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Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Francisco Liriano's stat-defying no-hitter


Any time a guy with a 9.13 ERA throws a six-walk, two-whiff no-hitter, it's a Useless Information Department kind of phenomenon. So let's delve into the madness of Francisco Liriano's unlikely no-no:

• In case we hadn't made it clear, this was one ugly no-hitter. Consider this: The guy who threw it piled up almost as many balls (57) as strikes (66). Of the last 50 no-hitters, only two featured a ball-strike ratio that messy -- one by A.J. Burnett (64 balls, 65 strikes) in 2001 and the other by the losing pitcher in Liriano's game, Edwin Jackson (70 balls, 79 strikes) last June.

• So how rarified is a six-walk, two-strikeout no-hitter? Well, more rarified than a moment of silence from Rex Ryan, among other things. This was the 249th no-hitter in history. It was the first by a guy who walked that many hitters and whiffed that few.

Francisco Liriano
Francisco Liriano tossed the seventh no-hitter in Twins history.

• Liriano's 66 strikes were the fewest in any no-hitter since another fellow who was in attendance, Mark Buehrle, threw 66 strikes in his 2007 no-hitter. But it's kinda tough to compare those two games because Buehrle tossed only 94 pitches that day. So this was the fewest in a 100-pitch no-hitter since the 65 Burnett worked into his busy 129-pitch no-hit schedule 10 years ago.

• Now here's something that's really hard to do. Liriano walked the same hitter (Juan Pierre) THREE times during his no-hitter. How unusual is that? The Elias Sports Bureau reports Liriano is only the second pitcher to do that in the last 41 years, since Dock Ellis handed out three walks to Steve Huntz on June 12, 1970. The only no-hit pitcher to do it in between? Justin Verlander walked Bill Hall three times on the way to no-hit glory on June 12, 2007.

• And now something that's just as hard: Thanks to those three walks, Pierre actually raised his on-base percentage while his team was being no-hit -- from .307 to .321. Try that on your PlayStation sometime.

• By the way, Liriano issued all those walks to a team that hasn't been renowned for its count-working. Only three AL lineups have walked less this year than the White Sox have. And this was just the third time all season they'd walked six times (or more) in any game.

• Here's another strange one: We think of Liriano as the Twins' one true strikeout pitcher, right? So what were the odds that he, of all people, would become the first pitcher since 1980 (Jerry Reuss) to strike out two hitters or fewer in a no-hitter? Uh, not good. Liriano has made 96 starts in the big leagues, counting the postseason. This was only the third time he's pitched more than four innings without whiffing more than two of the hitters he faced.

• If you're a Game Score fan, my buddy David Schoenfield points out that Liriano's 83 Game Score was the worst by any no-hit pitcher since Cliff (Lefty) Chambers put up an 83 in an eight-walk no-hitter for the 1951 Pirates. That was 140 complete-game no-hitters ago, counting postseason no-nos.

• Another bizarre Liriano tidbit from ESPN's fabulous Stats & Info crew: Not only had Liriano not been taking any no-hitters into the ninth on a regular basis lately, he wasn't even regularly taking no-hitters as deep as the SECOND HITTER of the game this year. In three of his previous four starts, he'd given up a hit to the first batter he faced.

• Meanwhile, Liriano needed double-play balls to wriggle out of three of those innings. That's the most GIDPs in a no-hitter, according to Elias, since Joe (Don't Call Me Mercedes) Benz in 1914. By the way, Joe Benz was so inspired by all that, he went on to lead the AL in losses that year (with 19).

• Hey, if it makes Liriano feel better, these are some of the names he's joining in the prestigious I Walked Six (Or More) in a No-Hitter Club: Nolan Ryan, Jim Palmer, Randy Johnson, Johnny Vander Meer, Dwight Gooden, Jack Morris and Ubaldo Jimenez.

• You may have heard afterward that Liriano's 9.13 ERA was by far the worst of any no-hit pitcher this deep into a season. But if you lower the bar to three starts, according to Elias, he ranks second to Bill (Bullfrog) Dietrich of the 1937 White Sox. He took a spiffy 10.13 ERA into a no-hitter against Harland Clift's St. Louis Browns.

• Liriano said afterward he didn't realize he had a no-hitter going until the eighth inning. You could understand why. With all those walks, he wound up throwing 39 pitches from the stretch -- in a no-hitter!

• Then again, if you were going to pick a team in baseball to get no-hit these days, the White Sox -- despite all those big names on the roster -- were an excellent candidate. They started three position players -- Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Brent Morel -- with batting averages submerged beneath the Mendoza Line. And the man who made the last out -- Dunn -- ended the night with a picturesque .158 average. That's the lowest batting average by a hitter who made the final out in a no-hitter, according to Elias, since that .135-hitting Gerald Laird made the final out of Buehrle's 2007 no-hitter against Texas.

There's something fitting about a no-hitter ending with a guy named "Dunn" at the plate. But it was about the only thing fitting about one of the oddest no-hitters ever twirled.