No-hitter analysis: a study in contrasts

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On the one hand you have Keith Olbermann.

Olbermann notes that there have been a lot of no-hitters and perfect games thrown in recent years. About which he says “something is wrong with this picture,” which he characterizes as “historical anomalies”  that represent a “severe skewing of the sport,” for which he credits “bizarre statistical thunderstorms” and, maybe, some mildly sinister steroid/no steroids hoodoo.  He ultimately claims that, as a result of all of this strangeness, we shouldn’t get too excited about Matt Cain’s accomplishments.

On the other hand you have Jay Jaffe.

Jaffe looks at the same seeming explosion in no-hitters and, rather than consider them anomalous and unnatural, looks at four factors which explain why they are happening more often than they used to, noting that the number of games played a year have almost doubled, how batting average is down, strikeouts are up and defense is better. Jaffe doesn’t presume to tell us what to think about the no-hitters, but he gives us actual tools to consider them intelligently.

In any event, this is a decent life lesson. When trying to understand a given phenomenon, listen more closely to the people who actually think about it and listen less closely to the people who just want to throw up their hands and squawk about it as if the problem is more scary than interesting.

Video: Cubs score run on Pirates’ appeal throw

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2019 has been one long nightmare for the Pirates. They’re in last place in the NL Central, have had multiple clubhouse fights, and can’t stop getting into bench-clearing incidents. The embarrassment continued on Sunday as the club lost 16-6 to the Cubs, suffering a three-game series sweep in Chicago.

One of those 16 runs the Pirates allowed was particularly noteworthy. In the bottom of the third inning, with the game tied at 5-5, the Cubs had runners on first and second with two outs. Tony Kemp hit a triple to right field, allowing both Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward to score to make it 7-5. The Pirates thought one of the Cubs’ base runners didn’t touch third base on their way home. Reliever Michael Feliz attempted to make an appeal throw to third base, but it was way too high for Erik González to catch, so Kemp scored easily on the error.

The Pirates lost Friday’s game to the Cubs 17-8 and Saturday’s game 14-1. They were outscored 47-15 in the three-game series. According to Baseball Reference, since 1908, the Pirates never allowed 14+ runs in three consecutive games and only did it two games in a row twice before this series, in 1949 and in 1950. The Cubs scored 14+ in three consecutive games just one other time, in 1930.