This Day in Reds History: No-hitter edition

Joe Robbins

How does Homer Bailey's latest no-hitter compare to other no-nos in Reds history?

A no-hitter is not a usual occurrence in baseball, so given the circumstances, I feel no obligation to make today's TDIRH follow the usual form. Rather than look at events that happened on the third of July throughout Reds history, I'm going to compare all 16 no-hitters in franchise history and see how Homer Bailey's latest masterpiece measures up to previous performances. There are a number of ways one could objectively compare no-hitters -- baserunners allowed, strikeouts, and walks come to mind. However, I'm going to use an old Bill James metric called game score.

  1. Start with 50 points.
  2. Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
  3. Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
  4. Add one point for each strikeout.
  5. Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
  6. Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
  7. Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
  8. Subtract one point for each walk.

Like every other statistic, game score is imperfect, but it has several advantages. One, it is easy to calculate. Two, the values of the events, while not mathematically derived, make intuitive sense. Finally, the results pass the sniff test. For example, the highest game score in a nine-inning affair came in Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout performance (105).

UR. Ted Breitenstein, April 22, 1898 - ??

UR. Noodles Hahn, July 12, 1900 - ??

I can't find box scores for either of these games; not on Retrosheet, not on Baseball-Reference. Ted Breitenstein is noteworthy, because he threw two no-hitters in his career. His first one came on October 4, 1891 in his very first major league start (though not his first appearance) while a member of the St. Louis Browns (Cardinals). Noodles Hahn's no-no was the only one of the 1900 season. He allowed only one baserunner in the game.

14. --tied Bumpus Jones, October 15, 1892 - 84

Bumpus Jones' no-hitter is remarkable on several levels. This was the first no-hitter in Reds history, it was Jones' first major league game, and it was the last game of the season. Since Jones made only one appearance in 1892, I was able to calculate the game score from his seasonal line. Jones was a completely forgettable pitcher who had good fortune on that autumn afternoon. Bill James once devised a method of measuring the likelihood of a no-hitter. He found that of all the pitchers who have thrown no-hitters, Jones was the least likely to do so.

13. --tied George Culver, July 29, 1968 - 84

Culver struck out four, walked five, and did allow an unearned run in the second on a pair of errors by Tony Perez and shortstop Woody Woodward. Bumpus Jones is the only other Red to allow a run in his no-hit performance.

11. --tied Johnny Vander Meer, June 15, 1938 - 86

This was the second of Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters. He struck out seven, but struggled with his control and walked eight.

11. --tied Ewell Blackwell, June 18, 1947 - 86

The Whip walked four and struck out only three in a game that took only an hour and 51 minutes at Crosley Field. In his very next outing, Blackwell came as close to duplicating Vander Meer's feat as anyone ever has when the Whip took a no-hit bid into the ninth inning. Brooklyn's Eddie Stanky singled with one out in the top of the ninth to preserve Vander Meer's record. I'm not sure what to make of this, but Vander Meer's no-hitters came against the Braves and the Dodgers in that order. Blackwell's no-hitter came against the Braves, and his failed attempt four days later came against the Dodgers.

9. --tied Clyde Shoun, May 15, 1944 - 87

Shoun only allowed one baserunner, which was a walk to the opposing pitcher. If you wanted to discount this one a bit as it came during the war years, then you won't hear much of an argument from me.

9. --tied Tom Seaver, June 16, 1978 - 87

Tom Terrific's no-hitter was actually rather lackluster given his penchant for dominance. Seaver struck out only three Cardinals in a 4-0 win. He had four or five other games in 1978 that were nearly as, if not more, impressive than this one.

8. Johnny Vander Meer, June 11, 1938 - 88

Vander Meer struck out four and walked three, which means that his strikeout-to-walk ratio in his back-to-back no-hitters was one-to-one. Ernie Lombardi was behind the plate for the Reds in both games.

7. Hod Eller, May 11, 1919 - 92

Hod Eller walked three in the game, but struck out eight and benefited from a double play. Hall of Fame umpire Hank O'Day was behind the plate. O'Day also umpired Breitenstein's no-hitter.

6. Fred Toney, May 2, 1917 - 93

This is the famous double no-hitter where both Fred Toney and Chicago's Hippo Vaughn threw nine innings of no-hit baseball. The Reds scratched across a run against Vaughn in the 10th while Toney finished off the feat in the bottom of the inning. Vaughn actually had the higher game score (94) . . . talk about a hard luck loss.

4. --tied Jim Maloney, August 19, 1965 - 94

This is one I would place much lower if I were rating these games subjectively. Yes, Maloney struck out 12 and went 10 innings, but he also walked 10 batters and hit Ron Santo with a pitch. I can't imagine what Maloney's pitch count was.

4. --tiedTom Browning, September 16, 1988 - 94

Browning's perfecto isn't higher, because he struck out "only" seven batters in the game. Given that he didn't allow a baserunner and that the performance came against the eventual World Series champions, I don't think you'll run into any opposition if you claim that this was the Reds' greatest no-hitter.

2. --tied Jim Maloney, April 30, 1969 - 95

In my opinion, this was a more dominating performance by Maloney. He struck out 13 Astros while walking five. The Reds offense was kind enough to explode for 10 runs, giving Maloney a more conventional nine-inning no-no.

2. --tied Homer Bailey, July 2, 2013 - 95

What can I say about this game that hasn't already been said more eloquently by other writers on this site?

1. Homer Bailey, September 28, 2012 - 96

A 10-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio will do that for you.

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Due to the ever-increasing strikeout rate in baseball, there's certainly a bias toward the more modern performances. If I were to rank them subjectively, I'd say that Browning's was the most impressive followed by Bailey's second no-hitter, Maloney's second no-hitter, and then Hod Eller's. Why do I think Bailey's second no-no was better than his first? Well, there's the recency effect, but last night's performance also came against a team with a 105 OPS+ (second in the league) in a hitter's ballpark. I'm not taking anything away from Bailey's exceptional outing in Pittsburgh last September, but the 2012 Pirates had a mediocre offense (94 OPS+) and PNC Park is a pitcher's ballpark.

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Brief highlights from this day in Reds history:

On this day in 1922, former Red Art Fowler was born in Converse, SC.

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On this day in 1957, Reds Hall of Famer Dolf Luque died in La Habana, La Habana, Cuba at the age of 66.

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On this day in 1965, former Red Greg Vaughn was born in Sacramento, CA.

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On this day in 1973, former Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin made his major league debut as a player.

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On this day in 1983, former Red Edinson Volquez was born in Santo Domingo, Distrito Nacional, Dominican Republic.

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