No-hitters are a funny thing. It’s one of the greatest single achievements in sports, yet the list of players who have done it is littered with scrubs and nobodies. Sure you’ll see Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels on the list, but you'll also see Philip Humber, Chris Heston and Homer Bailey (twice).
You may think that there is some formula to getting a no-hitter. Strikeout king Nolan Ryan may have more no-hitters than anyone, but Roger Clemens (number 3 for most career strikeouts) never threw one. There are pitchers like Mark Burhle who faced exactly 27 batters against the Rangers, getting all of them out; and then there are pitchers like Edwin Jackson, who put 8 Rays on base in his no-no. There seems to be no one way to get a no-hitter.
For something that is so difficult there sure are a lot of B-level starters able to do it. That's because it’s not just the pitcher who earns a no-hitter; it’s the team. Sure having an ace on the mound is a nice asset, but if DeWayne Wise never climbed the fence to rob a homer from Gabe Kapler, Mark Buhrle would only have thrown one no-hitter. A great team is the key to a no-hitter, and that’s why a ton of “nobodies” made the list. Here are 15 underrated pitchers who could throw a no-hitter this year.
29 Dan Straily – Reds
For those who aren’t avid fans of the Reds, Dan Straily may be a name you’re completely unfamiliar with. For most of his career Straily has been an add-on in deadline trades. He was sent to Chicago from Oakland as a piece to get Jeff Samardzija, and he was sent by the Cubs to the Astros for Dexter Fowler. The Reds claimed him off waivers in March, and he has been a standout for a team that ranks last in ERA in the MLB. Straily’s stat line is not overly impressive. He has an ERA of 4.07 with 84 strikeouts and a 4-6 record. However, of all players with 100 or more innings pitched only 2016 All-Stars Clayton Kershaw, Drew Pomeranz, and Marco Estrada have given up fewer hits than Strailey’s 82. He currently is sitting at 10th in hits given up per 9 innings, behind the who-who of today’s pitchers. His biggest problem is that he also is in the top 15 in batters walked with 46. Straily just needs to have one day where he has great control of the strike zone while he faces offense that isn’t clicking and he could inscribe his name in baseball’s history books.
27 Jake Peavy – Giants
Peavy is the opposite of Dan Strailey. Most baseball fans should be able to recognize the name of the 2007 Cy Young Award winner, but may have totally forgotten that he’s still starting in the MLB. 2016 has been Peavy’s worst season of his illustrious career. He has an ERA north of 5 for the first time in his career and he has already allowed 110 hits in 19 starts. Peavy joined the Giants in 2014 as an established pitcher with post-season experience, and the move paid off as the Giants won the World Series. No one is too worried about Peavy’s struggles because he is expected to show up when it matters in October, and what he goes in July is just not important. The Giants are skidding a bit, and the Dodgers may see an opening to take over the division heading into August. This is why Peavy is on the roster, to patch a hole when the ship starts to sink. There will be a point in the playoff stretch when the Giants will look to Peavy to get a big win, and he will deliver. AT&T Park, home of the Giants, has been ranked by ESPN as the best park for pitching. If Peavy has the adrenaline and is pitching at home, there is no reason to believe that Peavy won’t be able to no-hit a team when it matters most.
25 Jerad Eickhoff – Phillies
When you look at the players who have thrown the most stikes in 2016, the names you expect litter the top 30 players. Max Scherzer tops the list, along with Justin Verlander, David Price, Corey Kulber, Dallas Keuchel, and Jake Arrieta. Amongst the Cy Young winners, you’ll find a young man with 11 loses and an ERA nearing 4, Jerad Eickhoff. Looking at his full stat lines you may expect Eickhoff to be some scrub that is out of his league, but it’s not that simple. The 26-year-old Eickhoff may have poor numbers, but he’s playing for a terrible team. The Phillies were ranked as the number 27 defense (out of 30) by Fangraphs, and Eickhoff has been known to let batters put balls into plays (124 ground outs and 122 fly outs). Those don’t compliment each other well. Another big piece of throwing a no-hitter is the catcher, and the Phillies have the best one (if you want a no-hitter). Ruiz has caught 4 different no-hit games, which is tied for #1 in MLB history. Though he is no longer the starter for the Phillies, Ruiz has still played in 36 games. Both of Eickhoff’s best games of 2016 came with Ruiz as the backstop. If Carlos Ruiz can call the game, and the Phillie’s defense can make more plays, than it won’t be shocking when Eickhoff pitches a no-no.
