Johnny Cueto most likely to throw the next no-hitter this season


(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young-winner, pitched his second no-hitter in as many seasons against the San Diego Padres last night.

“I didn’t feel like my stuff was great,” he said after the game.

Perhaps, but it doesn’t take much to stifle the worst hitting team in baseball for nine innings for the league’s third no-hitter of the season. The first two by Los Angeles Dodgers starters Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw, the latter being the best of all time.

Based on the league batting average of 0.251 we would expect there to be between two and three no-hitters in a season. Here are the seasons most similar to 2014 in terms of batting average and run-scoring environment and the number of no-hitters pitched.

So while it is a long shot to see another one, we can estimate who has the best chance to toss a no-hit game by using a simple formula devised by Bill James:

Step 1: Figure the “out percentage” for each pitcher using (3 * IP) / ((3 * IP) + hits)

Step 2: Raise the number in Step 1 to the 26th power. Per James:

We’re assuming 26 outs for a no-hitter. I have used a similar method before, and knew that the 26th power works better than the 27th, since most no-hitters, somewhat surprisingly, do involve a caught stealing, a double play, or a runner running into an out on the bases.

Step 3: Multiply number from Step 2 by the expected starts for the remainder of the season. I used Dan Szymborski’s updated ZiPS projections on Fangraphs to determine number of starts we can expect.

Using the method above, the pitcher most likely to toss a no-hitter is Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto.

Hitters are batting just 0.173 against the right-hander and, according to ZiPS, he has 14 more starts this season. That puts his chances at 11.2 percent to toss a no-no in 2014. And his performance is likely sustainable: Cueto is inducing more ground balls and has stifled opposing batters’ ability to drive the ball with any regularity (line drive percentage).


Johnny Cueto Batted Ball Percentages (Source: Fangraphs)

Cueto is also showing a greater command of the zone, striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings pitched with a 4.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Johnny Cueto Strike Zone Command (Source: Fangraphs)
Johnny Cueto Strike Zone Command (Source: Fangraphs)

Here are four others most likely to toss a no-hitter this season, which includes Beckett’s chances at a second:

 

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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