Why Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter against the Reds wasn’t that big a deal

When Jake Arrieta retired the Reds’ Eugenio Suarez to secure his second career no-hitter last week, there was the usual celebratory dog pile at the mound and the usual musings about the magic nature of holding a team hitless for nine innings.That’s because a no-hitter is still considered a showcase of dominance and one of the most cherished of all baseball accomplishments — even though many times it probably shouldn’t be. MORE: no-hitters in 2015 | Will Jake Arrieta make the All-Star team?You read that right: No-hitters are not always worth celebrating, at least not in the way we've traditionally celebrated them. I don’t mean to pick on Arrieta’s no-hitter, but it was the most recent so I’m using it to make a point. And that’s this: In the age of analytics, when we’re told on-base percentage matters more than batting average, when G

ame Score is increasingly cited as evidence of greatness, we shouldn't be so enamored every time an opposing team fails to record a hit. Because, as history has shown many times, all no-hitters are not created equal.Consider A.J. Burnett’s sloppy, nine-walk no-hitter against the Padres in 2001, a game in which Burnett allowed every Padres starting position player to reach base. Or Edwin Jackson’s eight-walk no-no against the Rays in 2010. Or Joe Cowley’s seven-walk, one earned run no-hitter hurled for the White Sox against the Yankees in 1986.All no-hitters. All celebrated with last-out-of-the-World-Series gusto. Yet, all mediocre performances.While Arrieta’s performance last week was significantly better than any of those, it still didn’t stand out as particularly special, at least not for the reason why a no-hitter should be special: an extremely low number of base runners.Arrieta allowed four walks to the Reds in the Cubs’ 16-0 win Thursday. Four base runners, but none reached via a hit. He also struck out six and threw 119 pitches, compiling a Game Score of 89.Impressive? Yes. But special? Magical? Not really. In fact, Arrieta’s Game Score of 89 is only the fourth-highest score this season. The season’s highest Game Score so far is 97, held by the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia (April 14) and the Phillies’ Vince Velasquez (April 14). Garcia allowed one hit and one walk and fanned 13, while Velasquez allowed three hits and struck out 16.Did Garcia and Velasquez have better outings than Arrieta, even though they allowed hits? It depends on what you value.But if the point is to limit base runners, why does it matter the method by which they reach?That’s not to say only a perfect game is worthy of crazy celebration. It’s just a matter of determining which no-hitters are worth celebrating.Max Scherzer’s no-walk, 17-strikeout no-hitter against the Mets last October (Game Score: 104)?Yep. Celebrate it — big time.Arrieta’s own one-walk, 12-strikeout no-hitter last August against the Dodgers (Game Score: 98)?Sure. Go crazy.Francisco Liriano’s six-walk, two strikeout no-hitter against the White Sox in 2011 (Game Score: 83)?Umm … Good game, Francisco.MORE: Meet the man who has discovered 500 no-hittersI say all that to ask this: At what point does a performance stop being worthy of crazy celebration on the basis of no hits? We need a consensus on this.My threshold is four base runners. Is that arbitrary? Maybe a little. But, for me, a fourth base runner is where a no-hitter stops feeling special.Three runners is an average of one every three innings. If you hold a major league team to that ratio, that’s impressive. That’s worth celebrating. Anything more, well, kinda feels a little meh.Are there exceptions? Sure. Nolan Ryan allowed four walks when he no-hit the Tigers in 1973 but struck out 17 (Game Score: 100). That counts as special. Short of that kind of dominance, it's hard to get too excited. Which is why I don't consider Arrieta's latest no-hitter that big of a deal. Arreita is clearly an elite pitcher, the kind capable of a no-hitter every time out. He pitched a great game. It just wasn't particularly noteworthy in the pantheon of no-hitters.I await your hate tweets.

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