MLB

Clayton Kershaw is no fan of MLB no-hitter surge, says league ‘missed the mark’ with new deadened baseball

Wednesday night Yankees righty Corey Kluber threw MLB‘s second no-hitter in less than 24 hours. Tigers righty Spencer Turnbull no-hit the Mariners on Tuesday night, then Kluber no-hit the Rangers on Wednesday. There have already been six no-hitters this season (not including Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-hitter), one shy of the modern record (seven in 1990, 1991, 2012).

No-hitters are exciting and extremely cool, but so many no-hitters in such a short period of time threatens to oversaturate fans and cheapen the accomplishment. Kluber’s no-hitter featured only four hits for the winning team and never more than one in an inning. His pursuit of history overshadowed a decided lack of action overall.

At least one notable big-league pitcher, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, believe the abundance of no-hitters is bad for the sport, and that MLB is to the blame with its new deadened baseball. Here’s what Kershaw told reporters Wednesday, including The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya:

“Well, its not good. I’ll tell you that. I think whatever the intention was with the new ball or whatever it may be, it really hasn’t done anything. There might be less home runs, which I guess they want, but I don’t know the stats on all that. But I do know that strikeouts are the same. I think I saw some stats for April that it was the worst hitting month in the history of something. No-hitters are cool. I have all the respect in the world for Corey Kluber and Bum and all those guys that have thrown no-hitters. But to have one happen every night, it seems like it’s probably not good for the game. Fans want to see some hits, I get that and some action, and not many people striking out. I appreciate the attempt that MLB has tried to do but I think it seems like they missed the mark so far. We’ll see. I don’t know.”

Kershaw has a no-hitter to his credit and he is going to the Hall of Fame one day, and if anyone should want more no-hitters, it’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. Instead Kershaw called out MLB for a lack of action. And he’s correct, of course. The league is hitting .236 this year, which would be the lowest batting average in history. The league hit .237 in 1968, the year before MLB lowered the mound.

MLB deadened the baseball this season with the intention of lowering the skyrocketing home run rate and forcing hitters to focus on contact. The home run rate has decreased — there are 1.14 homers per game now, down from 1.28 last year and 1.39 in 2019 — but strikeouts are way up (24.1 percent of plate appearances end in a strikeout, which would be a record), partly because the seams on the new ball allow for a better grip and better spin.

The intention (more contact and more balls in play) was good but hitters were never going to make that adjustment overnight. To date, all the new baseball has done is turn a bunch of home runs into fly outs, and increase spin and strikeout rates. Six no-hitters in seven weeks is a bit fluky no matter the offensive environment, though it is telling. Getting a simple base hit has never been as difficult as it is right now.



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