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Maybe It’s Time To Stick An Asterisk On No-Hitters Against The Mariners

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MAY 18: Spencer Turnbull #56 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates with his teammates after a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on May 18, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Tigers beat the Mariners 5-0. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

For throwing the 310th no-hitter in baseball history, Spencer Turnbull probably deserves more recognition than he will get today, if only because the name “Spencer Turnbull” is indisputably barfight-participant-level bad-ass.

Sadly, though, he will not receive due credit. One, because Wade Miley just threw one 11 days earlier, and John Means two days before that. Two, because it’s already the fifth no-hitter of the young season, sixth if you count Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning complete game. Three, because some people don’t care about baseball any more and have therefore lost the will to live. Four, because it happened in a West Coast night game, which is America’s airtight alibi. Five, because the Tigers are dreadful. Six, because hitting a baseball is to baseball in 2021 as the flying wedge is to football since 1935.

And seven, because no-hitting the Seattle Mariners is a particularly uninspiring accomplishment.

Again, all honor and glory to Turnbull, since he did the thing and didn’t even need any relief help. But the Mariners are god-awful at hitting, to the point where they entered this day as the worst hitting team in the sport since 1884. That’s “18,” with an eight where you reflexively wanted to put a nine. That’s the 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps, and the 1884 St. Paul White Caps, both of the Union Association, which only existed in 1884. Neither of them hit .200 as a team, but in fairness to them, the Quicksteps folded after 16 games and the White Caps after eight. If only the Mariners had that option.

In fact, of the six teams in history who batted below .200 as a team, none played more than 44 games, which the Mariners will accomplish tonight. Indeed, Seattle will finish the season and start another one next year, whether anyone wants them to or not.

And it’s not like the Mariners don’t have people who qualify on the RRG (Roth Remembering Guys) scale. Mitch Haniger, J.P. Crawford, Kyle Lewis, and Kyle Seager, just to name all of last night’s starters who are currently hitting over .230.

But the Mariners as a team have been this thing for years now, and Turnbull’s deed is the fourth no-hitter thrown against Seattle in their last 170 games, or essentially four per regulation season. They have managed to lower their team average over the last five years from .259 to .254 to .237 to .226 to .199. Four no-hitters will do that to a number, but damn.

Since that first 2019 no-hitter, which came on the first day after the All-Star Break, the Mariners are hitting .220, which is a level of stink not seen in a regulation season since … oh, the hell with it. At this point, we’re just pulling weeds around the gravesite. You need to know so badly, go bother those nutjobs at baseballreference.com. Subscribe, and wallow in the accumulated failure.

And of the eight pitchers who combined to throw those four no-hitters, only the last two are still on the teams they played on when they threw their gems, and they are Means and Turnbull, who has not been traded or demoted by the Tigers since his no-hitter ended about 12 hours ago. Taylor Cole and Felix Pena and Aaron Sanchez and Will Harris and Joe Biagini and Chris Devenski also had their moments of meh, and Sanchez, Harris, and Devenski are still drawing big-league paychecks. In sum, they are the Who’s That of no-hitters.

All because the Mariners are divesting themselves from bats in an apparent effort to streamline their team to become a 22-man pitching staff, plus Haniger, Crawford, Lewis, and Seager. And the way baseball is approaching hitting in 2021, you almost have to say the Mariners are on the cutting edge of the newest development in the sport: crypto-hitting. Perhaps that helps explain why the Mariners are 21-22 rather than, say, the 11-32 record they so richly deserve. 

You almost have to try to hit .199 to actually do it, yet here we are. The Seattle Mariners are the equivalent of Jeff Mathis, a perfectly creditable and even honorable backup catcher on several teams including the current Atlanta Braves, whose career average over 16 seasons and over 3000 plate appearances is .194.

But here’s the other half of the .199 issue. The Oakland Athletics are hitting .224 and they’re 26-17. The San Francisco Giants are hitting .225 and they’re 26-16. In some ways, batting average is truly as nonsense as its detractors say it is. The 30 general managers strangling baseball will not see the problem here, but that’s why they’re the problem.

Still, .199? Still, four no-hitters in the equivalent of one year? We apologize here to Spencer Turnbull, and also to John Means while we’re at it, but we’re just going to need some degree of difficulty if you want us to properly contextualize their achievements. Throw one against Miami or Tampa. They’re hitting .229. They have guys who can jack.