Francisco Liriano's No-Hitter Was Also His First Complete Game

Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter wasn’t just his first game without a hit. It wasn’t just his first shutout. It was his first complete game at any level. In a six-season career, not once had Liriano met his catcher halfway between the mound after throwing the final pitch of a game he’d started. It’s a surprising little factoid for a guy who’s been good enough to get Rookie of the Year and Cy Young votes in his career.

It’s surprising, but is it rare? There have been 180 no-hitters thrown since 1919, which is as far back as Baseball Reference’s game logs go back to check something like this. Here are the pitchers whose first complete game was also a no-hitter:

Bobo Holloman - 1953
Bill Stoneman - 1969
Jim Bibby - 1973
Charlie Lea - 1981
Wilson Alvarez - 1991
Kent Mercker - 1994
Jose Jimenez - 1999
Bud Smith - 2001
A.J. Burnett - 2001
Derek Lowe - 2002
Anibal Sanchez - 2006
Clay Buchholz - 2007
Jon Lester - 2008
Jonathan Sanchez - 2009
Dallas Braden - 2010
Francisco Liriano - 2011

Maybe -- just maybe -- the game has changed a little bit since World War I. Back when George Mogridge and Hod Eller were throwing no-hitters, every rookie with three or more games started had already had a complete game, if not three. Throwing no-hitter for a first complete game was still a once-in-a-decade anomaly after World War II, and even then, there were explanations for the pitchers who did it. Bill Stoneman was a youngster who had started all of two games before 1969. Bobo Holloman and Jim Bibby were rookies, with Holloman only making nine more starts in his career.

And then, right around the turn of the century, came the pitch-count era. Teams decided that pitchers were more like expensive sports cars than pack mules, and they were treated accordingly. Innings were limited, pitch counts were watched, and games were finished by someone else.

A pitcher’s first complete game being a no-hitter is still an anomaly, of course, but it’s becoming more and more common. It’s certainly not something to expect only from rookies anymore.

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