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Here’s Why Madison Bumgarner’s No-Hitter Doesn’t Count

Here's Why Madison Bumgarner's No-Hitter Doesn't Count

Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks southpaw Madison Bumgarner made the headlines on Sunday, April 25 with a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves.

Besides being an exciting win for the D-backs, the game represented an important shift for MadBum, who had a bit of a rough stretch on the mound last year during his first year with the team.

But there was one other thing that really made this game unique. Bumgarner’s no-hitter won’t be counted as a Major League Baseball stat despite his hitless outcome.

The no-hitter that wasn’t

Bumgarner doesn’t get official credit for the no-hitter because it took place during a seven-inning game.

This was the second matchup in a doubleheader against the Braves, so it was shorter than the typical nine innings in a standard MLB game.

During the opener, Zac Gallen pitched a one-hitter for the D-backs, leading to a 5-0 win.

Bumgarner outdid him in the second game with a 7-0 no-hitter. It was nearly a perfect game, with only one baserunner advancing on shortstop Nick Ahmed’s throwing error in the second inning. He recorded seven strikeouts, with 73 strikes out of 98 pitches.

But despite the impressive showing for Bumgarner, the record books won’t show it as a no-hitter.

Official MLB rules for no-hitters

The technicalities for what does and does not count as a no-hitter can be traced back to relatively recent changes to the MLB rules.

To count as a no-hitter, it’s more than just going hitless for a complete game. In the MLB, the game must be at least nine innings long to count as a no-hitter.

That’s unlikely to happen in a doubleheader, where back-to-back games last only seven innings each. However, it’s still technically possible if the game were to go into extra innings due to a tie at the bottom of the seventh.

The update to the no-hitter rule only went into effect in 1991, when Major League Baseball’s commissioner at the time, Fay Vincent, decided that a minimum of nine innings were required for the achievement.

Any hits in extra innings would invalidate the no-hitter status, even if the pitcher went hitless through the first nine (which happened to Mark Gardner of the Montreal Expos in a 1991 game against the Dodgers). Games lasting only 8 1/2 innings don’t count, either.

The league took this change seriously. The Committee for Statistical Accuracy even removed previous no-hitters from the record books if they didn’t meet the nine-inning requirement.

A total of 50 games lost no-hitter status, dating all the way back to 1890. Most of those games were like Bumgarner’s—no-hitters in which the pitcher threw fewer than nine innings.

A notable achievement

The MLB rules on no-hitters may have been a bit of a bummer for Bumgarner. Fortunately, he didn’t seem bothered by the technicalities preventing him from earning such a stellar stat.

Plus, there’s a silver lining. While he doesn’t get a no-hitter stat for the game, he will get credit for the shutout.

For that stat, the MLB doesn’t require a minimum of nine innings. Instead, the pitcher just needs to pitch the complete game all the way to the final out without allowing a single run.

Elias Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball’s official statistician, does recognize a no-hitter like Bumgarner’s, albeit not in the form of official baseball records.

According to Elias, “Any game of fewer than nine innings in which a pitcher or pitchers do not allow a hit should be considered as a ‘notable achievement.’”

Bumgarner will have to settle for what could have been. It was his first game with no hits, even if it’s not technically a no-hitter. That’s definitely something to celebrate, even compared to other big career achievements (including three World Series championships with the San Francisco Giants).

Memorable moments in no-hitter history

Wondering about the no-hitters that did make it into the history books? Here are a few standout moments in MLB history when it comes to pitchers going hitless.

Nolan Ryan’s record-breaking feat

Over the course of several decades, Nolan Ryan secured more official no-hitters than any other pitcher in MLB history. His first came in May 1973 during his second season with the California Angels. Within the next two years, he racked up an additional three, tying him with Sandy Koufax for the most no-hitters. But he didn’t stop there. Nolan got three more, with his last coming in 1991 at age 44. His seven no-hitters remain in the top spot, three ahead of Koufax, who holds second place for the most no-hitters.

Johnny Vander Meer’s hot streak

When it comes to back-to-back no-hitters, Johnny Vander Meer takes the cake. Playing for the Reds in 1938, he pitched a no-hitter against the Boston Bees on June 11 followed by another against the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 15. He’s the only player to have pitched two consecutive no-hitters. And when you add in his starts directly before and after those games, he actually pitched a total of 21 1/3 no-hit innings over four games.

Ken Johnson’s losing no-hitter

Ken Johnson has the unique honor of pitching a no-hitter despite his team losing the game. On April, 23, 1964, Johnson pitched for the Houston Colt .45s against the Cincinnati Reds, which also happened to be his former team. While he allowed no hits, Pete Rose was able to advance to second on an error, get to third on a ground out, then score a run due to a second error. To this day, Johnson is the only player to lose an official no-hitter as the sole pitcher for the game.

Six pitchers share the stat

Combined no-hitters are also permitted in the MLB when more than one pitcher is used. When this happens, it’s usually two, maybe three pitchers. But the record for pitchers used in a combined no-hitter is actually six. Even more astounding is the fact that’s it’s happened twice:

Don Larsen’s perfect game

One of the most notable no-hitters in MLB history was also a perfect game. Better yet, it occurred during the World Series. On October 8, 1956, New York Yankee Don Larsen pitched against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5. In just 97 pitches, he completed a no-hitter, and because no opposing batter was able to reach base, it was a perfect game as well. The Yankees won the game with just two runs, including a home run by Mickey Mantle, and went on to clinch the Series in Game 7.

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