The Next Detroit Tigers No-Hitter
The Detroit Tigers should throw more no-hitters.
The Chicago White Sox have the best offense in baseball, and last night their ace Lucas Gioltio threw one of the most dominant no-hitters in MLB history. Good for them.
In all seriousness, we’re happy for Lucas Giolito, whose transformation from the worst starter in baseball in 2018 to one of 2020’s best is legitimately inspiring. But his stellar start against the Pirates had us wondering, who’s the next Tigers hurler to achieve baseball immortality?
The sabermetric revolution managed to mortally wound many of baseball’s old statistical deities. Pitcher wins are dead. RBIs are for suckers. Batting titles can pound sand. Even no-hitters lost some luster when we realized how much luck is involved.
It’s not all luck, of course. Nolan Ryan didn’t get lucky seven times. But not every no-hitter is an example of dominance. Max Scherzer’s 17-strikeout no-no probably doesn’t belong in the same category as A.J. Burnett’s 9-walk debacle, or Edwin Jackson’s 149-pitch sludgefest.
But even the worst no-hitters offer fans an experience unmatched by anything else in sports, at least in the regular season. Basketball has its last-second shots, hockey its overtime shootouts, and football its goal-line stands. But no other event can match the prolonged tension of a no-hitter, when fans live and die with every pitch for innings at a time.
Detroit Tigers pitchers have thrown seven no-hitters (and one imperfect game) in the team’s 120-year history, so we won’t bother to guess who’ll throw the next one. We’ll just give you the candidates and let you decide.
Why He Will – Boyd showed flashes of dominance early last season, and he’s actually the last Tigers starter to pitch a complete game, way back in September 2017. You may remember that game:
Boyd was one hitter away! Oh, the agony. If he came that close once, maybe he can do it again?
Why He Won’t – Since July 1st of last year Matthew Boyd has allowed 126 hits in 112.1 innings, and he’s given up an MLB-worst 30 home runs. His slider has regressed. That’s not a great recipe for no-hitters. Also, he may simply run out of time. The Tigers have control of Boyd through the 2022 season, and it doesn’t appear likely they’ll sign him to an extension, so he has about 70 more chances, at most, to get it done.
Why He Will – When Fulmer broke into the big leagues he certainly seemed capable of blanking a team. He took a no-hitter into the 7th as a rookie, and threw a 4-hit shutout two months later. He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, but he was adept at inducing poor contact — from 2016-2017 he produced the 12th weakest average exit velocity in baseball, right between Max Scherzer and Jake Arrieta, who have four no-hitters between them.
Why He Won’t – The current version of Michael Fulmer doesn’t look much like that guy. His average fastball velocity is down more than 2 mph, his average exit velo of 92 mph is in the 8th percentile (that’s bad), and he hasn’t thrown more than 55 pitches in any outing. To be fair, he’s still recovering from surgery, but he also runs into the same issue as Boyd. He’s only under team control for two more years, so even if he returns to form his opportunities are limited.
Why He Will – There are times when Spencer Turnbull looks like a future ace. He throws hard, his secondary pitches move all over the place, and he appears to be a wizard when it comes to avoiding home runs. If the Tigers don’t trade him, he could be in their rotation for another four years.
Why He Won’t – He’s just too wild. Maybe that wildness actually helps his results — it certainly didn’t hurt Nolan Ryan — but in modern baseball it means Turnbull will have a hard time finishing games. Turnbull has made 39 career MLB starts and he’s never thrown a pitch in the 8th inning. He has also suffered from injuries every year since 2016, and his results fell dramatically after he missed time with shoulder soreness last year (3.31 ERA before, 6.60 ERA after).
Why He Will – Casey Mize threw a no-hitter for Auburn in 2018. And then he famously threw a no-hitter in his first start with Double-A Erie:
Casey Mize has some pretty nasty stuff, and he should be with the Tigers for at least the next six years.
Why He Won’t – MLB hitters are also good. Mize has given up 12 hits in just 7.2 big-league innings so far, and he’s unlikely to ever be the sort of dominant arm who punches out 10+ batters a game. He also has a spotty health record, so injuries could derail him.
Why He Will – Tarik Skubal was one of the most dominant minor-league pitchers in recent history — he struck out at least 10 batters in six of his nine Double-A starts last year, and in three of those outings he gave up just one hit. Through two short MLB outings he has shown he can also miss big-league bats when he locates his pitches, and like Mize, he should have six years to make it happen.
Why He Won’t – Locating pitches has been something of an issue for Skubal. He’s throwing strikes about 64% of the time, which is roughly league average, but they aren’t hitting the glove very often. Like Turnbull, Skubal is prone to high pitch counts, and he’s never thrown more than seven innings in any pro outing.
Why He Will – Manning still hasn’t made his big-league debut, but of all the Tigers pitching prospects, he’s the one who looks the most like a future ace. He has a high-octane fastball, elite extension, and curveball that can give hitters fits. He flirted with a no-hitter in his second outing with Erie last year, and he can be efficient — he completed 7 innings four times in 2019, and never needed more than 89 pitches to do so.
Why He Won’t – Once again, professional hitters are good. Manning has been greeted rather rudely just about every time he has squared off against MLB-caliber hitters, whether it was the 2019 Futures Game, 2020 Spring Training, or the 2020 summer camp when Riley Greene took a changeup out to the opposite field. That changeup still needs improvement, and he’ll probably need to develop a cutter or a slider before he’s ready for his no-hitters.
So what do you think? Will any of the above pitchers join Virgil Trucks, Jim Bunning, Jack Morris, and Justin Verlander as Tigers to throw no-hitters? Will it be someone else we missed? Let us know!