So far, we’ve had the best baseball can offer…and some of the worst.
After a wacky season in 2020, who knew what we were going to get in 2021. It looked as if it might be a normal season, Opening Day would happen as scheduled, and teams would play 162 games, with no restricted travel.
Last year at this time, we were hoping baseball would return to normal. Well, it’s returned, but it may not be the normal we expected. As we head into the final one-and-a-half months of the season, let’s take a look at what was truly the highlight of this season, and a trend that has truly marred the season for teams and fans alike.
Right out of the gate, no-hitters everywhere.
Who saw this coming! In the first two months of the season, there were SEVEN no-hitters, tying for the most in an entire MLB season. And it looked as if the record might be broken before the All-Star break.
Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres (April 9 vs. Texas Rangers)
Carlos Rodón, Chicago White Sox (April 15 vs. Cleveland Indians)
John Means, Baltimore Orioles (May 5 vs. Seattle Mariners)
Wade Miley, Cincinnati Reds (May 7 vs. Cleveland Indians)
Spencer Turnbull, Detroit Tigers (May 18 vs. Seattle Mariners)
Corey Kluber, New York Yankees (May 19 vs. Texas Rangers)
Zach Davies, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, Craig Kimbrel: Chicago Cubs (June 24 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers)
Yes, a nine-inning “combined” no-hitter is an official MLB no-hitter. And for the record, there were two other games played where one team failed to get a single hit. But they aren’t genuine no-hitters:
The Diamondback’s Madison Bumgarner started and ended a game without giving up a hit, but it was the first game of a double-header, and all double-header games this season are just seven innings. Five Tampa Bay pitchers combined for a no-hitter in a double-header…that also didn’t count.
Seven no-hitters before the All-Star Game…wow. And since then? Not a one. In their place, another trend started. We went from players going down at the plate to players going down on the field.
Injuries have taken a toll. Trout is still out.
Sports fans are used to NFL players getting hurt. Those injuries typically happen as a result of the action, in the heat of battle. But suddenly, baseball stars are going down and staying down, not just hurting their teams but also potentially damaging their careers and career output. We want to see our players on the field, not in the dugout.
Mike Trout, initially on the 60-day injured list in mid-May due to a calf strain, should have returned mid-July but he’s still out, and there’s no word yet on his return.
According to Sports Illustrated, half of the 10 highest-paid players are out due to injuries. Baseball’s injured list on August 8th was close to 300 players.
Heading into the season, we couldn’t wait to see the “best players in the game”—Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatís Jr., Trout, etc. All are out with injuries, which saddens all baseball fans. This is the third time Tatís has gone on the injured list, and some are wondering if it wouldn’t be better to have him just sit out the season. Other big-name stars who are out due to injuries are Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rendon, Marcel Ozuna, Kyle Schwarber….
It’s happening on the mound too.
In the first two months of the season, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom was having a monster year. When the All-Star Game rolled around, he had a 7-2 record, with a 1.08 earned run average. He was striking out 13 batters a game. But he hasn’t pitched since July 7th, and it’s unsure when he’ll return.
Shane Bieber, Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw are also out. Justin Verlander’s season is over due to Tommy John surgery, as is that of the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow and the Dodgers’ Dustin May, both of whom pitched in the 2020 World Series.
The theme for the 2021 season right now is “wait and hope”—wait for your injured players to get off the injured list and hope they return to form.
Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals is a perfect example of that. The ace had a record of 8-1 and a 2.90 ERA when he suffered an oblique injury at the end of May. He was due back August 1st…now they’re hoping he’ll return mid-August for a big series against their rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cards were 10.5 games out when this article was written.
Race to the finish.
Lots of no-hitters and injuries have been the unexpected surprises of this season. The no-hitters have stopped, while the injuries have continued to pile up.
A look at the standings (as of August 10th) is an eye-opener for many baseball fans:
- Yankee and Red Sox fans are surely annoyed that the Rays are at again, leading the AL East by four games
- Dodger and Padres fans expected 2021 to be a two-team battle for the top of the NL West—no one envisioned the Giants would be in first place for most of the season
- The Chicago White Sox might be the biggest surprise of 2021—losers of the Wild Card Series to Oakland in 2020, they now lead the NL Central by 10.5 games
With the way this season has gone, who really knows what’s next! Many teams are waiting for their key injured players to return to the lineup. Other teams are hoping the magic they have going keeps working through the end of the season.
Last season’s nemesis, COVID, is still hanging around, causing trouble for a few teams. Just last week, hot-hitting Anthony Rizzo (now with the Yankees) tested positive. He joins three other Yankees on the “COVID-19” injury list—Gerrit Cole, Gary Sanchez and Jordan Montgomery.
To replace Rizzo, the Yankees activated Luke Voit, who led the Majors in home runs last year. The Yankees are truly hoping he can fill the void. Fingers crossed…Voit just came off the injured list.
RESOURCES: baseball-reference.com; mlb.com; fanduel.com/theduel/no-hitters-this-year; covers.com/sport/baseball/mlb/injuries; usatoday.com/story/mlb-injuries-2021; mlb.com/anthony-rizzo-tests-positive; si.com/mlb/mike-trout-injury-epidemic; redbirdrants.com/cardinals-flaherty-oblique
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports