Hopefully everyone knows who the man in the above photo is. If you don’t, it’s alright… I’ll tell you. That is Nolan Ryan. Known as one of the best (and most intimidating) right-handed pitchers of all time, this tough native Texan spent 27 seasons toting the rubber for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. In his career he won 324 games, struck out 5,714 batters (all-time record) and, most importantly for this post, pitched a Major League record 7 no-hitters (His last one was at age 44 and is pictured above). To put that in perspective, no one else has had more than 4, and only 29 people in history have even had more than one.
What’s a no-hitter? That’s simple, a no-hitter is when a pitcher pitches a complete game where no opposing batter reaches base safely by their own hitting (no-hitters can contain walks, hit-by-pitches, and fielding errors).There have been 269 no-hit games in baseball’s 136 year history. That includes hundreds of thousands of games, so you can see it’s not all that common.
Anyway, this post is not about Nolan Ryan, or any other Hall of Fame pitchers that have thrown no-hitters. This post is about the worst pitchers to ever throw a no-hitter. As the saying goes, every dog has his day. I intend to find the biggest dog of them all. For accuracy purposes, and because I don’t want to write about possibly dozens of pitchers, I am narrowing this down to the era during which i have been an informed baseball fan, which is the 1990s, 2000s, and today (kind of like a top 40 radio station). Here are the 5 worst/most insignificant pitchers to throw a no-hitter in roughly the last 30 years.
5. Kevin Gross – Dodgers (8/17/1992)
Kevin Gross pitched his no-hitter at age 31 against the San Francisco Giants. Before his no-hitter, Gross had 5 straight seasons of losing more games than he won. After his no-hitter, he had a .500 record. This no-hitter was clearly the big bright spot in an otherwise mediocre pitching career for the Phillies, Expos, Dodgers, Rangers and Angels. He did have an awesome mustache though, which makes him a little better than #4.
4. Tommy Greene – Phillies (5/23/1991)
Tommy Greene pitched his no-hitter at age 24 against the Montreal Expos. For the rest of his career, Tommy battled injuries, won only 31 games and retired at age 30 after playing for the Braves, Phillies and Astros. His overall career numbers were actually pretty good, but the fact is he was ultimately a disappointment because of his numerous injuries.
3. Terry Mulholland – Phillies (8/15/1990)
Terry Mulholland pitched his no-hitter at age 27 against the San Francisco Giants. It came during his first real full season as a starter in the Phillies rotation. He then put together a couple of solid seasons before being traded to the Yankees in 1994. After that, He somehow pitched for 13 more seasons (until age 43) for 12 teams (12!), despite being nearly 20 games under .500 and having an ERA of almost 5.00. How someone was allowed that many chances to pitch that long with such terrible numbers baffles me. He was terrible.
2. Bud Smith – Cardinals (9/3/2001)
In September of 2001, 21-year-old Bud Smith became only the 19th rookie starter to ever pitch a no-hitter (2 more rookies have done it since). He shut down the San Diego Padres while throwing 134 pitches over 9 innings of domination. He would go on to make only 13 more career starts, and has been out of baseball since 2002. Other than his no-hitter, his time in the Majors was incredibly underwhelming. He managed just 7 career wins (3 after his no-hitter) and an ERA of 4.95 (6.94 in 2002, his last season in the majors). He didn’t even pitch long enough to be a journeyman like Mulholland. He came, he was terrible, and he was gone in an instant.
1. Jose Jimenez – Cardinals (6/25/1999)
When Jimenez pitched his no-hitter at age 25 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he truly showed that every dog has a day. There were no signs that pointed to that kind of performance from that kind of terrible pitcher. Jimenez won 5 games and lost 14 in 1999, with a 5.85 ERA. Those are the types of numbers that get you released! I hope they checked him for Vaseline, sand paper, vagisil, or whatever other tricks he was using from the Eddie Harris School of Pitching. There is no way he wasn’t cheating. The rest of his career was no better than 1999. He hopped around from the Cardinals to the Rockies and Indians and ended up with a 24-44 overall record. A couple of solid seasons as a reliever managed to help him get his career ERA down to 4.92, but they were unable to keep him from making this list as the worst pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter.
So, what have we learned today? Sometimes everything comes together for pitchers. They get all the bounces and lucky breaks, and they rise to levels of success the likes of which they were never meant to reach. On these days, this post has shown, just about anyone could throw a no-hitter. Either that, or the Phillies and Cardinals have a stach of four-leaf clovers and rabbit’s feet in the bullpen.
Also, a special thanks to my friend Greg for giving me the idea for this post. I couldn’t have done it without him.
image courtesy of: http://www.baseballsblackheritage.com
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