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Putting Scherzer’s no-hitter into historical context

Oct 4, 2015, 1:15 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images

NEW YORK — Any no-hitter is special, even in this age when they seem to happen on a somewhat regular basis. But some no-hitters stand out from the rest of the pack, and Max Scherzer’s gem Saturday night at Citi Field certainly fits the bill.

By any number of measurements, Scherzer just authored one of the greatest singular pitching performances in baseball history. And when you add this one to the list of other great performances he had already authored earlier this year, you end up with one of the most remarkable pitching seasons in a long time.

We’ll start with this game on its own merits…

— Scherzer struck out 17 batters, establishing a new Nationals club record (breaking the mark of 16 he set in June at Milwaukee). He also struck out nine batters in a row late in the game, establishing a new franchise record and falling just one shy of Tom Seaver’s all-time record of 10 consecutive strikeouts.

— The 17 strikeouts were tied for the most ever recorded in a no-hitter, joining Nolan Ryan (who did it for the Angels on July 15, 1973).

— This was only the 12th time in history a pitcher struck out 17 without issuing a walk in a 9-inning game.

— This was only the 27th no-hit, no-walk, no-hit-by-pitch game in history, with the Mets’ lone baserunner coming via a Yunel Escobar throwing error.

— Using Bill James’ “Game Score” — a stat that compares pitching performances across different eras — Scherzer recorded the second-greatest 9-inning pitching performance ever. His Game Score of 104 trails only Kerry Wood’s record 105 in 1998, when the Cubs rookie struck out 20, didn’t walk a batter and allowed only an infield single to the Astros. (It should be noted that Wood did hit a batter that afternoon, which doesn’t count against his Game Score. If it did, his score would drop to 104, tied with Scherzer for the best ever.)

— Scherzer found the strike zone with a ridiculous amount of regularity. He went to a 3-ball count only twice all night, and each instance came in the first three innings. He didn’t go to a 3-ball count to any of the last 21 batters he faced.

— Scherzer induced 27 swings and misses, 15 of those coming in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings alone.

— Scherzer’s pitch count of 109 is the lowest ever for someone who struck out 17 or more batters in a game.

Now, let’s put this start into his season as a whole…

— Scherzer is only the sixth pitcher in history to throw two no-hitters in the same season. The others: Johnny Vander Meer (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Virgil Trucks (1952), Nolan Ryan (1973) and Roy Halladay (2010, with the second no-hitter coming in the playoffs).

— In addition to his two no-hitters, Scherzer also tossed a 16-strikeout, 1-hitter on June 14 in Milwaukee. He’s only the sixth pitcher ever with at least three 1-hitters in a season, joining Bob Feller (1946), Trucks (1952), Ryan (1973), Dave Stieb (1988) and Pete Alexander (4 in 1915).

— Scherzer is the first pitcher ever with three 9-inning Game Scores of 97 or better in the same season. Only two others (Ryan in 1990, Pedro Martinez in 2000) even have two in the same season.

— Scherzer finished the season with 276 strikeouts, most in Nationals history. The only other pitchers with at least that many strikeouts in a season since 2001 are Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The only others with that many since 1990 are Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and John Smoltz.

  1. Drew - Oct 4, 2015 at 2:09 AM

    As Strasburg righted himself and Scherzer struggled after the ASB, I wondered whether the Nats would revert in 2016 and make Stras the Opening Day starter.

    Not so much.

  2. websterj2014 - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:06 AM

    So will Tanner Roark be feeling any pressure Sunday?

  3. NatsNut - Oct 4, 2015 at 7:15 AM

    SMH (and smiling)

  4. JayB - Oct 4, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    Max like Harper to follow is worth the long term record breaking money contract. Results are great but it is the intensity and push for perfection that drives them that this team needs more of…….Much more of. They both have been once in a lifetime to watch this year…..so made that Rizzo wasted them by being so stubborn and pig headed about MW.

  5. patrickthand - Oct 4, 2015 at 8:08 AM

    You neglected to mention Scherzer just missed tying Tom Seaver’s record of 10 consecutive strikeouts.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • TimDz - Oct 4, 2015 at 8:19 AM

      From Mark’said post above:

      Scherzer struck out 17 batters, establishing a new Nationals club record (breaking the mark of 16 he set in June at Milwaukee). He also struck out nine batters in a row late in the game, establishing a new franchise record and falling just one shy of Tom Seaver’s all-time record of 10 consecutive strikeouts.

