Most baseball fans woke up Thursday morning to the news that Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw threw a no-hitter versus the Rockies on Wednesday night.
But to only say that Kershaw threw a no-hitter doesn’t give the feat nearly enough credit. Many analysts — the Los Angeles Times‘ Steve Dilbeck, ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield and FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron among them — are arguing that Wednesday’s effort was the best pitching performance in MLB history.
Here are several facts and statistics which support that assertion. Just how great was Kershaw’s no-hitter? Check these out.
** Kershaw earned a Game Score of 102 Wednesday night, the second-best mark in MLB history. The only pitcher with a better Game Score was Kerry Wood, who notched a 105 in his 20-strikeout performance (with one hit and no walks) in 1998. (The metric was created by Bill James to measure a pitcher’s performance, starting at 50.) Only 10 pitchers have earned a Game Score of 100 or higher, by the way.
** Nolan Ryan is the only pitcher with more strikeouts in a no-hitter than Kershaw’s 15 Wednesday night. (Ryan notched 17 in his 1973 no-no versus the Tigers, and 16 in 1991 against the Blue Jays.) But those 15 Ks are tied for the most by a left-hander, along with Warren Spahn.
** However, Kershaw’s 15 strikeouts are the most in a no-hitter with no walks. Sandy Koufax had 14 strikeouts in one of his four career no-hitters without issuing a walk, as did Matt Cain in his pitching gem.
** Of those 15 strikeouts, 14 of them came on breaking balls. Kershaw got eight strikeouts with his slider and six of them with his curveball. The fastball he threw for a strikeout was 94 mph. Twelve of the Ks were of the swing-and-miss variety, while the other three were called strikeouts.
** The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner needed only 107 pitches to complete his no-hitter. He threw 79 of those pitches — 74 percent of them — for strikes. During his final six innings, he threw only 13 balls. Only 28 of his pitches (19 of them sliders) were outside of the strike zone.
** According to Buster Olney (via ESPN Stats and Info), 13 of Kershaw’s strikeouts were finished off in five pitches or fewer.
** Olney also passed this along: Kershaw went to a 2-0 count on only one Rockies batter and reached a three-ball count on just one other.
** Kershaw lost a perfect game on a throwing error by Hanley Ramirez in the seventh inning cost Kershaw a perfect game. Seven pitchers have lost a perfect game because of an error. The most recent was the Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez in 2009, thanks to a fielding error by Kershaw’s current teammate Juan Uribe. (via ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield)
** FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron tweeted that Kershaw’s performance on Wednesday was worth +0.7 WAR. That’s more from one game than teammate Josh Beckett (who threw this year’s other no-hitter) has compiled for the entire season thus far.
** Kershaw is only the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter as his league’s reigning Cy Young Award winner. The other two were Koufax in 1964 and Bob Gibson in 1971.