It becomes more obvious with every no-hitter that MLB players are slowly but surely waning off steroids. Clearly, the pitchers have taken back the advantage.
Not since 1991—when there were seven no-hitters in MLB—had there been more than three no-hitters in a single season. After two were thrown in 2009, pitchers broke out to throw six last season.
The funny thing is, some of the no-hitters are proving to be more related to the batters' insufficiency than the pitchers sufficiency—proven by Edwin Jackson's eight walks and Francisco Liriano's six walks while tossing their no-no's.
In today's MLB, pitchers rule. We have had two no-hitter's so far during the 2011 season, and I'd bet top dollar that we will have at least a couple more by the time the Red Sox or Phillies hoist the World Series trophy.
Here are the no-hitter candidates—enjoy!
This is how bad things are in Kansas City.
Luke Hochevar has about as much of a chance of throwing a no-no as the Tampa Bay Rays have at selling out a home game—some things are just never going to happen.
Hochevar—a former first overall draft pick—is the best pitcher on a horrible pitching staff for Kansas City. He does, however, lead the league in games started this season.
Dillon Gee has anchored a weak New York Mets rotation so far in 2011—going 8-2 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.20 WHIP through his first 13 starts.
While it doesn't seem likely that Gee has what it takes to throw a no-no, he definitely holds a better chance than any other Mets' starter.
Mat Latos' 2011 season is a far cry from his 2010 breakout performance, but the talented young hurler seems to be getting back on track after a rocky start to the season.
Latos was great at keeping hitters at bay last season, something that he has struggled with so far in 2011. Opposing batters are hitting .263 off Latos at this point compared to .217 last season, partly due to a sharp increase in his walk-rate.
While I believe Latos is every bit as good as we saw in 2010, he still has a ways to go to join the ranks of the elite.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a pair of young studs in their rotation with Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson.
Kennedy is a bit more seasoned and has been great for the D-Backs since he arrived in Arizona before last season.
His K/BB ratio has jumped up to 3.22 this season, while in 2010 Kennedy was ninth in the NL in hits per nine innings pitched with 7.562.
Francisco Liriano hasn't quite lived up to expectations since breaking out as a rookie in 2006, but he did throw the first no-hitter of 2011 back in May.
Liriano has pitched poorly this season, with his 1.66 K/BB ratio being by far the worst of his career. It makes sense considering he walked six while striking out only two during his no-hit bid.
The once bright-looking future no longer looks sunny for Liriano, but at least he has a no-hitter to his name.
It doesn't appear that any Baltimore Orioles pitchers are primed to throw a no-no, but if anyone is going to do it, it will be the young Zach Britton.
Britton has stepped up for the O's in a big way this season. Although his strikeout rates are lower than they were throughout the minor leagues, those numbers should increase as he gains big-league experience.
Not much of a selection on the beleaguered Cubs' pitching staff, but Matt Garza gets the nod simply because he's thrown a no-hitter before.
Garza tossed a no-hitter for the Tampa Bay Rays on June 26th of last season—when he held the Detroit Tigers to one walk while facing the minimum 27 batters.
Garza's 2.97 K/BB ratio is the best of his career, while so far, he has managed to keep the ball in the ballpark at hitter-friendly Wrigley Field.
In a very close call, Justin Masterson narrowly beats out Carlos Carrasco for the Cleveland Indians.
Masterson is starting to blossom into the pitcher the Indians' had hoped they were getting when sending Victor Martinez to the Red Sox two years ago.
Masterson leads all MLB pitchers with a 0.3 HR/9, and he strikes out more hitters than Carrasco—a common trait among pitchers who throw no-hitters.
Although Karstens was just a throw-in as part of the deal that sent Xavier Nady to the Yankees back in 2008, time has proven that the Buccos' landed a possible hidden gem.
Karstens has anchored a rejuvenated Pirates' squad in 2011, currently sitting at a stellar 2.55 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
With dramatic improvements in not giving up so many hits and walks this season, Karstens seems to have finally found control of his pitches as a 28-year-old with the Pirates.
