So you plunk down in your seat, crack open a nice cold beer, you get your bets in at one of the top Canadian Betting Sites, and then two hours and 39 minutes later (give or take), you witness a no-hitter.
Much of that sounds like a typical day watching the MLB – except for the no-hitter part. But in 2021, the rate of no-hitters is at a historic level.
No-Hitter Record for a Season vs Pace of 2021
The official record for no-hitters in a season is eight – back in 1884. If you only include the modern era, the record for no-nos in a season is seven (three times – 1990, 1991, and 2012).
So far in 2021, four or five no-hitters (Madison Bumgarner tossed a seven-inning no-hitter in a doubleheader). Even if you do not want to score the seven innings as an official no-hitter – four no-hitters, when some teams are not even a fifth into their season puts us on a historic pace.
The current pace for the season is 20 no-hitters. While that seems too high, many signs are pointing towards record-breaking pitching numbers in 2021.
Why are We Seeing So many No-Hitters?
There are a few reasons we are seeing no-hitters at an all-time high this season.
The first reason – players cannot get hits. As of May 11, the batting average across the league is .234. That is three ticks lower than the previous low – set in 1968. Teams are also matching the fewest hits per game in MLB history at 7.75 (currently tying the previous low set in 1908).
The low batting average and hits per game are due to two main factors: the defensive shift and increased strikeout rate.
The defensive shift has effectively made power-hitting lefthanders much less efficient. Unless they are hitting it out of the park, their batting average for balls in play is much lower than it was even ten years ago.
It is also harder than ever to put balls into play, thanks to increased pitcher velocity. So far in 2021 – there are 65 pitchers (minimum of 50 pitches this season) averaging 96 MPHs or more on their fastball. In 2017 – of every pitcher who threw at least 50 pitches in the season, only 41 guys averaged 96 MPHs or more that season. Since we are slightly over 20% into the season, that 65 should only increase – and soon top the record 71 pitchers last season who averaged 96 MPH or more last season (minimum 50 pitches).
Can Hitters Solve Pitchers in 2021?
There is an old baseball adage that hitters will adjust to pitchers and catch up to their increased velocity. But, with players losing out on 100 games last season and condensed doubleheaders still a thing in 2021, the players may not solve this problem in 2021.
The Bigger Issue is the Defensive Shift
While it is hard to fault teams for playing the numbers and getting any advantage they can, the defensive shift (also called the infield shift) is a problem baseball has to deal with.
The MLB is currently testing out a ban of the shift on the Double-A level. The new rule requires the four infielders to always have their feet on the basepath or infield (until the ball is put into play).
Since the start of the Double-A season was delayed until May 4 – it is too early to tell if the rule has a positive effect. Major League Baseball will revisit the rule in October – to see if it is something they should adapt.
The rules could also change to allow the infield shift once or twice per game (similar to how many times you can challenge a call on the field). But who knows what to expect right now.
So, Will 2021 Be the Year of the No-Hitter?
Without any change coming this season, we should expect pitchers to continue to dominate hitters. It would not be a surprise to see the no-hitters in a season record shattered, especially when the top guys in the league such as Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, and Shane Bieber have yet to record a no-hitter this season.