23 Julio Urias – Dodgers
Looking at the Dodger’s depth chart, it’s safe to say that once every 5 games there’s a chance someone will throw a no-hitter. That’s because Clayton Kershaw is on the team. When he went down to a back injury, the rotation suddenly became much more hittable with Kenta Maeda acting as the team’s ace. It’s a far cry from what the team looked like in 2015 when they had the one-two punch of Kershaw and Zack Greinke. However, the Kershaw injury did open the door for the Dodger’s next potential star to come up. Julio Urias was ranked as the Dodger’s top prospect and the MLB’s #1 left handed pitching prospect when the season began. At 19, most didn’t expect to see him in the big leagues in 2016, but once Kershaw went down, someone had to pick up the slack. Urias has a fastball that can hit up to 97 mph on the radar gun, and his change up is devastating. This year in the minors, Urias had an ERA of 1.07 with 45 strikeouts in 7 starts. The teenager has struggled a little in his 9 starts in the MLB, going 1-2 with an ERA of 4.69. He’s pitched some great games, and preformed poorly in others. In June, when Urias was getting consistant playtime, he averaged 6 strikeouts per game and only gave up more than 2 runs twice. Then he was hurt for much of July so he could not build on his success. If he gets another month of starts, mixed with the fact that Dodgers stadium is a pitcher-friendly park, and the lack of hitting from the Padres, Phillies, and Reds (25% of the Dodgers remaining schedule is against those teams) there is ample opportunities for Urias to throw a no hitter in 2016.
21 Martin Perez – Rangers
Martin Perez has been one of the Rangers top prospects for years. He was brought up in 2012 and had a career year in 2013 when he tallied a 10-6 record in 20 starts. Since then he has dealt with a slew of injuries including missing much of 2015 to have Tommy John surgery. Perez’s biggest flaw in 2016 is that he rarely strikes anyone out; no other pitcher has 110 innings pitched and has fewer than 80 strikeouts. Perez has 55. He also walks a lot of batters, tied for 4th with most walks in the MLB. Though he puts a lot of runners on the base paths Perez ranks second in both getting groundouts and having batters hit into double plays. Perez’s ability to get ground outs is helped by the fact that the Rangers have one of the most underrated defensive infields in baseball, led by Adrian Beltre. If Perez can stop putting men on bases, and keep up his tremendous groundball rate, there will be days that he could pitch without the outfielders having to break a sweat. The Angels lead the league in double plays, and are fourth in groundouts and have 6 games left against the Rangers. Chances are Perez will start at least one of them and will want revenge following his embarrassing loss at their hands July 20th. If there’s ever a time for him to no-hit a team, that will be it.
19 Chris Tillman – Orioles
It’s tough to call Chris Tillman “unknown” considering that he is leading the MLB in wins. However, the guy is ignored by the media and wasn’t even selected to the All-Star game. Most of his stats are good, but really aren’t anything special. He ranks among the top 50 in WHIP, strikes thrown, ERA, strikeouts, and flyouts. He plays well, but he’s not overpowering anyone so his omission from things like the All-Star game is not surprising. Then how is he leading the league in wins exactly? He does whatever his team needs to win, which is hold the lead. Baltimore has one of the more potent offenses in the league, and is backed by one of the best defenses in the game. Only in 4 of Tillman’s 21 games have the Orioles scored less than 3 runs. You have to beat the Orioles with the long ball, and Tillman just doesn’t let that happen often (only giving up multiple homers in 3 starts). When Tillman doesn’t walk players, he is as dominant as anyone in the game. Against teams like Kansas City and Philadelphia (teams that rarely walk), Tillman can dominate because he won’t be putting so many players on base. All of his statistics are above average, and his team will back him up when it’s time to get a big play, that leads us to think a no-hitter is in his future.
17 Jeff Locke – Pirates
Jeff Locke is a mystery. After a very underwhelming start to the season, he exploded throwing a complete game shut out in Miami (one of the better offenses in the MLB), lowering his ERA from 5.08 to 4.33. Two starts later he gave up 11 runs to the Rockies and his ERA skyrocketed to 5.38, and it’s stayed above 5 since. Throughout his whole career, he’s been average. He made an All-Star team in 2013, despite going 10-7 with a 3.5 ERA and a career high 84 walks. His walks have gone way down since, but so has his strikeouts. Through his career he has averaged a hit per inning and a homerun per game. Then he goes ahead and throws a three hitter. It goes to show that sometimes the stats don’t back the pitcher, and that sometimes pitchers just catch fire. Locke’s best game came while many of his fans were watching the Pittsburgh Penguins compete for the Stanley Cup, so we think he may replicate it once Football season starts ad everyone is watching the Steelers.
