April 26, 2021

Bumgarner's 7-Inning No-Hitter Shines A Light On Yet Another Screw-Up By MLB

Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner threw a no-hitter on Sunday afternoon. In the second game of a doubleheader, which MLB and the Players Association have agreed are officially seven innings in length, Bumgarner pitched a complete game, going seven innings and allowing zero hits, with his team beating Atlanta 7-0. 

MLB will credit Bumgarner with a win, a complete game, and a shutout, but will not give his performance the designation as an official no-hitter.

It's yet another screw-up by MLB in the Rob Manfred Era.

MLB stated on Sunday that it will observe the definition of "no-hitter" as stated by its official statisticians, the Elias Sports Bureau: "No-hitters by teams and individuals shall not be credited in scheduled seven-inning games, unless the game goes to extra innings and the team (or individual in a complete game) pitches at least nine innings and does not allow a hit."

That is utter horseshit.

On the final day of the 2006 season, Boston's Devern Hansack allowed no hits in a rain-shortened, five-inning game. Hansack was not credited with a no-hitter because, while the game was official and counted as a win for the Red Sox, it was not played to its usual length of nine innings.

But that reasoning does not apply here. Sunday's game was not shortened in any way, by weather or any other reason. MLB has stated that doubleheader games are officially seven innings. So Bumgarner's feat has to count.

Arizona catcher Carson Kelly is correct:

It was a seven-inning game and we gave up no hits in seven innings. That's how I'm going to look at it. Whether the league says "unofficial," whatever it is, I believe it's a no-hitter. We were told we were playing seven and he took care of business.

Adam Darowski, the head of user experience for Sports Reference (which runs Baseball Reference) said it clearly and more succinctly than I could (my emphasis)

[T]he key here is that it was established to be a 7-inning game BEFORE starting. Rain-shortened no hitters did not reach the previously established game length. This did. It was a complete game that reached this pre-established end point. With no hits. It's a no-hitter.

He added:

Davern Hansack? Not a no-hitter because it didn't reach the previously established end point of the game. Harvey Haddix? It wasn't a complete game with zero hits. This fulfills both requirements.


Using this logic, there are only two other "non-no-hitters" that would count.
Matt Young (April 12, 1992): https://baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199204121.shtml
Andy Hawkins (July 1, 1990): https://baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHA/CHA199007010.shtml
Both were complete games with zero hits that reached their pre-determined endpoint.

A comment, from Andrew (again, my emphasis)

What baffles me the most is that apparently this wasn't even decided by MLB before today despite the rule being in place since last season. No hitter or not it's a damning indictment of MLB's ability to actually flesh out the rules it wants to have.

If MLB says Bumgarner's no-hitter is not an official no-hitter, then it follows that MLB is also saying that all of these seven-inning games in 2020 and 2021 have not been played to their logical end point and (as per Elias's definition) they have been stopped in some way two innings shy of their "real" completion point.

A Serious Question: Are these seven-inning games actual, full games or are they bullshit gimmicks?

For now, MLB's answer is the latter.


FenFan said...

I'm still unclear WHY MLB felt so strongly about making each end of a doubleheader only seven innings. I can understand at the minor league level, where you want to keep pitch counts down for young arms and are more likely to schedule true DHs, i.e., the second game follows shortly after the first, leaving little time to recover from the first game.

That said, this is the MAJOR LEAGUES, where we SHOULD be seeing the best of the best. Players SHOULD be built to play a 162-game schedule with an off-day every other week as necessary. NO ONE asked for shortened DH games, just as NO ONE asked for a runner starting at second in extra inning games or intentional walks with no pitches thrown.

Meanwhile, baseball fans ASKED for replay, and MLB resisted for years. So calls continued to be made that were clearly wrong before the league finally caved to the fact that, yes, we have reliable technology that would allow for this and, no, it doesn't hurt the integrity of the game.

Of course, they've also tested and proven that using Statcast to call balls and strikes would be effective and doesn't cost the home plate umpire his job, but that's still a season or two away... because why not continue to watch pitches right down the middle get called a ball or a foot off the black a strike?

allan said...

I think it was a COVID measure - to reduce possible contact/transmission - but how much safer is everyone if they play 14 innings versus 18 innings? Any benefits are dubious, at best. I mean, does the virus only come out in the 8th and 9th innings?

Some people have suggested the extra runner be used after the 12th. I never want it, of course. I want it gone for all eternity and I want my mind erased of the times it was used. But if it HAS TO BE USED (OR ELSE?), then that is a very good idea, because a very small % of games go 13+ innings. I would also not be completely opposed to tie games (after X innings?). Ties should absolutely be used in the minors, maybe after 12 innings?

Zenslinger said...

I think the seven-inning double header was a COVID measure, and there's one aspect of it I can see some sense in. Double headers are a challenge for the team endurance wise, and because COVID will cause more postponed games, there will be more doubleheaders.

You might call the postponement days extra rest that compensates, but I'd say the overall irregularity of effort caused by COVID postponements would be most felt by having at those double headers. So, release some of the pressure at all those double header choke points, and the season will go a bit more smoothly. Less injury.

hrstrat57 said...

I dig the 14 inning doubleheaders

If it's the rules than it's a no hitter.

MLB having it both ways again. Didn't like Maris tainting the babe thus the asterisk....


FenFan said...

I think it was a COVID measure - to reduce possible contact/transmission - but how much safer is everyone if they play 14 innings versus 18 innings? Any benefits are dubious, at best. I mean, does the virus only come out in the 8th and 9th innings?

I figured doing the shortened doubleheaders in 2020 were for COVID reasons, and it makes sense to keep it going in 2021 if we really aren't out of the woods. But your point is valid; consider, too, that teams congregate for at least a few hours before each game in preparation, so saving roughly 40 minutes of play makes the players and staff members safer?

Of course, if the virus does appear in the 8th or 9th inning, it must pitch to at least three batters or until the third out is made.