I hate this pick, just as I presume many of you will too. The fact is, no one on the Cards' rotation is deserving of consideration aside from Kyle Lohse.
Lohse doesn't have awesome "stuff," but he has shown remarkable control so far in 2011—allowing batters to hit only .235 while giving up only 20 walks in over 115 innings.
Chris Carpenter has been dreadful at times this season, and it appears Jaime Garcia isn't getting the same lucky breaks he got as a rookie in 2010, where his stats looked much better than he actually pitched. Yes, having a 2.70 ERA matched with a 1.316 WHIP means he got some breaks last season.
Alexi Ogando burst onto the scene in a big way this season—holding a 2.86 ERA and 1.034 WHIP through his first 16 starts.
Considering Ogando has pitched less than 140 MLB innings, there isn't much to compare his performance to or even begin an attempt at deciphering why he has been so dominant.
All I can really say is that he doesn't issue many walks, and his 0.7 HR/9 is pretty darn good for a pitcher who plays at the Rangers ballpark.
Sure, Jimenez has been horrible to start the 2011 season—but are you telling me you wouldn't jump at the opportunity to have him on your roster?
Year over year, all of Jimenez' key pitching stats have deteriorated. However, he has thrown quality starts in his last seven outings, which may point to a second-half turnaround for the young hurler.
With Jordan Zimmermann's breakout 2011 campaign, Washington Nationals' fans have forgotten all about Stephen Strasburg.
While the above is obviously not true, you can bet the Nats' are excited to have the duo anchor the top of their rotation for years to come.
Zimmermann has put up great numbers across the board this season, and the second half will give us a better idea on whether or not he is for real.
Ricky Romero came into the 2011 season looking to improve one thing—pitch control. So far, it appears his hard work has paid off.
After throwing a MLB-high 18 wild pitches last season, Romero has thrown only four through the seasons' first half.
"RR Cool Jay" continues to improve his walk and strikeout rates while lowering his BAA to .225 this season.
Two seasons ago, Edinson Volquez would have been the clear choice, but Johnny Cueto has been dominant to start the 2011 season.
Cueto currently holds a 1.77 ERA with a shining 0.956 WHIP—keeping opposing hitters in check to the tune of a .195 BAA.
The key for Cueto has been his stellar 6.0 H/9 thus far. He finally seems to have gotten control of his pitches, which could mean big things for Cueto and the Reds in the second half.
The fact that Josh Johnson is on the 60-day DL may be the main reason Anibal Sanchez makes the list, but that doesn't mean the Marlins' young hurler isn't deserving.
Sanchez threw a no-hitter for the Marlins as a rookie back in 2006, and he has come darn close on a couple of occasions already this season.
Not only did Sanchez take a no-no into the ninth inning back in April, but he has allowed opposing batters to four hits or less during five starts in 2011.
Bud Norris may not be consistent, but he has the pure "stuff" to throw a no-hitter.
Nolan Ryan had a 1.247 WHIP over his 27-year career, but his overpowering abilities helped him pitch seven no-hitters. I'm not saying Norris is the next Nolan Ryan, but they do have a similar approach while on the mound.
Norris' 9.4 K/9 is narrowly behind Ryan's career number of 9.5, and he has improved his hits, walks and home runs against ratios during each of his three seasons.
The Oakland Athletics boast one of the best young pitching staff's in MLB, with Gio Gonzalez now leading the way.
After a breakout 2010 season, G-Gon has definitely provided an encore for A's fans. He is on pace to shatter his career-best marks in every relevant pitching category, and at this point, has allowed only 85 hits through 109 innings on the mound.
While he sometimes tends to walk batters at a high rate, batters have struggled stringing together hits against Gonzalez all season. He has allowed five or less hits during 11 of his 17 starts this season.
Between Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson, the White Sox rotation sports two no-hitters and a perfect game.
Considering Jackson struggles with control—walking eight batters during his feat—his no hitter is quite the anomaly.
For Buehrle's sake, anyone who can do it twice is capable of doing it thrice. Buehrle has been about as consistent as a MLB pitcher can be over his career, and he provides stellar defense from the pitching mound.