15 Steven Wright – Red Sox
Steven Wright has been a nice story for 2016. The 4th year veteran has really come into form following three very mediocre seasons bouncing between the majors and the minors. This year he has 12 wins including 3 complete games and 2 games where he has gone 8 innings. He has 5 games under his belt where he has given up 3 or less hits, and rarely give up more than 3 runs. Pitching for the MLB’s best offense is a huge help for the young starter and he’s visibly relaxed and is having a Cy Young style season. The best way to punctuate his Cinderella season would be a no-hitter, something that very much may be in the cards. Wright has tallied 107 strikeouts thus far and consistently gets a large amount of flyouts and groundouts, basically he just doesn’t allow hits. The defense on left side of the Red Sox infield is notably not topping the league. On the right day, Wright’s defense will click. They will not allow a ball to pass through and Wright will thank them by continuing his dominance. He will add his name to the lineup of no-hitters at some point in his career, we can easily believe it will be this year.
13 Tanner Roark – Nationals
The Nationals have two of the best pitchers in the MLB with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer at the top of the rotation. The third man in the rotation, Gio Gonzalez, was a Cy Young candidate and a two time All-Star. Scherzer has thrown two no hitters in a Nationals jersey, Strasburg and Gonzalez both have pitched multiple games striking out 12 or more batters. If any of them tossed a no-no, fan collectively would shrug and say, “what else is new.” We feel that Tanner Roak, the fourth guy out of the Nat’s rotation, has a really good chance to write his name down next to Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann, as guys who threw a no hitter as a National. Roark is 15th amongst pitchers in strikes thrown, and has a game this year where he fanned 15 batters in 7 innings. He does have some control issues which leads to a lot of walks, each of his 2016 starts he’s allowed at least 1 walk. However, since June he has fixed some of his control issues. He hasn’t allowed more than 2 walks in a game since May 14th, and his strikes to balls thrown ratio has risen from 60% strikes to 70%. Until his July 22nd start, he had been clicking on all cylinders, cumulating with an 8 inning shutout of the Pirates on the 16th. Roark relies on his sinker to fool opposing batters, but when he gets his fastball going he is amongst the more dangerous pitchers in the game. Look out for him late in the season as he is only starting to catch fire.
11 Chad Bettis – Rockies
It may seem weird that we included a statistically sub-par pitcher from a team that plays in one of the least pitcher-friendly parks in the US, especially after he just crossed his career high innings pitched in his most recent start. Normally these kinds of pitchers are expecting to regress in the second half of the year. Looking at Bettis’ numbers, you may double down on your doubt of his no-hit chance. His ERA is north of 5, and his 89 strikeouts are nothing to brag about. He has 0 complete games (through his career), and has only given up 1 or less runs 4 times in 20 starts thus far this season. He also leads the NL in hits allowed. So bottom line is that Bettis is no star and seems like a guy who is more likely to give up a record breaking amount of hits in a game rather than no hit a team. Early in the season Bettis got off to a great start. It seemed like he had fantastic control of his pitches and was not allowing a ton of runs. Then came mid-May, and he lost control. After a streak of 8 games with a quality start, Bettis went 4 straight going 5 innings or less. His struggles continued into June, despite the fact that his team went 4-1 in his 5 starts. Much of July he seems to have refound his pitch command that let him play with a sub 3 ERA during April. Each start in July Bettis has reduced his ERA, dropping it from 5.85 to 5.31. Since June 9th, he has gone 6 innings all but 1 of his 7 starts, and his best was on July 21st. As the season continues we think that the Rockies patience will pay off and the young starter will reward them with a great playoff push and the second no-hitter in Rockies franchise history.
9 Danny Duffy – Royals
Who does a pitcher thank after they throw a no-hitter? Well they normally thank their wife, their parents, and a God that they believe in. Sometimes they’ll mention kids (if they have any), and other times they’ll speak about a family member that recently passed. But they always thank their teammates and praise their defense, because they truly couldn’t do it without them. The Royals have been praised for having the best defense in the MLB, and Fangraphs has confirmed that multiple times. The team is heads and tails above any other defense, potentially of all time, and used it to reach back-to-back World Series, winning it last year. KC doesn’t have the best pitching staff, or the worst. In fact, they are currently ranked 15 of 30 in ERA and strikeouts. Literally as average as it gets this year, but the defense is good enough to create a no-hitter as long as the pitcher keeps the ball in the park. By August, the Royals pitching staff may look a bit difference. There are talks that they may be moving “ace” Edison Volquez at the trade deadline, and same with Ian Kennedy. If either piece are moved, the obvious long-term replacement would be Danny Duffy. Throughout all of his career, Duffy has jumped back and forth from rotation to bullpen, and this year has not been different. Thus far in 2016, Duffy has pitched more innings than anyone besides Kennedy, Volquez, and Yordano Ventura, and has given up fewer hits than any of them. He doesn’t allow many home runs and only the three pitchers mentioned above have more fly-outs or groundouts, which means that he keeps the ball inside the park. Duffy has been starting because of injuries to the rotation, but his future is in the air once Kris Medlin comes off the DL. To earn his spot in the rotation Danny will need to pitch some the best games of his career, which if paired with the best defense in the big leagues, can turn into no-no for Duffy.
