Predicting the Unpredictable No-Hitter
A few years ago, Bill James designed a system to predict the likelihood of a particular pitcher throwing a no-hitter at some point, taking into account his career strikeout and double-play rates. In The Bill James Handbook 2009, we listed the ten pitchers most likely to achieve this rare feat during their career, led by Giants ace Tim Lincecum. Coming in at #8 on the list with a 12% chance at a no-no: Lincecum’s teammate, Jonathan Sanchez.
By late June, Sanchez had lost his spot in a strong Giants rotation. When Randy Johnson went down with an injury just a few days later, Sanchez was given another shot. On July 10, Sanchez took the mound with Sigfredo “Freddy” Sanchez in the stands, the first time the father had seen his son start a Major League game. Nine innings and 11 strikeouts later, Sanchez completed the no-hitter, allowing only Chase Headley to reach on an error in the eighth inning.
Of course, we can’t claim to predict every no-hitter, but we can give you a pretty good idea who might be next. From the “Career Targets” section of The Bill James Handbook 2010, due out November 1:
|Most Likely No-Hitter
% chance to reach milestone
|Tim Lincecum, Giants||25%|
|Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers||23%|
|Rich Harden, Free Agent||21%|
|Justin Verlander, Tigers||20%|
|Yovani Gallardo, Brewers||19%|
|Jon Lester, Red Sox||18%|
|Zack Greinke, Royals||17%|
|Jonathan Sanchez, Giants||15%|
|Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies||15%|
|Javier Vazquez, Braves||15%|
Of course, Verlander, Lester and Sanchez have already etched their names in history, but our system doesn’t know that. The system gives strikeout-machine Lincecum a one-in-four shot at throwing a no-hitter before his career is over. Lincecum, Greinke and Harden may not be surprises on this list, but how about Yovani Gallardo and Jorge de la Rosa? You might laugh, but a year ago you probably had the same reaction when you saw Jonathan Sanchez’s name on the list.
Also in the Career Targets section of The Bill James Handbook 2010, you will find the most-updated odds that Alex Rodriguez breaks Barry Bonds’ career homerun record, Albert Pujols reaches 3,000 hits, and that Dustin Pedroia breaks Tris Speaker’s doubles record.
“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.