Last Friday night in St. Petersburg, Edwin Jackson threw the 267th no-hitter in major league history, shutting down the Rays 1--0 on 149 pitches. The game was historic not just for the zero under H, but also for some of the other box score numbers. The Diamondbacks righthander allowed eight bases on balls, making him the fifth pitcher in history to walk at least that many in a no-no, and he struck out six, making him the ninth no-hit pitcher since 1920 to walk at least two more men than he whiffed.
Jackson's long and winding march into the history books brings up the question of whether a hurler can throw a no-hitter while, essentially, being unimpressive. Last Friday, Jackson walked eight men and hit one; did he really pitch better than his opposite number that night, Tampa Bay righty Jeff Niemann, who struck out eight, walked two and allowed a run on six hits in 7 2/3 innings?
In 1988 Bill James introduced Game Score, a way of measuring a pitcher's performance simply by looking at his box score line: innings, hits, runs, earned runs, walks, strikeouts. An average start scores around 50, bad ones can dip below zero (six have done so this year), and the best, such as Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout one-hitter in 1998, reach triple digits. (Wood's that day was 105.) Jackson's no-hitter, with more walks than strikeouts, scores at 85, tied for the 23rd best start of the season. Four one-hit shutouts scored higher. That seems right; Jackson's start shouldn't rate quite as highly as those in which a pitcher may have allowed a hit or two but was overpowering without permitting nearly as many base runners.
Oh, and the worst start of the 2010 season? On April 27 the Rockies battered their opponent for 10 runs, all earned, on 11 hits in just 2 1/3 innings. Game score: -5. Seems like Edwin Jackson bounced back from that outing pretty well.