlb]

          R   H   E (Final 9)

ATL   3   10    1
PHI    7   10    0

ATL (50-38): Recap: [talkingchop] • Evan Gattis likely won't return before All-Star break [mlb] • Arguing third-strike call gets B.J. Upton ejected [mlb] • Brandon Beachy set to begin new rehab stint on Tuesday [mlb]

PHI (43-46): Recap: [beerleaguer] • Manuel says players got message at team meeting [mlb] • Howard looks forward to answers on his knee pain [phillyinq] • Fresh batch of Phils might produce a winner [phillyinq]

            R   H   E (Final 9)

SD       7   12   2
WSH 11   11   1

SD (40-49): Recap: [gaslamp] • Padres: Yasmani Grandal's injury result of clean play [mlb] • Chase Headley beginning to show encouraging signs [mlb] • Friars return home for key division tilt against Rockies [mlb]

WSH (46-42): Recap: [mlb] • Ryan Mattheus getting closer to rehab assignment [mlb] • Ross Detwiler officially placed on the disabled list [wapo] • Haren hoping to turn things around in return vs. Phils [mlb]

            R   H   E (Final 9)
CWS  1    8    0
TB      3    5    0

CWS (34-51): Recap: [southside] • Ventura says Sox will just keep battling [espn] •  [southside] White Sox Minor League Update: July 7-13 • White Sox fail to avoid another sweep [espn]

TB (49-40): Recap: [raysbay] •  Price's complete game caps Rays' sweep of White Sox [tbt] •  Alex Cobb throwing off the mound; still no timetable for return [raysbay] • Video: Price on complete-game win [tbt]

            R   H   E (Final 9)

NYM   2    11   0
MIL      1    3    2

NYM (37-48): Recap: [mlb] • Satin reenters lineup, resumes surge [espn] • Shaun Marcum to see specialist in St. Louis [espn] • Hefner's new twist helped turnaround [espn]

MIL (35-52): Recap: [brewcrew] • Segura's All-Star role to depend on Tulo's health [mlb] • Francisco's throwing errors spoil Gorzelanny's strong outing for Brewers [mjs] • Ryan Braun could return from injury this week [mjs]

           R   H   E (Final 9)

OAK  10  15   1
KC      4  10   0

OAK (52-37): Recap: [mlb] • Balfour candidate to replace Colon as All-Star [mlb] • Grant Green to join A’s in Pittsburgh tomorrow, sources say [sfchronicle]

KC (41-44): Recap: [witcheagle] • Salvador Perez gets chance to rest sore, bruised leg [mlb] • Summer is heating up, and so is the Royals' Eric Hosmer [kcstar] • Royals Minor League report [mlb]

          R   H   E (Final 9)

MIA   2    9    0
STL  3    6    0

MIA (32-55): Recap: [sunsen] • Ricky Nolasco says good-bye to former Marlins teammate, thrilled to be heading west [fishtank] •  Miami Marlins Jose Fernandez selected to NL All-Star team [mherald] •  Nolasco departs; Slowey to start Monday [mherald]

STL (53-34): Recap: [stlpd] • Yadier Molina prescribed rest for sore knee [stlpd] • Oscar Taveras out for Futures Game [stlpd]

          R   H   E (Final 11)

PIT    3    9    2
CHC 4    8    1

PIT (53-34): Recap: [ppg] • Reid shows his stuff in short stint in bigs [mlb] • Pirate's Walker will have MRI to determine injury [ppg] • Soreness in side has Neil Walker out of lineup [mlb] •  Pirates looking to 'Locke' down A's in opener [mlb]

CHC (38-48): Recap: [bleed] • Road still winding for Javier Baez [espn] • Starlin Castro heading the wrong way [espn] • Cubs trade Hairston to Nationals [tribune]

          R   H   E (Final 9)

HOU 4    8    1
TEX  5    7    2

HOU (32-57): Recap: [crawfish] • Opposing scout says Harrell has hurt trade value [hchronicle] • Porter sees improvement in bullpen [mlb] • Norris, Astros visit St. Louis for final time this season [mlb]

