While Yankees starter Corey Kluber held the Texas Rangers hitless on Wednesday in the second no-hitter in 24 hours and sixth of the season, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was likely not tuned into the broadcast on the YES Network.
And it wasn’t because Kluber’s no-no came against the team Ryan played for in the last five seasons of his 27-year career in Major League Baseball.
Ryan, like many baseball fans, is disturbed by the rise of strikeouts in MLB and the lack of balls being put in play in today’s game. With nearly 18 strikeouts per game this season (double the amount of Ks per game in the 1980s), the season strikeout record surely will be broken this year for the 15th consecutive time. (As will the record for hit batsmen, which is a related issue because it speaks to the increased focus on velocity, not control.)
“It’s worrisome,” Ryan, who is MLB’s all-time strikeout leader with 5,714 and holds the record for no-hitters with seven, told ESPN. “It has turned me off to the game.”
While strikeouts aren’t the only reason no-hitters have seemingly become commonplace, they are surely a factor in why there have been six no-hitters before the end of May, one short of tying the record for the most in a season in the modern era and two shy of tying the MLB record of eight that was set in 1884.
The six no-hitters thus far this season:
April 9: Joe Musgrove, Padres vs. Rangers (10 Ks)
April 14: Carlos Rodón, White Sox vs. Indians (7 Ks)
May 5: John Means, Orioles vs. Mariners (12 Ks)
May 7: Wade Miley, Reds vs. Indians (8 Ks)
May 18: Spencer Turnbull, Tigers vs. Mariners (9 Ks)
May 19: Kluber, Yankees vs. Rangers (9 Ks)
(Also, don’t forget Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-hitter on April 25 that didn’t officially count as one because it wasn’t in nine innings. He had seven strikeouts.)
Sitting at 15th on MLB’s all-time list for strikeouts per nine innings with a K/9 rate of 9.5, Ryan wouldn’t even be in the top 30 this season if he was still playing. While there’s certainly a case to be made that Ryan would deservingly be behind New York Mets Jacob deGrom (14.6) in K/9 rate were he still taking the mound, it is a clear indication of the K crisis that MLB’s all-time strikeout leader would theoretically be behind guys like Kevin Gausman of the Giants, Steven Matz of the Blue Jays and Dylan Bundy of the Angels.
The rise in strikeouts across the league, logically, coincides with a decrease in the number of hits. There were 1,092 more strikeouts than hits in April, the largest gap in any month in MLB history. As of Wednesday, the average game included 7.83 hits per team, and only one season during the dead-ball era — 1908 — has ended with a lower figure.
“It’s unbelievable,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I watched a game the other night, the first three innings, the ball wasn’t put in play by either team. Everyone struck out. I’ve never seen that.”
Ryan hasn’t either because he apparently wasn’t watching, and we really can’t blame him.
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