Give Dan Rosenheck credit: The man knows how to ruffle feathers. The most impressive start of the postseason so far? Maybe not the one you think ...
As a result, the only ways for most pitchers to reduce the number of hits they allow are to avoid surrendering home runs and to get more strikeouts, so batters never put the ball in play to begin with. This is why the list of pitchers who have whiffed 15 batters in a game over the last decade is so much more impressive than the list of pitchers who have thrown no-hitters in that timespan.
Neither Halladay nor Lincecum gave up a home run, so they were even on that score. But their strikeout totals were markedly different: Halladay punched out “only” 8 batters to Lincecum’s 14. By my calculation, with normal luck, a pitcher with Halladay’s eight strikeouts, one walk, and zero home runs allowed in 28 batters faced would give up an average of 1.55 earned runs per nine innings, while one with Lincecum’s 14 strikeouts, 1 walk, and 0 home runs allowed in 30 batters faced would surrender just 0.37.
This approach tells you who pitched better. Whose pitching was more valuable is an entirely different question — and the answer is even more favorable to Lincecum.
The Phillies didn’t need Roy Halladay to throw a no-hitter, or even a shutout. Since they scored four runs, they would have triumphed even if Halladay had allowed three. Lincecum’s shutout, by contrast, won the Giants a 1-0 nailbiter — with anything less than Tim Lincecum at his best on the mound, they would have gone into extra innings or lost outright.
You wanna really make people mad?
Tell them a two-hitter is more impressive than a no-hitter.
I'm not theorizing here; just read the comments under Rosenheck's piece.
It's probably worth pointing out (as others have) that Halladay was facing the team that led the National League in scoring this season, while Lincecum was facing the team with just a couple of real weapons in the lineup. It's probably worth pointing out that Halladay threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of the 28 batters he faced, and 76 percent of his pitches were strikes; for Lincecum the figures were 19 of 30 and 63 percent.
Halladay's performance was more exciting. One might argue that Lincecum's game was more exciting, because even the last hitter he faced could, with one swing, have tied the score.
The common impulse is to castigate Rosenheck for diminishing Halladay's feat. But do we really need anyone else to celebrate it? Probably not. There is some utility, on the other hand, in accurately scoring Lincecum's performance, which in many ways was just as phenomenal as Halladay's.
There's enough glory to go around. Or should be.
Meanwhile, today's the 54th anniversary of Don Larsen's perfect game, and the math of that one was significantly more daunting than Halladay's no-hitter.