How Many More No-Hitters This Year?

May 29, 2014
 

Last Sunday, Josh Beckett submitted the first no-hitter of the 2014 season as the Dodgers beat the Phillies 6-0. Beckett has had a difficult transition back to the National League. Last season, he had an ERA over 5.00 in eight starts and missed the rest of the season with a compressed nerve that required surgery. Early indications are that he has regained that old form now that he’s healthy. His no-hitter lowered his ERA this season to 2.43, ninth lowest in the NL among qualified starters.

If recent seasons are any indication, Beckett’s no-hitter may be the first of many this season. In 2011 and 2012, there were an incredible 10 no-hitters in baseball. Last year there were three, for a total of 13 in the last three years. However, just looking at recent seasons does not provide the best basis of comparison, especially since runs scored in baseball have been declining over the last half decade.

To estimate how many no-hitters we might see the rest of this season, let’s look at the 25 seasons most similar to 2014 in runs scored per team per game:

Seasons Most Similar to 2014 in Runs/G
Season Runs/G Run Diff No Hitters Games
2013 4.17 0.00 3 2,431
1944 4.17 0.00 2 1,242
1945 4.18 0.01 1 1,230
1952 4.18 0.01 3 1,239
1988 4.14 0.03 1 2,100
1989 4.13 0.04 0 2,106
1973 4.21 0.04 5 1,943
1975 4.21 0.04 3 1,934
1974 4.12 0.05 3 1,945
1992 4.12 0.05 1 2,106
1978 4.10 0.07 2 2,102
1942 4.08 0.09 0 1,224
1984 4.26 0.09 2 2,105
1990 4.26 0.09 7 2,105
1969 4.07 0.10 6 1,946
1958 4.28 0.11 2 1,235
2011 4.28 0.11 3 2,429
1980 4.29 0.12 1 2,105
1913 4.05 0.12 0 1,234
1964 4.04 0.13 3 1,626
1982 4.30 0.13 0 2,107
1957 4.31 0.14 1 1,235
1960 4.31 0.14 3 1,236
1983 4.31 0.14 3 2,109
1991 4.31 0.14 6 2,104
61 45,178

 

Not surprisingly, the season most similar to 2014 is 2013. So far this season, teams have averaged 4.17 runs per game. Last year, they also averaged 4.17. However, beyond a season ago, the most similar seasons to the start of 2014 are scattered across the 40s, 50s, 70s, and 80s, other periods of depressed run scoring in baseball history.

These 25 seasons featured quite a few no-hitters. Only four of the 25 seasons did not have a no-hitter, and another four of the seasons had at least five no-hitters. Since earlier seasons of baseball did not all feature 30 teams and 162-game seasons, a straight average undersells the expected number of no-hitters for the rest of this season. However, if you add up all the no-hitters in those 25 seasons and pro-rate them to a full season of games for this season, you end up with an average of 3.3 no-hitters.

So, it seems fair to expect another two or three no-hitters the rest of the way in 2014.

 
 

COMMENTS (14 Comments, most recent shown first)

Cypher
What other factor is used here ?
7:45 PM Jun 4th
 
chuck
Rather than put a long comment here on some no-hitter research, I put it in the reader posts section.​
1:25 PM Jun 2nd
 
tangotiger
"as the sole factor"

Nobody said anything about using it as the SOLE factor.
9:01 PM Jun 1st
 
Cypher
I don't see the value in using league BA as the sole factor in predicting no-hitters. I'd take the team BA of the lower 1/2 of the teams, which teams are far more likely to be no-hit than the top half, at least until someone shows me that both halves suffer no-hitters equally. (Then I might break it down to team BA against leading pitchers, if I were a professional, doing this for money.)
10:29 AM Jun 1st
 
SteveN
Batting average seems like an obvious route to no hitter expectancy. I wonder why John used runs.
7:42 AM Jun 1st
 
OldBackstop
Is it practically unknown now-a-days to remove someone from a no-hitter?

Are Official Scorers more likely to give the benefit of the doubt on errors?, because it seems that there are a few calls talked about after each no-no.
10:26 PM May 31st
 
chuck
Here are the no-hitters by month:
28 April
33 May
31 June
24 July
24 August
42 September/October

I guess that makes sense with weather patterns aiding or hurting batting averages, and more games happening over September and October than in April. Plus September is when the teams that are out of it are trying out their young guys.