  6. Met fan - Oct 4, 2015 at 8:21 AM

    Outstanding pitching performance by scherzer probably one of the best I have ever seen

  7. tcostant - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    I was thinking about Seaver, his streak was amazing. He end the game with ten straight strike outs & tied the than record of 19 in a game.

  8. veejh - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    3 no hitters for the Nats within a 365 day period. I wonder if any other team has done that?

    • trfwans - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:10 AM

      Don’t know, but the Nats haven’t done it. The first anniversary of JZ’s no no was last Monday, the day after the Papelbrawl. The season ended a week earlier last year than it does this year.

      • veejh - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:59 AM

        Small oversight by me. LOL

  9. Candide - Oct 4, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    One thing I’ve noticed about Scherzer in his comments after both of his gems. There’s not the slightest trace of triumphalism, or “how-great-I-am-ism.”

    Always generous with praise for the rest of the team, always making sure to acknowledge the element of luck involved in a no-hitter, almost relegating his own performance to an afterthought.

    Classy. Too classy for the New York fans. I hope that come free-agent time, Bryce remembers the classy New York fans chanting “Pap-el-bon!, Pap-el-bon! Pap-el-bon!” and cheering when he was hit by a pitch in the first game. Werth has never forgiven the Phillies fans for similar behavior.

    • Sonny G 10 - Oct 4, 2015 at 1:34 PM

      And both times he gave a lot of credit to “Willie” Ramos.

  10. jalabar - Oct 4, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    “Scherzer is the first pitcher ever with three 9-inning Game Scores of 97 or better in the same season. Only two others (Ryan in 1990, Pedro Martinez in 2000) even have two in the same season.”

    True, but in 1990, I think Ryan ALSO had a 10 inning performance that was over 97. In total, he had a 101 and two 99s that year. Still, Max beats him even with Ryan’s extra inning, with a three game score of 301 to Ryan’s 299. Let’s put a little more context on Ryan’s remarkable achievement that year, shall we? He was born in 1947… which means when he did this in 1990, he was 43!

  11. jalabar - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:03 AM

    With just a bit of luck (and imagination), Scherzer could have had two perfect games and two no-hitters. He threw a one hitter, with the only hit coming on a pathetic bloop single that even it’s hitter Car-Go was embarrassed to claim the start right before his first no-no, and the game just before this one he had a no-no through 7, when he gave up two singles and a run. With a bit of luck the first is a no-no, and with a bit of imagination the second is as well 🙂
    Then you have two EXTRA-perfect games, in which he was forced to get 28 straight outs instead of 27, the first due to unforgiving umpiring (50/50 it should have been a ball due to batter indifference) and the second a errant throwing error on Escobar (and a bad pick by Robinson… IMHO, Zimmerman records the out there). This is not literally true, since the next pitch to Tabata could have been a HR, for all we know. But let’s imagine it is. What a remarkable season. And yet…

    I think the quote of the year was the tweet from Adam Kilgore, which I’ll paraphrase:

    “If you had taken a parlay with ‘Bryce Harper winning the MVP with a near-historic season, Max Scherzer throwing two near-perfect no-hitters AND a couple other dominant close calls, and the Nats being bounced before the last week of the season’, you’d have made a killing.”

    Max disappeared for a couple of months there, and that disappearance was instrumental in the Nats falling out of the race. Now, in a season in which Strasburg was oft-injured and took until August to remember how to pitch like Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzales, and Doug Fister all had near the worst seasons of their pro careers (Gio not as much, perhaps a bit of an improvement over last year, but the others), I’m certainly not going to blame Max for them missing the playoffs when he was clearly the best pitcher on the staff and rotation. But it’s still true that, had he not faded for much of the late summer, the Nats might still be playing baseball in a couple of weeks. And while he has had probably the three best games in the majors this year (or at worst the two best and three of four), he is still deservedly going to finish a distant 4th in the Cy voting to Arrieta, Greinke, and Kershaw (in MY order of finish). And while I love to watch ‘totally unhittable’ Max, I’d prefer ‘consistently excellent’ Max to ‘sometimes totally unhittable and sometimes all-too-hittable’ Max.

  12. trfwans - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    Gotta hand it to FP. He totally called this one. He was saying “don’t change your seat, folks” as early as the third inning.

  13. wearenationals - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:51 AM

    Wow. All I can say is WOW!

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