Armando Galarraga’s One-Hitter Was Still Rare

Armando Galarraga just pitched the most famous one-hitter of the decade. His disappointment was understandable, but even the blown call put him in a pretty exclusive group. Since 1920, there have been just 136 no-nos, and just 489 one-hit shutouts. This year, before last night, there were exactly three of each: Ubaldo Jimenez, Dallas Braden, and Roy Halladay all twirled no-hitters, and Matt Cain, Mat Latos, and Johnny Cueto all pitched one-hitters. Galarraga is the fourth.

Galarraga wasn’t the only one to have his no-no bid ruined by an infield single, either: Latos and Cueto were similarly both undone by infield singles to shortstop. But Cueto only took his no-hitter into the third inning, and Latos only took his into the sixth, so the level of scrutiny was nowhere near the same. (Cain gave up a double to deep right-center in the second inning, so he wasn’t quite as heartbroken.)

This has been a rather remarkable season: three no-hitters (two of them perfect games) and four one-hitters, in three of which the only hit was an infield single. The last year that there were this many combined no-hitters and one-hitters was 2007, with no-nos from Clay Buchholz, Justin Verlander, and Mark Buehrle, and one-hitters by Scott Baker, Dustin McGowan, Curt Schilling, and Felix Hernandez. The last time there were more than seven combined no-hitters and one-hitters was 2001, when there were three no-hitters (A.J. Burnett, Hideo Nomo, and the otherwise-forgotten Bud Smith) and eight one-hitters (Buehrle, Nomo, Mike Mussina, Kerry Wood, Mark Mulder, Jon Lieber, Randy Wolf, and Todd Ritchie).

The real challenge for Galarraga will be to keep pitching effectively, like Felix Hernandez, rather than turn back into a pumpkin, like Todd Ritchie. But he shouldn’t feel too bad about failing to join one of baseball’s elusive clubs. He already joined another.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

50 Responses to “Armando Galarraga’s One-Hitter Was Still Rare”

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  1. Barry Jive says:

    So we’re just going to pretend he didn’t throw a perfect game, then?

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    • Doug Lampert says:

      Officially he did not. Just like Harvey Haddix officially didn’t and Ernie Shore officially didn’t.

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    • Gdiguy says:

      They officially didn’t because of a stupid official definition of perfect game

      Galarraga thew one that isn’t officially recognized because Selig is a spineless weasel

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      • Doug Lampert says:

        Selig is following the same rulebook that made the other two not perfect games, and he can overrule the rulebook in any of the three cases using the same “best interests of baseball” clause.

        You can’t blame some on the rulebook and others on Selig. He’s got the same authority in all three cases, and the rules are clear in all three cases. The only distinction is that one of them was yesterday and the others long ago, but if you blame Selig for this one I don’t see how you can blame the rulebook for the other two.

        There’s no provision in the rules for overturning this sort of call other than the “best interests” clause. Selig doesn’t have the job of second guessing umpire’s on field decisions, even when they’re plainly wrong and later admit they were wrong. He does have the job of doing what’s best for the game.

        I’m not sure reversing a call once its made is for the best for the game, I am sure that doing something to PREVENT bad calls from becoming official in the first place would be a good thing and better for the game than muttering “human element” and insisting that bad calls must always stand.

        The problem is the lack of an instant replay, not the lack of calling this a perfect game, Galarraga will join Shore and Haddix with the distinction of having a “near perfect” game that’s more famous than all but one of MLB’s rulebook perfect games.

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      • davidk says:

        If he decided to overturn the call by invoking the “best interests of baseball” clause, in a situation where the outcome of the game wasn’t in question (since the Tigers won anyway), wouldn’t it behoove him to overturn ALL similar calls when the outcome of the game was DIRECTLY affected, such as last night Mariners-Twins game where the Mariners won in the bottom of the 10th as a direct result of a bad call? Do you consider a perfect game more important to the “best interests of baseball” than an actual game-decider which, who knows, can possibly cost the Twins a playoff spot if the Tigers win the division by a game and an AL East team gets the wild card?

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  2. nothingxs says:

    The problme with this article is that it assumes Galarraga did not throw a perfect game. He did.

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    • Rocco says:

      No he did not. Had he thrown a perfect game, he would have struck out 27 in a row. A “perfect game” relies on great defense, great umpiring and good luck in addition to great pitching. He had 50% going for him. Far from perfect.

