Which Nationals pitcher would be the first to throw a no-hitter?
Matt Cain threw a perfect game the other day, in one of the greatest displays of pitching in Major League Baseball history. It was the third no-hitter in the last 13 days (counting the Seattle Mariners’ combined no-hitter about a week ago) and the fifth this season.
While being treated to yet another dominant display of pitching, the thought occurred to me: Which Nationals pitcher, on arguably the best staff in the game, would be the first to throw a no-hitter?
The Nats currently employ one pitcher who has a no-hitter to his credit – Edwin Jackson, who tossed the most tumultuous of no-no’s in a 149-pitch “gem” against the Tampa Bay Rays. The four others – Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Chien-Ming Wang – have yet to pad their resumes with a no-hitter.
From a pure “stuff” standpoint the obvious choice for no-hitter number one would be Strasburg, who, at just 23 years of age, as established himself as one of the best pitchers in the game. There is no pitcher in the league who can match Strasburg’s control over such a vast and deadly array of pitches.
The problem with Strasburg, though, is his lack of experience going deep into games. Obviously, the most basic quality of a no-hitter is that it comes in a complete game – something Strasburg has yet to do. And, as a strikeout pitcher, his pitch count could prevent him from having the stamina to go the distance, even in a few years when he isn’t staring at an innings cap. So as much as it may seem strange to say it, I don’t think Stephen Strasburg is the pitcher on this staff who is most likely to throw a no-hitter.
So that leaves us with Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson, and Wang. Now remove Wang (let’s be honest here).
After taking out Wang, I’d focus on Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann is a workhorse. And he’s an excellent pitcher. But his abilities don’t lend themselves to pitching a no-no. He’s a fastball/slider guy who is as solid as they come, but who also finds himself in tricky situations late in games. Also, he has allowed about a hit per inning (8.8 hits/9 IP) in his career, which is the death-knell for no-hitters.
So now we’re down to Jackson and Gonzalez. Jackson has a no-hitter, and is in the midst of a career year. And sometimes, he comes out with nearly unhittable stuff. But Jackson isn’t necessarily what I’d call an elite pitcher (although that seems to be criteria for perfect games…here’s looking at you Dallas Braden and Phillip Humber), and while I can see him throwing another no-hitter somewhere down the road, I just can’t see him getting it before…
Gio Gonzalez. Until Matt Cain threw his perfect game, I would have put in my vote for Gio as the N.L. Cy Young of the season thus far (look at Cain’s stats and you’ll realize why he’s now the frontrunner in my opinion). The thing that Gio has going for him in terms of getting a no-hitter is this: opponents are hitting .168 against him, which to me is a trend that cannot be overlooked. He has allowed just 43 hits in 72 innings, and has the lowest WHIP of his career. The only way to get a no-hitter is to allow no hits – and that’s what Gio Gonzalez does best.
In an interesting twist, I’d put Gio down as the least likely to throw a perfect game, because while his control has been decent this year, I don’t think there’s any way he’d go nine innings without walking someone.
So there you have it. In my opinion, Gio Gonzalez is the pitcher most likely to throw the first no-hitter for the Washington Nationals.
As for who will have the most? I’ll take Strasburg – and I’ll take the over with and over/under of 3.
Let us know who YOU think will toss the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history! (An aside: the Montreal Expos had 4 no-hitters, including one in just their 7th game as a franchise.)