MLB Pitchers Who Are Due for a No-Hitter

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJune 7, 2021

MLB Pitchers Who Are Due for a No-Hitter

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Because 2021 is proving to be the "Year of the No-Hitter" in Major League Baseball, it's only fair to wonder which pitcher might be the next to throw one.

    With the league-wide batting average at an all-time-low-tying .236, it could be anyone who tosses what would be the record-tying seventh no-hitter of the season. But even knowing that all-time greats like Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens never threw a no-hitter, there are some pitchers who just plain seem due for one.

    So, we've spotlighted our top eight candidates for MLB's next no-no.

    To make things interesting, we limited our selections to pitchers who don't already have a no-hitter on their resumes—sorry, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. From there, we narrowed our search to hurlers who are downright hard to hit and capable of going deep into games. 

    First, some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

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    Zack Wheeler
    Zack WheelerAssociated Press

    Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

    He had a firm place among baseball's most electric pitchers coming into the year. But by way of diminished fastball velocity and a career-low strikeout rate, he's been more hittable than usual thus far in 2021.

         

    Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals

    The 36 starts he's made since July 7, 2019, have yielded a 2.29 ERA and the second-lowest batting average against (.171) among qualified starters. But because of a serious oblique strain, it'll be a while before he can chase a no-no.

         

    Kevin Gausman, San Francisco Giants

    He was merely an average pitcher (i.e., one with a 99 ERA+) through his first seven seasons. Then he was darn good in 2020 and now he's holding hitters to a .156 average in 2021, so he's definitely one to keep an eye on.

          

    Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox

    On the one hand, he's not the most overpowering pitcher. But on the other, he gobbles up innings like few other pitchers and he's held opponents to just a .192 average since the start of last season.

        

    Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

    He's limited hitters to a .190 average in 20 career starts, so he's obviously hard to hit. But he's pitched into the eighth inning only once and his workload limitations are a barrier between him and doing that again.

         

    Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers

    The 2021 season is the first out of Peralta's four years with the Brewers that he's proving to be a viable starter, so it's hard to say he's "due" for a no-no. Then again, he darn near threw one his last time out and, overall, his .133 average against ranks second among all qualified starters.

         

    Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

    He's tended to be more hittable than a pitcher with his stuff should be, but that's beginning to change. Wheeler has held hitters to a .200 average with 100 strikeouts over 82.1 innings in 2021. He's also more of a workhorse than he gets credit for, as nobody has gone seven innings more often than he has over the past three seasons.

         

    Maybe in Their Prime:

    • Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants
    • Zack Greinke, Houston Astros
    • David Price, Los Angeles Dodgers
    • Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
    • Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
    • Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 10 G, 10 GS, 59.1 IP, 35 H (2 HR), 94 K, 7 BB, 1.97 ERA, 208 ERA+, 2.5 rWAR

    The notion that Corbin Burnes is somehow due for a no-hitter ought to be an odd one. He's only made 22 career starts and he was one of baseball's worst hurlers just two years ago.

    But ever since he moved into the Milwaukee Brewers' rotation on August 18 of last year, Burnes has been perhaps the best pitcher in the sport.

    In 18 total outings, he's put up a 1.83 ERA with 138 more strikeouts than walks and an opponents' average of just .172. His mid-90s cutter is one of the best pitches in baseball right now, though he can also bamboozle hitters with his curveball, slider and changeup.

    But while Burnes is clearly one of the nastiest pitchers in MLB, he'll have to overcome his workload pattern if he wants to pitch the league's next no-no. It takes nine innings to throw one of those, and he's yet to pitch even into the eighth inning in any of his starts.

Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 12 G, 12 GS, 77.0 IP, 46 H (10 HR), 106 K, 25 BB, 2.69 ERA, 141 ERA+, 1.6 rWAR

    For his career, Tyler Glasnow bears a 100 ERA+ through 102 total appearances. That means he's been exactly a league-average pitcher.

    But back in 2019, Glasnow hinted that he could be an ace-caliber pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Albeit in only 12 starts, he put up a 1.78 ERA and limited opposing hitters to just a .186 average. That breakout began to look fluky as he took a step back in 2020, but he's now better than ever in 2021.

    He may have "only" a 2.69 ERA, but next to that is a stellar rate of 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings and an American League-low .168 batting average. He already had a deadly fastball and even deadlier curveball—the latter has racked up more strikeouts than any other hook in 2021—and now he also has a pretty good slider.

    Like with Burnes, however, there's a question of when or even if Glasnow will next pitch a complete game. He's gone eight innings before, but his next nine-inning effort will also be his first.

Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 12 G, 12 GS, 76.0 IP, 39 H (4 HR), 92 K, 17 BB, 1.42 ERA, 289 ERA+, 3.9 rWAR

    Even as great as Burnes and Peralta have been, Brandon Woodruff takes the prize as Milwaukee's best pitcher of 2021.

    The right-hander was an All-Star in 2019, and he continued to pitch at an All-Star level in 2020, but this year he's operating more like a Cy Young Award contender. He's gone at least six innings in 10 of his 12 outings, and his .150 average against is third-lowest among qualified hurlers.

    For Woodruff, it's all about the fastball. He throws both a four-seamer and a sinker, and the former is responsible for more strikeouts in 2021 than anyone else's. Overall, opponents have just nine hits in 101 at-bats against it.