Shaun Marcum has clearly been the best pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers this season, but there is no denying that homegrown star Yovani Gallardo has the best "stuff" on the staff.
Gallardo has been hit or miss so far in 2011. He has pitched one and two-hit shutouts, but he has also given up nine-plus hits four times.
Yo-Yo will undoubtedly improve on his first-half performance, so don't be surprised if he makes another run at a no-no this season.
C.C. Sabathia is the best pitcher on the best team in the AL, but consistently leading the league in wins doesn't necessarily give him a better shot at throwing a no-no.
Sabathia's walk and home run rates are the lowest that they've been in his three seasons in pinstripes and his K/BB ratio is the highest.
Yet, his H/9 are at there highest, and his ERA has never been below 3.00 since being in the Bronx. As much as I love C.C, I don't think he is next in line.
Tommy Hanson is a strikeout pitcher, which gives him the nod over Jair Jurrjens. Jurrjens pitches to contact—which isn't always good when you're trying to throw a no-hitter.
Through 89.1 innings so far in 2011, Hanson has compiled 97 strikeouts, a 1.06 WHIP and a sparkling .193 BAA.
It was tough to pass over Michael Pineda—who sports a 1.01 WHIP so far in 2011—but King Felix is about as good as it gets on the pitchers' mound.
The 2010 AL Cy Young winner was slow out of the gate this season, but his peripherals show that he has pitched better than some of his stats might suggest.
Although his K/BB ratio is slightly up in 2011, Hernandez is still holding opposing batters to a .229 clip and we should expect his performance to improve during the second half.
In 2010, James Shields led the AL in hits and runs against—not something many people will believe after seeing the Rays hurler dominate through the first half of 2011.
Shields has allowed a mere 102 hits through his first 134.2 innings, while most of his stats are at career-bests across the board.
With six complete games and three shutouts through his first 18 starts in 2011, Shields may very well be the next in line to throw a no-hitter.
Jered Weaver is the leading AL Cy Young candidate this season—and for good reason.
His ridiculous 192 ERA+ leads all of baseball, while his 1.92 ERA leads the AL. Adding to Weaver's case is the fact he's allowed only 91 hits in over 131 innings so far this season.
Weaver has allowed four hits or less on seven different occasions in 2011, and he appears poised to get a no-no sooner rather than later.
Many may think Tim Lincecum deserves the spot here, but "The Freak" hasn't been as dominant the last couple of years as most people think. Lincecum's K/9 has decreased for four straight seasons while his BB/9 has increased in each of the last three.
Cain, on the other hand, has improved mightily over the past two seasons—besting Lincecum in WHIP, K/BB ratio and BAA by a long-shot.
They are both great pitchers, but Cain is more primed for a no-no at this point.
Clayton Kershaw is probably the only untouchable player among the Los Angeles Dodgers squad.
The 23-year-old leads MLB in strikeouts, notching 10.1 K/9 so far this season while raising his K/BB ratio to 4.18.
If Kershaw isn't already considered one of the best pitchers in baseball, then he will be soon.
Not only is Roy Halladay the best pitcher in MLB, but he pitched a perfect game last May before following it up with the second postseason no-hitter/perfect game in MLB history.
Doc leads all of MLB with a ridiculous 7.71 K/BB ratio, while giving only 1.1 batters a free pass per nine innings.
Halladay leads the league with six complete games already this season, so as long as his arm doesn't fall off, don't be surprised if he gets another no-no under his belt in the near future.
Justin Verlander may be the best pitcher in baseball not named Doc—but that's for you all to debate.
Since throwing his second no-hitter this past May, I've read everything from Verlander being the the best pitcher in baseball to him having a chance to break Nolan Ryan's record of seven no-hitter's.
While I don't believe either of those notions to be accurate, there is no doubt that Verlander is a dominant pitcher who is only getting better.
Jon Lester has all the tools to throw a no-hitter—which is exactly why he tossed one back in 2008. He pitches deep into games, and he strikes out a ton of batters.
Lester has consistently been among the league-leaders in H/9 as well as K/9, and his BAA has improved during every season of his career.
Mark my words: Lester is next in line for a another no-hitter.