The formula seems simple in retrospect. Take a pitcher with an electric arm, throw him out there when he doesn’t have his best stuff or command, and there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll throw a no-hitter. Magic!
Fine, maybe Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter last night was a little unconventional, but it shouldn’t be that surprising that it was Liriano who threw the first no-hitter of 2011. Dude’s nasty, even when he’s off. So who is the best bet to throw the next no-hitter? Here are my guesses, with the pitchers separated into five different categories. Consider it a shot in the dark with a gun that tends to jam.
This one isn’t fun, but it’s good for people with low self-esteem. Pick one of the best pitchers, and make him your guy. Roy Halladay is supposed to be good. This Tim Lincecum kid should be something once he figures it all out. The safest bet is going to be one of the best pitchers, of course.
So Felix Hernandez is my guy. He has a fantastic defense behind him, strikeout stuff, and a spacious home park.
Guaranteed date of no-hitter: Thursday, June 2, vs. Tampa
The Wild And Talented
This is a well-represented group among no-hitters, with Edwin Jackson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Anibal Sanchez all completing no-hitters after issuing fistfuls of walks. So the first step to narrow the list down is to find pitchers who have a BB/9 over 3.00 and a K/9 over 8.00. Then weed out the pitchers who would qualify for the "obvious" category. Goodbye, Tim Lincecum and Ubaldo Jimenez.
And hellllllo, Max Scherzer! He’s a young, blossoming star, and he’s been hard to hit already in his short career. He’s the best bet to Edwin out a no-hitter, walking a half-dozen and finishing the game with 140 pitches.
Guaranteed date of no-hitter: Monday, August 22, at Tampa
The Slightly Less-Obvious
This is the second-tier guy. He isn’t going to win a Cy Young anytime soon, but he’s good enough to miss bats and have a nifty record of preventing runs. C.J. Wilson would be in this category, as would Tim Hudson.
But my pick is Matt Cain, who has already thrown two one-hitters and has made a living by confounding students of BABiP. Cain’s a good pitcher, but more importantly he’s a fly-ball pitcher. Once Andres Torres comes back, the Giants will have the big parts of the AT&T Park outfield covered, and Cain’s proclivity for outs in the air also means that he doesn’t have to worry as much about a grounder getting past Miguel Tejada, who is usually playing short or third, and who has the range of a piranha plant.
Guaranteed date of no-hitter: Thursday, June 29, 2012, vs. Tampa (interleague)
The R.A. Dickey
After careful consideration, I've selected R.A. Dickey for this category. There’s no logic behind this one. It’s just fun to watch knuckleballers mess with hitters’ minds, and a no-hitter from one would be especially beautiful. The last one I could find was Phil Niekro against the Padres in 1973, and it must have been amazing to watch. The over/under on completely ludicrous cricket swings has to be 20 for that game. Maybe one day Dickey can get his knuckler dancing, and he’ll float into the record books. Or, at least, the hallowed no-hitters page on Wikipedia.
Guaranteed date of no-hitter: Sunday, October 30, at Tampa (World Series)
Alternatively titled: The Bobo Holloman Memorial Award. This is going to be a pitcher who is just filling in for a starter who’s hurt, or a short-term guy just up from the minors.
Alex Cobb has had a sweet start to his 2011 season in Triple-A Durham, though he was pounded in his first major-league start for the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s a talented guy who isn’t going to have a lot of chances to crack the rotation for the next couple of years -- a perfect out-of-absolutely-nowhere candidate to throw a no-hitter.
Guaranteed date of no-hitter: ...uh, Monday, July 10, at Tampa. It’s unlikely because that’s actually the All-Star break, and I'm predicting it will be against the team he's currently on, but stay with me.
These are just guesses of course. If you want, you can throw a Padres pitcher in there, as games played in Petco Park average 1.6 combined hits for both teams (look it up). And there’s always a chance that pitchers will go into a no-hitter slump, just as they did for all of 2005, in which case I’ll take Stephen Strasburg, in the 2013 season, in the conservatory, with a rope. The rope will be holding his elbow together.
All things being equal: Who is your pick to throw the next no-hitter?