    Trouble is, Woodruff is yet another ace hurler who doesn't have a nine-inning complete game on his record. And while his heat should absolutely be feared, it's debatable as to whether he has a signature secondary pitch. That could get in the way of him securing a no-no.

Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 12 G, 12 GS, 72.0 IP, 50 H (7 HR), 84 K, 17 BB, 2.25 ERA, 163 ERA+, 1.8 rWAR

    Yu Darvish has previously come close to pitching a no-hitter on not one, not two, but three occasions. 

    Way back in 2013, the then-Texas Ranger lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning. He also lost a no-hitter in the ninth the following year. Most recently, he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as a member of the Chicago Cubs last August.

    These near-misses might still sting Darvish, but there's little reason to think he's missed his window to get the job done. The roll he's on now has been going since the 2019 All-Star break, and it now consists of a 2.35 ERA and .200 average allowed in 37 total starts.

    Even though he's now 34 years old, Darvish's fastball is still going strong at 94.6 mph. He likewise has one of baseball's best sliders among a deep inventory of secondary offerings. So rather than one of ability, the only question about his likelihood for a no-hitter has to do with luck.

Shane Bieber, Cleveland

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 12 G, 12 GS, 79.0 IP, 65 H (9 HR), 117 K, 29 BB, 3.08 ERA, 140 ERA+, 2.2 rWAR

    Following his All-Star breakout in 2019, Cleveland's Shane Bieber promptly took the next step and won the AL Cy Young Award with an utterly dominant 2020 season.

    In just 77.1 innings, he racked up 101 more strikeouts than walks and allowed only 46 hits. His .167 average against was the lowest such mark among American League starters.

    Suffice it to say that Bieber hasn't been as tough for opposing hitters in 2021. They've mustered a .220 average against him, with much of the extra damage coming within the strike zone. Whereas Bieber limited hitters to a .229 average on in-zone pitches in 2020, he's only at .298 this year.

    Yet, Bieber is still very much a threat for a no-hitter. Mainly courtesy of two outstanding breaking balls—his knuckle-curve and slider—he's leading MLB in strikeouts for the second successive year. And with more innings than anyone since 2019, there's no questioning his ability to go deep.

Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 13 G, 13 GS, 82.1 IP, 46 H (13 HR), 103 K, 23 BB, 2.40 ERA, 157 ERA+, 2.5 rWAR

    Trevor Bauer has been the platonic ideal of an ace in three of the past four seasons.

    He achieved a long-awaited All-Star breakout with Cleveland in 2018, and last year he was the National League Cy Young Award winner for the Cincinnati Reds. Now he's continuing his excellent work with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021, pushing his average against over the past two seasons to an MLB-low .159.

    Bauer has logged more innings than all but two hurlers dating back to 2016, and more recently crowned himself as MLB's Spin Rate King. At an average of 2,866 revolutions per minute, his pitches have spun at a far better rate than anyone else's since 2020. Practically speaking, that translates to absurd movement.

    But about that, it frankly came as very little surprise when MLB targeted Bauer in a ball-doctoring inquiry in April. If the league follows through on its threat to start cracking down on that practice, he could be in trouble.

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 12 G, 12 GS, 75.2 IP, 55 H (6 HR), 104 K, 11 BB, 2.26 ERA, 180 ERA+, 2.8 rWAR

    Were it not for a fifth-inning double by Chris Owings, Gerrit Cole would have pitched a no-hitter for the Houston Astros on May 4, 2018. That was the only hit of a complete-game shutout in which he also struck out 16 batters.

    Of course, that hit did indeed happen. Three years later, Cole is still on the lookout for what feels like an inevitable no-no.

    The New York Yankees ace has been the best pitcher in the American League since 2018. Over 361 total innings, he's tallied a 2.52 ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He's also one of only two pitchers with at least 500 innings and a sub-.200 average against in this span.

    Though Cole's four-seam fastball—which has both elite velocity and elite spin—is his best pitch, his curveball, slider and revitalized changeup are also dangerous weapons. While he tends to land more in the six- or seven-inning range when he starts, Cole's also been known to go deeper as needed.

Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 9 G, 9 GS, 58.0 IP, 25 H (3 HR), 93 K, 8 BB, 0.62 ERA, 623 ERA+, 2.8 rWAR

    Like Darvish and Cole, Jacob deGrom has come this close to pitching a no-hitter before. Back on July 17, 2016, a ground-ball single by opposing pitcher Zach Eflin proved to be the lone hit of deGrom's first career shutout.

    In those days, deGrom was a pretty good pitcher. But in these days, the New York Mets ace is so good that it's a wonder MLB hasn't outlawed him yet.

    The two-time Cy Young Award winner's past four seasons have yielded a 1.94 ERA and league-low .192 average against overall, and he's obviously operating on a whole 'nother level in 2021. He's on track to shatter Bob Gibson's ERA record for the Live Ball Era, and his .128 average would also set a record.

    Such is life when you have the hardest average fastball (99.3 mph) ever recorded by a starting pitcher, though that's also but one pitch in an arsenal of pitches that rarely clock under 90 mph. So if deGrom does pitch a no-hitter, it'll be perhaps the least surprising no-no in MLB history.

         

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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