|Francisco Liriano's no-hitter Tuesday|
was his first complete game.
But this was about as unimpressive a no-hitter as one can envision.
Francisco Liriano threw 123 pitches Tuesday night; 66 were strikes and 57 were balls. He faced 30 men and threw a first-pitch strike to just 11 of them.
He walked six and struck out just two.
He took the mound on a chilly Chicago evening Tuesday with the very real possibility that his job was on the line. He entered with an ERA of 9.13 and 18 walks allowed in fewer than 24 innings. A couple days ago I heard Ron Gardenhire say on the radio that Kevin Slowey was being stretched out on his rehab assignment "in case we decide to do something," and he said that in the context of talking about Liriano's struggles.
Results matter, of course, and Liriano did throw a no-hitter, did shut out the White Sox. It's reasonable to assume that if Slowey is going to dislodge one of the current starters when he returns to the active roster, it won't be Liriano.
Results matter, but so does the process. The walks, the strike/ball ratio, the lack of swings-and-misses (12 for the game, and, Aaron Gleeman points out, just four swinging strikes on his slider) – these things suggest strongly that Liriano has not solved his problems.
A commenter on my earlier post wondered how many pitchers have had no-hitters for their first complete game.
Off the top of my head I had three nominees, and as it turned out, for two of the three their no-hitters were their only complete game.
One was Bobo Holloman, who threw a no-hitter in 1953 for the St. Louis Browns. He has a degree of notoriety as the absolute worst pitcher to throw a no-hitter; Holloman had just the one season in the majors, going 3-7 in 10 starts and 12 relief appearances and walking 50 men (with 25 strikeouts) in just 65 innings. (Consider this: He pitched nine of his 65 innings in one start; he needed nine starts and 12 relief appearances to get another 54 innings. If he averaged one inning in the 12 relief appearances, that leaves 42 innings for the nine starts. Brutal.)
Another was Bud Smith, who threw a no-no at age 21 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001. A prime prospect, he wrecked his arm the next season. (Young pitchers and Tony LaRussa don't mix well.)
My third nominee, Mike Warren, had three complete games before he too ran afoul of injuries. I don't know if his no-hitter was his first compete game, and having Smith and Holloman wrapped up, I'm not interested enough to chase it down.