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  3. Steve Balboni says:

    I was at the game where Kevin Brown threw a no hitter, but blew the perfect game on a hit batsman (Marvin Benard). Tahts a tough way to lose a perfect game, some banjo hitter leaning in to get grazed.

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  4. Gabriel says:

    How many one-hitters with no walks?

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  5. Mike Rogers says:

    How many 1-hitters with sub 90 pitches?

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  6. Matt C says:

    I think he’ll end up somewhere between Felix and Ritchie(closer to Ritchie) in the coming years. He’ll probably be one of those guys that switches between a 5th starter and long reliever. Even though he completely outpitched his peripherals in 08 he atleast showed that he was capable of putting together a decent season if things fall his way, so if it happened then maybe it can happen again.

    I think the funny thing is though he did this his first start after the Tigers traded away Willis making room for him. Talk about making your GM look good for the time being.

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  7. Alex B. says:

    How many one hitters with no hits?

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  8. Dave I says:

    Why can’t the official scorer go back and change the play to an error? At least he still gets a no-hitter. I believe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak was aided relatively early on by such an occurrence in reverse.

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    • Garison says:

      Because the play wasn’t an error. There’s no need to create a second wrong call on the same play. The only true “error” was the call.

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  9. Ryan says:

    Sorry, but this was and always will be a perfect game to me. When the next happens, it will be #22 in my book.

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  10. LosingSleep says:

    How overrulling the call would NOT be in the best interests of baseball is beyond me. This is a no-brainer. Saying it sets a precedent is ridiculous. Selig could easily say that this is a one time deal and won’t be used in future decisions. The circumstances were truly extremely, extremely rare. If you look at the number of blown calls in relation to the number of plays overall and the circumstances surrounding all plays, the chances of the same situation coming up again must approach zero. The previous (maybe still) biggest blown call was in the Cards/Royals WS. Since there is a WS every year and there are many, many potentially game and series changing calls made each year…it’s just hard to make the case that overruling isn’t justified. “Purists” can bite my @$$…

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    • Dave Wagner says:

      “Saying it sets a precedent is ridiculous. Selig could easily say that this is a one time deal and won’t be used in future decisions.”

      Exactly. We’re not talking about a court of law, here.

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  11. Alan Marshall says:

    Should MLB go back and change Don Denkinger’s call in the ’85 World Series? Denkinger admitted to blowing that call too!

    Galarraga and Joyce have handled this with amazing class and sportsmanship. Galarraga took out the lineup card before today’s game and had a few words with Joyce. Last night, Joyce admitted on radio that he blew the call and went to speak with Galarraga face-to-face and apologize. I think that all of us can learn a thing or two about the way we should behave from these two fine sportsmen.

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    • Alan Marshall says:

      Jim Leyland and the rest of the Tigers deserve kudos for their handling of this as well.

      http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100603&content_id=10754978&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

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    • flyingrobots says:

      The reason they shouldn’t go back and “change Denkinger’s call” is because, much like NFL’s recent Hochuli play or Buckner’s famous boot, it was only one event in a series of plays that was mishandled by the team that wound up on the short end of the stick. There’s not much reason to dwelling on what should or could have been regarding that particular play when there are numerous other examples of plays in that inning alone that were failed by the losing team.

      In this case, Galarraga could not possibly have pitched better — he effectively pitched a perfect game. And with the offending play happening on what should have been the final play of the game, the only nullifying MLB would have to do would be to take away a groundout from Trevor Crowe. I’m not necessarily propounding that they even SHOULD alter the record, but it seems clear to me that if there were ever a case in which it WOULD be admissible, this is it.

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  12. Jimbo says:

    I understand Selig made the right move to not overturn the call. But couldn’t there be an after-the-fact review of how it was scored? That happens after games are over doesn’t it?

    In the replay, the ball was bobbled a tiny bit. If that’s what led to the safe call, and a clean catch would’ve resulted in an out call…why not call it an error on the first baseman?

    Still gets a no-hitter into the record books, which would make it all the easier to remember for the special performance it was.

