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Who Will Throw the Next No-Hitter?

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Over the weekend, Edinson Volquez threw his first career no-hitter. It was a special evening as the current Marlins and former Royals starter dedicated his performance to Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura. It was also a fascinating game from purely a baseball perspective. Volquez has had a bounce-back season following a rough 2016 campaign that featured a 5.37 ERA, but neither his current strikeout rate (8.3 per nine) nor his current walk rate (4.8 per nine) suggested this no-hitter was coming. In fact, based on the calculation we use in The Bill James Handbook, Volquez was just the 53rd most likely starter to throw a no-hitter.

The 10 most likely pitchers to throw a no-hitter include the usual suspects like Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, but they also include a few more surprising names.

Most Likely No-Hitter
Player Chance of No-Hitter
Max Scherzer 36%
Clayton Kershaw 34%
Chris Sale 31%
Lance McCullers 26%
Stephen Strasburg 21%
Yu Darvish 19%
Carlos Martinez 16%
Dan Straily 16%
Dallas Keuchel 15%
Ervin Santana 15%

Lance McCullers may not be on the tip of baseball fans’ tongues when talking about elite starters, but based on his performance so far in 2017, he should be. He is one of only 13 qualified starters who is striking out at least 10 batters per 9 innings. He and teammate Dallas Keuchel are both in the top five in AL ERA and are a big reason why the Astros have the best record in baseball and a commanding 13.5-game lead in the AL West.

Volquez was not even the most likely Marlins starter to throw a no-no. That distinction belongs to Dan Straily, who is enjoying a breakout season. His strikeout rate is up nearly two strikeouts per nine compared to last season, and he has a 3.56 ERA.

Ervin Santana is the final surprising name. He does not possess the elite strikeout rate one would expect from a leading no-hitter candidate, but because of a combination of the Twins' elite defense, a repertoire of pitches that has traditionally induced weaker contact, and likely a fair bit of luck, Santana has limited batters to a .153 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this season, easily the lowest in baseball.

The Handbook probabilities are based on, among other things, the batting average allowed projections from the Bill James pitcher projections. Because pitchers have logged quite a few starts since the offseason, we updated those batting average allowed projections with our in-season daily fantasy projection system that also incorporates performance to date.


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