In collecting that league data on batting averages, I did not separate it into batting averages by starters. The vast majority of no-hitters are not combined with relief help, so it would make sense to look rather at the batting averages against starting pitchers alone, instead of the entire league average.

3:41 PM May 30th
 
tangotiger
Excellent data.

If we just used the league average, we could figure out the odds easily enough:

(1-avg)^27

Except, not all pitchers have a .255 batting average allowed. There's a range.

Interestingly, if you subtract about 23 points from the batting average, then the above equation will match your numbers. I'm surprised, as I would have guessed we'd subtract about 10 points.

That is, suppose that all pitchers either have a .231, .251, or .271 batting average. Their odds of a no-hitter, doing (1-avg)^27 would be: 8.3%, 4.1%, and 2.0% respectively, for an overall average of 4.8%.

This is obviously higher than the 4.1% if everyone was equal. But still a very far cry from your numbers.

While this does suggest a few extra things (hot pitcher, cold weather, weak opponent, strong fielders, etc) that all push the expected batting average down, it doesn't seem to be enough to match your numbers.

2:39 PM May 30th
 
chuck
Thanks, tangotiger. I knew something was bugging me about how I did that, but I never would have come up with it on my own.

Ok, I tried it differently. I used a range of batting average centering around where I think each league is going to finish up: .251 in the NL and .255 in the AL.
I gathered seasons, both AL and NL, where the batting avg for the league was between .249 and .253 (14 seasons).
In those, the rate of no-hitters per games started was 0.094%.
There are 1,630 starts remaining for the NL pitchers this year, so my expectation would be for 1.53 more no-hitters. I'll say 2.

For the higher average AL, there are many more seasons in the range of .253-.257. 39 AL or NL years where league avg was within that range. The no-hitter per start rate was 0.078%; so, slightly less, as one would expect.
The AL has 1,632 starts remaining, so that says to expect 1.27 no-hitters. I'll say 1.
2:04 PM May 30th
 
tangotiger
"Years where the batting average was .250 in the NL "

A .250 in the NL should give you the same answer as .250 in the AL (sample size notwithstanding).

Unless the argument is that .250 in a non-DH league is different than .250 in a DH-league. Even so, anything pre-DH should be lumped together.
10:46 AM May 30th
 
tangotiger
Everything you did was good, except your last line:

"Based on that, I'd guess 1 more in the NL this year, and 2 in the AL. "

It's irrelevant how many no-hitters we already have. Since the rate is higher the lower the batting average, then your guess has to be that the NL will have more no-hitters going forward.

I mean, if NL already had 3 no-hitters, you wouldn't predict 0 the rest-of-season would you?


10:45 AM May 30th
 
chuck
In the NL this year, the batting avg so far is .249 and likely to rise a couple points.
Years where the batting average was .250 in the NL (no-hitters in parentheses):
1969 (5)
1991 (3)

at .249 or .251, but postwar:
1965 (1)
1967 (1)
2013 (3)

at .248 or .252, also postwar:
1971 (3)
1972 (3)
1985 (0)
1988 (1)
1992 (1)
On average, then, 2 per season.
------------------
In the AL the batting avg will likely rise a bit from its .253 level. Let’s say .255 by year’s end.

Years at .255 in the AL:
1957 (1)
1960 (0)
1962 (4)
2012 (4)

Years at .254 or .256:
1947 (2)
1958 (2)
1961 (0)
1976 (1)
1981 (1)

1.67, on average.
Based on that, I'd guess 1 more in the NL this year, and 2 in the AL.

10:29 AM May 30th
 
tangotiger
No-hitters are directly related to batting average. No need to use runs per game, since XBH rates, walk rates, etc influence runs per game, but don't help or hurt no-hitters
5:32 AM May 30th
 
chill
Since run scoring increases in the hotter months, maybe finding other seasons where runs allowed through April and May were close to 4.17 would have been a better comparison? I don't think 4.17 rpg in April and May is the same as 4.17 rpg across a whole season.
9:14 PM May 29th
 
 
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