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    • Alan Marshall says:

      The official scorer addressed this point. he said that there was no bobble, nor was it a bad throw. So he said that he could not change the scoring to an error. Also, Joyce said hat his call was based on his belief that the runner had beaten the throw, and never suggested that Galarraga had bobbled the ball. A dishonest scoring doesn’t correct the problem.

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      • Jimbo says:

        “A dishonest scoring doesn’t correct the problem.”

        Nothing corrects the problem at this point.

        They should at least allow errors to be assigned to umpires. Then it wouldn’t be a dishonest assignment to the 1B, and still not have that play go down in history as a hit.

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  13. Ron A. says:

    Honestly, why does everyone care so much? He’s gained more good will and notoriety for it ending the way it did than he ever would have if it had been called correctly. Being the impetus for a major rule change might rightly be called “historic.” Pulling off an increasingly less-rare novelty achievement? Not so much.

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    • The Hit Dog says:

      “Increasingly less-rare novelty achievement.”

      Come on. It’s a perfect game. The fact that it’s happened twice (thrice?) this year is an instance of a cluster of randomly distributed events, not proof that perfect games are suddenly becoming easier to throw.

      Of course, if your argument is that the reason it’s “increasingly less-rare” is because time will continue to pass and people will continue to throw perfect games… then there’s probably no convincing you.

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      • Ron A. says:

        No. It’s happened what, 10 times in the last 20 years? And 10 times in the 80 prior. You’d expect it to become more common with hitting talent been stretched thin due to expansion and, in fact, it has.

        Regardless, it’s still a novelty achievement. Dozens–if not hundreds–of players have pitched better games than Galarraga did yesterday.

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      • The Hit Dog says:

        No. You’d expect it to happen more often with *expansion*, period. More teams + more games (162 instead of 154) = more opportunities per year. The fact that it happens more often does not make it rarer when you’re talking about occurrences per opportunity. And I do acknowledge that there is a tremendous amount of luck involoved, but don’t pin this on the hitting talent being stretched thin: Braden did it against one of the best lineups in baseball, and Halladay did it against a pretty decent lineup as well.

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      • Ron A. says:

        It’s still very rare but does become “easier” expansion. If you have a pitcher who is a “10″ facing a league of 8 teams composed of hitters who are 10s then it’s considerably more difficult that a league of 16 composed of hitters who are half 10 and half 9. Imagine if tomorrow baseball decided to contract half of its teams with the players being spread out equally among the remaining teams–don’t you think it becomes much harder to pitch a perfect game in that scenario?

        At any rate, I’m not “pinning it” on anything, just noting how the odds may have changed. Whatever you think the odds are of it happening now, I think we can both agree that the odds of what actually happened (the missed call) happening are far, far lower. What actually happened turned out being much better for Galarraga and for baseball–seems like a win-win to me (unless you’re Jim Joyce).

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  14. fanofdefenseagain says:

    Personally, I’m almost pleased that he didn’t get credit for a perfect game.

    It’s just pure damn randomness. You strike out 3 people in 9 innings and the ball happens to bounce to the right spots. Wowzer. Color me impressed.

    He pitched a solid game, with zero walks and a bunch of ground outs. But that’s about it as far as I’m concerned.

    If people on this site are going to correctly acknowledge that a pitcher can’t really control BABIP, have the stones to dismiss no hitter’s and perfect games as meaningless random incidents.

    Pussies

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    • DavidJ says:

      I think one can recognize that luck and randomness are inevitably involved in a no-hitter/perfect game, and yet still be excited about seeing one happen. I haven’t seen anyone here (or anywhere, really) claim that Galarraga is all of a sudden a great pitcher because of his performance last night. People are just disappointed that a bad call interfered with a rare, exciting event.

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    • Ryan says:

      Of course, all perfect games require a huge amount of luck. But I’m not buying that fact that this perfect game was any less impressive than a perfect game with more strikeouts. ‘Mando is not a strikeout pitcher, but he commanded his slider and sinker masterfully and made Indian after Indian drive weak ground balls into the ground.

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      • Mike says:

        Exactly. It’s not like people were lining out to infielders left and right. I watched the entire game live and no one could hit his stuff. There were only 1 or 2 balls hit flush all game (one of which to start off the 9th that Jackson amazingly ran down). Mostly they were easy ground balls.

        The 2nd best chance for a hit after that was a ground ball that bounced off the pitcher’s mound, and that still would’ve been a fluke hit.

