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How historic was Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter?

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 TimesSteve 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.

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** 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.

Ian Casselberry

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a columnist for The Outside Corner and the editor of The AP Party. He has written for Yahoo! Sports, MLive.com, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.

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