Yesterday afternoon, Edinson Volquez pitched the 294th no-hitter in MLB history. Volquez was masterful, facing the minimum 27 batters, as two double plays from Brandon Drury erased both of his walks. Volquez struck out 10 as his Marlins won 3-0.
On September 2, 2001, Mike Mussina retired the first 26 Red Sox hitters he faced. The 27th hitter, Carl Everett, singled to break up Mussina’s chance at baseball’s 16th perfect game. It was the ninth time in baseball history that a perfect game was spoiled by the 27th batter.
As of yesterday (6/3/17), there have been 294 no-hitters in baseball history since the National League played its first season in 1876. Twenty-three of them have been perfect games.
This column is about how Mike Mussina‘s 2001 near perfect game was actually a better-pitched game than many of those no-hit feats (including yesterday’s).
To make this determination I’m going to use Bill James‘ Game Score statistic. You’ll find a detailed explanation of it here. In short, the stat considers hits allowed, walks, strikeouts, earned and unearned runs, and outs recorded. You’ll find it listed in MLB’s official box score of every game as the stat has been a common tool used to evaluate pitchers for 30 years. It runs from 0 to 114, with scores over 90 considered elite. There are only 13 games ever recorded with a score over 100.
In 2015, Max Scherzer had the top game of the season with a 104 game score (this was his 17 strikeout, no walk, no-hitter against the Mets). Kerry Wood‘s 20-strikeout performance in 1998 is the record holder at 105.
During his career Mike Mussina recorded nine performances with a game score over 90. Only 16 pitchers have ever thrown more 90+ games (Nolan Ryan has the most with 31).
Mussina’s game score in his 2001 near-perfect game was 98. This is a higher game score than almost every no-hitter pitched in baseball history, including the 95 that Volquez posted yesterday.
Only 11 of the 222 or 4.95% of no-hitters thrown in MLB since 1913 have a game score above Mussina’s 98. Many of them fall well below Mussina’s threshold. 1913 is as far back as baseball reference’s game finder goes for full box scores.That means Mussina’s performance is equal to or better than 95% of the no-hitter performances in baseball over the last 103+ years.
Let’s take a look at recent years:
- 2016: Jake Arrieta‘s no-hitter in April was the only one of the season. Because he walked four Reds and struckout six his game score was 89.
- 2015: There were seven no-hitters. Scherzer’s second one is the only one to score above 98. Hisashi Iwakuma‘s was the lowest at 91.
- 2014: Clayton Kershaw‘s no-hitter scored a 102. The other four no-hitters we all in the mid-90s.
- 2013: Three no-hitters by Tim Lincecum, Homer Bailey, and Henderson Alvarez scored 96, 95, and 90 respectively.
- 2012: Two of the pitchers to top Mussina’s 98 game score were perfect games this season: Matt Cain (101) and Felix Hernandez (99). Philip Humber‘s perfect game earned a 96.
- 2011: Francisco Liriano‘s 83 game score in his no-hitter demonstrates why throwing a no-hitter isn’t all it’s cracked up to be sometimes. Yes, it’s a rare feat, but a lot of luck and good fielding is involved when pitchers walk hitters and allow the ball to be frequently put in play. In this much less dominate performance than Mussina’s 2001 game. Liriano walked six and only struckout two.
NOTE: This is our latest in our ongoing series in which we try to deal with Mussina losing his 2001 perfect game with 26 outs and two strikes to Carl “Freaking” Everett.