Can Throwing a No-Hitter Be a Bad Thing?

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Can Throwing a No-Hitter Be a Bad Thing?
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

The Colorado Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter of 2010, as well as the first no-hitter by a Rockies pitcher ever, yesterday against the Braves

He gave up six walks and notched seven strikeouts, which meant it took him 128 pitches to finish off his no-no.

That’s a lot of pitches for a mid-April game. 

In fact, it was the highest single game pitch total so far in the 2010 season.

Jimenez has a history of throwing a lot of pitches in games, finishing second in the NL in total pitches thrown last year just behind Adam Wainwright, and at age 26, Jimenez is at the prime age for a heavy workload. 

Still, it’s a lot of pitches to throw in a game this early in the season, and we’ll have to wait and see if it has any effect on his arm, as we go further into the young season.

By way of comparison, Bruce Bochy pulled Tim Lincecum after only six shutout innings and 104 pitches yesterday, against the Dodgers

Bochy is an old-school manager who doesn’t worry much about pitch counts. Lincecum and Matt Cain were respectively fifth and eighth in the NL in total pitches thrown last season.

However, Bochy is reportedly looking for opportunities to keep his starters’ workloads down early this year, with the idea of keeping them fresher in the second half. 

Lincecum batted for himself in the top of the seventh inning yesterday, but once the Giants scored two more runs that inning to make it 9-0, Bochy decided that Lincecum had pitched enough. Three relievers combined for the shutout.

The Padres used Kevin Correia and four relief pitchers to shut out the Diamondbacks yesterday. Meanwhile, grizzled veteran, Livan Hernandez did it the old fashioned way; he pitched a true shutout against the Brewers on 112 pitches. Livan hasn’t been blowing anyone away, but he’s now 2-0 for the Nationals.

The Cardinals and Mets went twenty innings yesterday and used a total of 19 different pitchers in the process.

Given the way relief pitchers are used nowadays, rarely going more than two innings at a stretch, I wonder if we won’t in the relatively near future (the next ten years) have a rule change that eliminates or reduces games of more than, say, fifteen innings.

This issue came up in international play, where in the extra innings teams start each half inning with runners automatically on base so that it’s a lot easier to score runs and decide the game.

In Japan’s NPB, games only last 12 innings; if it’s still tied after 12, the games ends as a draw.

American purists think every game should be played to a decision. That certainly makes sense for post-season games. However, during the regular season few fans stick around past 14 or 15 innings anyway, so it really isn’t necessary to keep playing.

One possible idea I have, is that teams play fifteen innings, and if the game is still tied after 15, then at the start of each inning thereafter, the home plate umpire goes to each manager separately and asks if the team wants to continue playing or will accept a draw.

If either manager wants to keep playing, the teams keep playing. 

If both managers want to accept a draw, the game is called a draw, and each team is credited with half a win and half a loss in the standings.

You’d definitely get some gamesmanship this way, because managers might not want to let the other side know they will accept a draw. Also, managers could change their minds each inning.

Managers could then make a tactical decision about whether or not they will accept a draw in order to keep their bullpen arms fresh.

Obviously, if it’s late in the season, and one or both of the teams need that win, they just keep on playing to give themselves a chance of getting it. My guess is that you’d get some of both (draws and games played to a decision) over the course of a season.

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