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  15. Chris says:

    Has anyone else noticed that the first baseman Cabrera actually made a mistake himself by fielding the ball? That ball was clearly the second baseman’s ball and if Cabrera would have stayed on the bag it wouldn’t have been nearly as close as it was. Plus, the 3-1 putout is very risky at best.

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    • Matt C says:

      It’s nothing new to him to do that play. He does it all the time. I don’t know if it’s because he used to be a 3B so instinctively he just goes for the ball but he does it way too often, and alot of times they do end up as hits because of it. As soon as I saw him go for it I knew something bad was going to happen, I thought it was going to be a throw away or the runner was going to be it out(legitimately) much to my surprise he didn’t.

      But still if he just goes back to first and lets Guillen get to it more than likely it would have been a clean perfecto, I say more than likely because Guillen has already threw a couple away since he’s been at 2B so that wasn’t a sure thing either.

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  16. KS says:

    All of the wailing, teeth-gnashing, and self-righteous demanding that SOMEONE right this wrong fails to take into account a basic principle of baseball. To wit: rule 9.02(a) “Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment… is final.”

    There are very good reasons why this is a bedrock rule of the game. Without it, every game would be a chaotic free-for-all, a test of wills and argument between players, coaches and umpires. Someone has to make the decisions, and baseball has decided it will be umpires.

    Allowing Bud Selig, or anyone else, to retroactively change the rule book would do far more harm than good. There’s nothing, anywhere, that says the “best interest of the game” concept extends to a post-fact re-writing of the rule book. Nor should there be.

    Of course, rules can, and sometimes should be changed. If this leads to a new “replay” rule for baseball, that may, perhaps, make the game better. But going back and changing the rules to alter a past result is childish.

    One of the great things about sport is the existence of clear rules that make each and every contest fair for all competitors. That human error is sometimes involved is a small price to pay for the greatness of sporting competition.

    Leave it alone already.

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  17. bSpittle says:

    Be nice if people stopped trying to legitimize the “one-hitter”.

    That was a 28-out perfect game.

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  18. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Isn’t the issue here not the call itself, but the timing of the call? Meaning, are we having this debate if the ump blew the call on the leadoff hitter in the 1st inning and Galarraga pitched 27 innings of “perfect” ball thereafter?

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  19. CircleChange11 says:

    The rarest part of this no hitter was the reaction of the pitcher … he smiled. Rather than go “David Cone” on the umpire, he smiled.

    After the game, he said it didn’t matter. He would still tell his son he pitched a perfect game.

    The next day, he spoke kindly with the umpire rather than contact a lawyer demanding this wrong be right.

    Armando Galarraga will probably struggle to pitch in the ML’s on a continual basis and will be up and down and eventually out of baseball, and most of us will forget this event. As a pitching coach that often coaches very talented, and emotional teens, I will continue to use this event as a reference for how to conduct yourself when something doesn’t go your way.

    As humans, we can use it as a very good example of how to forgive one another. It also helps us keep things in perspective as to what is really important, and what molehills we turn into mountains.

    The most stunning aspects of the event are:\
    [1] A man admitted his big mistake.
    [2] The victim forgave him immediately and treated him kindly.

    To me, it’s embarassing that were stunned. Those should be the 2 expected actions of the situation, and we’re stunned that the grown men behaved like well, grown men.

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  20. LosingSleep says:

    “All of the wailing, teeth-gnashing, and self-righteous demanding that SOMEONE right this wrong fails to take into account a basic principle of baseball. To wit: rule 9.02(a) “Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment… is final.””

    I have a question: Does calling a home run ball foul or fair involve umpire judgement?

    Well???

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    • Dann M says:

      It actually is not so much an issue of judgment, as there is always a definitive answer. Either the ball left the park between the foul poles, or it did not. There are three outcomes: foul ball; home run; live ball in the park. And MLB stepped in to provide for instant replay when the making of a judgment call necessitates such a replay. The speeds and trajectories of some balls, in conjunction with the gimmicky outfields of many ballparks, makes it difficult to determine where exactly a ball hit, or where it left the park. The home run replay was instituted because of the finality of the home run play: as a “true outcome,” the bases clear, or they don’t. It’s a big deal that MLB felt ought to be treated as an addendum to 9.02(a).

