Back in April, Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs, proposed a simple ranking of no-hitters based on the opponent’s wOBA. The idea is simple enough: which pitcher pitched his no-hitter against the toughest lineup? It would be interesting to apply this method to compare the relative difficulty of the no-hitter (perfect game, actually) that was thrown by the Tigers with the one that was thrown against them this season.
I’m going to differ from Mr. Klaassen’s methodology a little bit. He didn’t consider each game’s specific lineup, but instead looked at the team’s offense as a whole. I’m going to consider only the starting lineups of last night’s Tigers, and the June 2 Indians.
Armando Galarraga went up against an Indians lineup consisting of Trevor Crowe, Shin-Soo Choo, Austin Kearns, Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta, Russell Branyan, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Redmond, and Jason Donald. This last-place crew boasts an average wOBA of 0.321 (boosted by one felonious Jason Donald single). That’s actually six point higher than their team average for the season, but it would still rank in the bottom third of the American League. We never thought that Armando’s gem was pitched against a great team, but were last night’s Tigers any better? (answer after the jump)
The lineup of Austin Jackson, Will Rhymes, Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera, Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, Gerald Laird, and Danny Worth combined for an average wOBA of 0.285. Well technically it’s 0.285, but it’s probably not fair to say that Will Rhymes is actually a 0.000 wOBA hitter, so we’ll need to adjust that number up a bit. If we simply average the other eight hitters, and leave out Rhymes, these Tigers end up with a 0.320 wOBA lineup. If we assume he’s an MLB average hitter (unlikely) the average wOBA would go up to 0.321, but if we assume he’s similar to Danny Worth, it goes down to 0.316. I think 0.316 would be a fair guestimate of the type of talent that the Tigers put on the field last night; it would rank among the bottom three or four AL teams.
So, any way you slice it, it looks like the Tigers’ lineup that Matt Garza faced last night is a tick worse than the Indians’ lineup that Armando Galarraga saw back in June. This isn’t to take anything away from Matt Garza. He’s certainly a much better pitcher than Armando is, and we can’t fault him for the opposing lineup’s struggles. He did his job, and we tip our caps to a mighty fine performance. It does, however, show the sad state the Tigers’ offense is in. They were primed to make a run at the division, but there’s just no way that last night’s offense can keep the team in the hunt (even if they do manage a few hits in the future).
For a reference point, Justin Verlander’s no-hitter in 2007 came against a Milwaukee Brewers club that ended the season with a 0.337 wOBA average. Justin’s effort ranked second on the aforementioned FanGraphs ranking (none of this year’s no-no’s were included in the article).