7 Patrick Corbin – Diamondbacks
Speaking of great defense, despite having a losing records and being one of the most disappointing team in the MLB thus far in 2016, the Diamondbacks have one of the best defensive infields in the game. Paul Goldschmidt is a two-time gold glove winner, Nick Ahmed’s defense made Didi Gregorius expandable, and Jean Segura and Jake Lamb both play extremely good defense as well. They also happen to have one of the worst defensive outfields put together. If a pitcher was able to make sure the ball never clears the outfield, then a no-hitter would be easy. Obviously Zack Greinke should be able to do this, but he also is the only pitcher on the team to hit triple digits in fly outs. Patrick Corbin leads the team with 155 groundouts (good for top 10 in the MLB). Corbin looked like he would be the future of the team in 2013 when he made an All-Star team and Wade Miley was on the team making up the most dangerous young pitching tandems in the game. Then came 2014, Corbin got hurt and Miley got traded and the duo drifted apart. Now Miley is on his 3rd team and Corbin is a shell of what he was when he made the All-Star team. His walks are up, and his strikeouts are down, but if you catch him on the right day, he is extremely dangerous. When Corbin is pitching well, he is nearly untouchable. The ball finds ways to bounce right to the infield, and no one can outrun Nick Ahmed’s arm. Corbin just has to be playing his game, getting a ton of ground balls, and it could definitely be a no hitter with that infield, as long as the outfield doesn’t get involved. Corbin has given up 80 runs, and only 67 were earned. Most of the unearned runs came from misplayed ball in the outfield.
5 Josh Tomlin – Indians
Of all the Indians starters, it seems like Josh Tomlin is the least likely to throw a no-hitter. It would be expected from Klubar, after all he does have a Cy Young under his belt. Given the year Salazar is having, a no-hitter seems likely enough. Carlos Carrasco has a ton of complete games on his resume already including 3 from 2015. Tomlin has been a strong pitcher through his career, but nothing too special. Tomlin leads the team in a number of stats including fly-outs and homeruns, which is because he allows batters to make contact. However, in games where he goes to parks with large outfields like in Seattle or his home field, he normally does well. Yes he gives up a lot of long fly balls, but they seem to stay in the park in Cleveland. Give him a home game against a team like the White Sox (whom they play many games against), and you may see 27 fly-outs, and 0 hits.
3 Matt Moore – Rays
Tampa’s pitching is out of this world for a team who finds itself in last place. The Rays are the only team in the AL East who have a losing record, despite the fact that they have 3 players who find themselves in the top 15 of strikes thrown. Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, and Matt Moore are all having fantastic years, despite that they all have more losses than wins. All three men are on many team’s radars of players to trade for, and we expect the Rays to get a haul of prospects this year while parting with a couple. Archer is the prize for most teams because of his high strikeout count, while Odorizzi is the youngest and most intriguing. We see Moore sticking with the Rays, which is best for his chances of throwing a no-no. The most likely trade partners are Boston or Texas, and both have Ballparks that are famous for being launch pads, so Moore (who throws a lot of flyballs) has to be lower on their list. Staying in Tampa will help Moore get a no-hitter because their ballpark is one of the best parks for pitchers because of the deep outfield and domed roof (which stops wind flow from carrying the ball). Staying in Tampa would be a great way for Moore to have one game where every ball finds itself into an outfielder’s glove.
1 Marcus Stroman – Blue Jays
Stroman has everything needed to throw a no-hitter. He is king of groundouts, leading the MLB by a substantial margin. He is playing with a team that was rated as the second best defense. And he has one of the best strikeout to walk ratios in the game. Stroman is the definition of a guy who could throw a no-hitter any day, because he is extremely talented and put into the best position to succeed. Even though he is listed as the ace of the Blue Jays, Stroman has an ERA nearing 5, and has won a number of games because of his team’s boisterous offenses. However, when put in the right situation, there is no one more dangerous than Stroman. Some days Stroman will strikeout 10+ batters. Other days batters can’t seem to get the ball out of the infield. Then there are days where he surrenders 6 runs off 0 homers, and that’s while playing in Rogers Centre, one of the easiest parks to launch pitches into the stands. Each year pundits expect for Stroman to show his true potential, but he is yet to really do so. We know he can, and the legend of Stroman may just start with a late season no-hitter in 2016.