      In principle, every pitch in baseball is a judgment call. Did the pitcher balk? Was it a ball or strike? Did he swing or not? Was it fair or foul? Was is caught or trapped? Was he safe or out? Etc.

      But unlike a definitive home run call that can be confirmed with slow-motion video replay, calls in play are not always so black and white. A so-called bang-bang play at a base – be it a force or a tag – is always going to require a level of subjective judgment. Was the ball actually in the possession of the fielder? Did the glove hit the player before the player hit the base? Etc.

      Umpires can make the vast majority of calls accurately. But that doesn’t make them easy to make in real time. And no number of cameras will guarantee the perfect angle of each and every play. Nate McLouth’s non-catch catch on opening day was certainly a more egregious error, in simple terms of being clearly wrong, than Joyce’s call at first base. It simply was less significant in context. We need to remember that all judgments have to be made in real time. An appeal can make use of slow-motion. But the umpire’s first impression is what counts. MLB specifically made clear previously that only home run issues were subject to replay.

      MLB’s rules make clear what is and is not subject to any look beyond the umpire’s initial judgment. Instant replay on home run calls, in effect, serves the same purpose as appeals to first or third on check-swings.

      The idea of invoking the “best interests of the game” clause to alter a box score in a fundamentally meaningless way is cowardly. Bud Selig is right to say that what happened, happened. He is right to say that baseball’s record book today – unlike Roger Maris’ asterisk of yesteryear – is not subject to narration. Facts, please.

      And Selig is also right to suggest that there might be a place for replay in the future. But the Office of the Commissioner has ZERO business siding with one player’s (Galarraga) Historical Feat over another player’s (Donald, Crowe, Galarraga again) actual contribution to the game.

      Perhaps ten years from now, that hit of Jason Donald’s or groundout by Trevor Crowe will be the difference in a .300 career batting average, or something like that. We don’t know.

      Perfect games are only “perfect games” because, at some point, the name showed up and stuck. It’s an arbitrary accomplishment. I’m fine with people living in la-la-land with their imaginary friends and pixie dust and lawn gnomes and events that never happened. But I’ll stay in the real world, where that one-hitter is likely going to lead to further amending of 9.02(a) to allow some sort of replay.

      I’d like to see the Official Scorer position done away with entirely. Replace it with a fifth umpire working out of a booth. This umpire would be specific to an umpiring crew, not a city or stadium. Entrust that umpire with scoring the game. Give the on-field Crew Chief an earpiece and a mic. Only the Crew Chief can ask for a review of anything; managers or acting managers of either team can appeal to the crew chief to ask for one. Because the booth umpire has access to footage without moving, he can be ahead of the game by the time the appeal is asked for. And included in the position would be a record of proper and poor calls.

      Baseball is no poorer for lack of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. But it may well be all the more wealthy for his class and the Commissioner’s decision.

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      • Colin says:

        Dan,

        There’s always a definitive answer on whether a runner beat a throw or not as well, it’s the same as a home run call, completely objective.

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  21. LosingSleep says:

    Aside from the baseball debate, I’m sure Galarraga will receive plenty of support from sporting fans around the world asserting that his display of true sportsmanship has had a greater impact, on many levels, than if every game he ever pitched was a perfect game. I know that’s sappy, but sometimes the record books and sportsmanship are worlds apart…I mean, take the case of Barry Bonds…Galarraga has already surpassed him.

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  22. isavage says:

    Who cares about the perfect game? What was really exciting was Austin Jackson keeping Mark Grudzielanek’s quest to go an entire year without an extra base hit alive, by making an awesome catch in the 9th on what looked like a sure double. Getting 28 straight outs against the Indians’ lineup frankly isn’t that difficult. Grudz getting 30 singles without an extra base hit, now that takes a lot of talent and a lot of luck

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  23. Bless Your Hart says:

    Another reason baseball needs replay. Don’t look backwards, look forwards. I guess technically replay *is* looking backwards, but you get my drift.

    Let’s use this to put all of these types of discussions to bed.

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  24. mark says:

    QUESTION FOR EVERYONE: How many one-hitters have been pitched this year? Seems like a bunch, including Kuroda & the Dodgers last night…anyone got the exact number? Would like to know if it’s a record year for 1-hitters.

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  25. evm003 says:

    Valid point.

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