C.C. Sabathia, Clay Kirby, Don Wilson, Joe Girardi, No-Hitter Etiquette, Preston Gomez

Thinking About Pulling Your Pitcher During His Own No-Hitter? It’s Been Done Before

An interesting side-note from C.C. Sabathia’s near-no hitter yesterday was that, even had Tampa Bay’s Kelly Shoppach failed to record his team’s first hit with two outs in the eighth inning, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ready to pull Sabathia anyway.

The decision was all about pitch count; Shoppach’s single came on Sabathia’s 111th pitch of the night. Despite Sabathia’s established reputation for extraordinary stamina, Girardi wanted to take no chances this early in the season.

Had he pulled his pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter, it wouldn’t have been the first time it’s happened.

When Preston Gomez was managing the Padres in 1970, he yanked starter Clay Kirby, not due to fear of overload, but because a series of first-inning walks and stolen bases by the Mets gave them a 1-0 lead. Despite his eight no-hit innings, he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the frame.

In ’74, Gomez did it again as manager of the Astros, pulling Don Wilson after eight no-hit innings, while trailing 2-1.

While that technically qualifies as precedent for Girardi, Gomez’s career winning percentage was .395, and his teams finished somewhere other than last place only once in seven years.

That certainly had more to do with talent-free rosters than stirring up bad baseball juju, but it’s still something that Mr. Girardi might want to consider should a similar situation arise in the future.

– Jason

9 thoughts on “Thinking About Pulling Your Pitcher During His Own No-Hitter? It’s Been Done Before

  1. I think it’s telling that both of Gomez’s pitchers were trailing in their no-hitters. Sabathia had an 8-0 lead.

    Still I wouldn’t want to be the guy to tell him to come out of the game.

  2. We’re coming up on the anniversary of another near no-hitter. It took place on April 14, 1967. The manager in this instance, Dick Williams, didn’t take the pitcher out of the game prematurely, but he did go out to the mound to talk to him with two outs in the ninth — and the rest is history (or near-history). He has ever since expressed his regrets about doing so.

    This link to an article about the pitcher tells the story. Note, by the way, the references in the article to at least two baseball codes. Enjoy: http://www.sabr.org/cmsfiles/Billy%20Rohr.doc

    1. Thanks for the awesome reference, Mike. Dick Williams learned the hard way that a manager should avoid interrupting the flow of a no-hitter in pretty much any way.

      In “Baseball When the Grass Was Real,” relief pitcher Bucky Walters described being booed when he went out to warm up during Johnny Vander Meer’s second no-hitter. Even the fans knew the rule.

      1. I should have also included this, which is even more awesome. This is on YouTube — it’s the Yaz catch referred to in the article, which (temporaily) saved the no-hitter. Check out the auxiliary scoreboard behind Yaz when he makes the catch. Here’s the YouTube link:

  3. I know I’m digging up a very old thread, but I’m sitting here thinking… if there have been 12 successful combined no-hitters, I’m wondering out of how many attempts that is. Anyone ever come across a stat showing the number of times a pitcher has pulled the no-hit bidding starter?

    1. Good question. I know of specific examples, but nothing comprehensive. I can tell you that in 1975, A’s manager Alvin Dark approached the season’s final game with a pre-loaded plan: Vida Blue would pitch only five innings against the Angels in order to remain fresh for the upcoming playoff series against the Red Sox. Vida departed as planned without giving up a hit, and Oakland’s three ensuing relievers followed suit. It was the second victorious multiple no-hitter in history. (Babe Ruth getting ejected after walking the leadoff hitter in 1917, then giving way to Ernie Shore’s perfection was the first. In 1967, Baltimore’s Steve Barber and Stu Miller no-hit Detroit, but lost, 2-1.)

      1. Incredible. Thanks for this. Yeah, I reached out to ESPN Stats & Info as they wrote this article citing knowledge of gaps in time of pitchers who were last pulled back in 2010: http://espn.go.com/blog/statsinfo/post/_/id/4922/kevin-slowey-removed-from-no-hitter

        Didn’t realize that Vida Blue was intentional. With the rise of that bullpen last year in KC, I feel like there might just be a gap in analyzing the upside of a team effort as opposed to the assumed Don’t Disrupt, Keep the Ego going assumption. If there are 12 successful attempts, the rate might be incredibly high….

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