TEX (51-37): Recap: [espn] • Rangers relief corps gets shot in the arm [espn] •  First night back a hit for Manny Ramirez [espn] • Texas Rangers roundup: Manny Ramriez makes his Rangers debut; two moved to DL; Yu Darvish wants to deal more breaking balls [dmn]

          R   H   E (Final 9)

LAD  4    7    0
SF     1    4    1

LAD (42-45): Dodgers score three runs in the ninth inning to beat Giants, 4-1 [lat] • Dodgers, D-backs revive contentious rivalry [mlb] • Ricky Nolasco to make Dodgers debut Tuesday, Chris Capuano to bullpen [trueblue]

SF (40-47): Recap: [mccovey] • Despite struggles, no shakeup needed for Giants [mlb] • Giants facing some of NL's best pitchers [mlb] • Kickham sent back to Triple-A as Gaudin returns [mlb]

           R   H   E (Final 9)

COL   1    3    0
ARI    6   11   0

COL (42-47): Recap: [mlb] • Roy Oswalt leaves game Sunday with strained hamstring [dpost] • Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler headed for rehab assignments [mlb] • After Roy Oswalt injury, Rockies on the hunt for starting pitchers [dpost]

ARI (47-41): Recap: [snakepit] • Corbin in All-Star form for 10th win of season [mlb] • Tyler Skaggs to start Wednesday against Dodgers [mlb] • Cody Ross sets personal best with five-hit game [mlb]

          R   H   E (Final 9)

BOS  0    5    0
LAA  3    7    1

BOS (54-36): Recap: [globe] • Lester looks to outduel Mariners ace Hernandez [mlb] • Lackey sharp, but Angels blank Red Sox [globe] • Holt makes impact with glove at third [espn]

LAA (43-45): Recap: [lat] • Scioscia against Trout taking part in Derby [mlb] • Weaver outduels Lackey as Halos blank Sox [mlb] • It's an emotional roller coaster for Angels' Josh Hamilton [lat]

Injury Report

Evan Gattis likely won't return before All-Star break [mlb]

Ryan Braun could return from injury this week [mjs]

Yadier Molina prescribed rest for sore knee [stlpd]

Shaun Marcum to see specialist in St. Louis [espn]

Ryan Mattheus getting closer to rehab assignment [mlb]

Ross Detwiler officially placed on the disabled list [wapo]

Padres: Yasmani Grandal's injury result of clean play [mlb]

Chase Headley beginning to show encouraging signs [mlb]

Howard looks forward to answers on his knee pain [phillyinq]

Soreness in side has Neil Walker out of lineup [mlb]

Alex Cobb throwing off the mound; still no timetable for return [raysbay]

Devin Mesoraco sidelined with back spasms [mlb]

Roy Oswalt leaves game Sunday with strained hamstring [dpost]

Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler headed for rehab assignments [mlb]

Tigers place Darin Downs on DL, recall Reed from Toledo [mlb]

Banged-up Oswaldo Arcia held out of starting lineup [mlb]

Yankee Captain looks like old self in rehab game [nydn]


Goods From Around The Web

The Best Americana-Themed Beer Labels [firstwefeast]

How Netflix Is Shaking Up Hollywood [wsj]

Facebook to unveil graph search soon.  [nyt]



Answer: - There are only two players in Major League history who won 90 games as a pitcher, and had 2,000 hits as a batter.  Babe Ruth is one.  Who is the other?                    

John Montgomery Ward [amazon] 

Have a great day, everyone. 




Credits: Michael Brendan Dougherty, Editor and Founder.

Trivia by @TomTrivia, who currently runs bar pub quizzes in Brewster and White Plains, NY, and Danbury, CT.  He is available for hire for weekly Trivia Nights, or to write custom quizzes for private parties." 

Photo by flickr user Keith Allison under Creative Commons license. 

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