What is a No-Hitter in Baseball?

An in-depth look at this rare feat in baseball, including how it's accomplished and the history behind it.
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

A no-hitter in baseball is a game in which no player on an opposing team gets on base as a result of hitting a pitch. No-hitters are rare. Only 316 have happened in Major League Baseball from 1876 to date. This article will answer common questions you might have about no-hitters.

baseball pitcher throwing a no-hitter
  • A no-hitter in baseball is a game in which no player on an opposing team gets on base as a result of hitting a pitch.
  • It is different from a shutout, where one pitcher wins without the other team scoring any runs.
  • A perfect game is also considered to be a no-hitter, but batters can still reach first base from walks or errors, and it would still count as such.
  • Nolan Ryan holds the record for most career no-hitters with seven, followed by Sandy Koufax with four.
  • Extra innings were added to MLB games in 1991; if runners are put at second base after 10 innings, then it does not qualify as either perfect or regular no-hitter anymore because someone has reached first base already via hitless means (walk/error).

What is a no-hitter?

MLB rules dictate that a no-hitter is a full game in which one or more pitchers do not allow a player to reach a base from a hit. Players can take bases from walks or errors or even score, and a game can still be a no-hitter. Although no-hitters are mostly due to the effort of pitchers, they require a team effort to complete.  

How is a no-hitter different from a shutout?

In baseball, a shutout is when a single pitcher wins a game without the opposing team scoring a single run. In a shutout, players can still get on base from a hit- but they can’t score.

A complete game shutout is only achieved by a single pitcher. If a team substitutes a pitcher and the opposing team doesn’t score it is still referred to as a shutout.

Shutouts are far more common than no-hitters. The MLB records the number of shutouts every season. It is possible for a game-ending in extra innings to be a shutout, although it is uncommon.

How is a no-hitter different from a perfect game?

A perfect game is a no-hitter, where a pitcher completes a game without the other team reaching first base. It is different from a no-hitter because batters can still reach first base from a walk or error, and the game can still be considered a no-hitter.

The 23 perfect games recorded in the history of the MLB are also listed on the official list of no-hitters. Two or more pitchers can have a perfect game, but this has yet to occur in the history of Major League Baseball.

Before 2020, it was possible for a perfect game to go into extra innings, although it never occurred. The new MLB extra inning rule starts a runner at second base in the tenth inning. If this happens, a player has reached a base, and it is no longer a perfect game.

Most no-hitters in baseball history

Nolan Ryan Most no-hitters in baseball history

Over the course of history, there have been many great pitchers who have accomplished this feat multiple times. Nolan Ryan leads the way with seven no-hitters, followed by Sandy Koufax with four. Here is a list of the top 20 pitchers to throw a no-hitter.

1Nolan Ryan7
2Sandy Koufax4
3Cy Young3
4Justin Verlander3
5Bob Feller3
6Larry Corcoran3
7Warren Spahn2
8Frank Smith2
9Adonis Terry2
10Sam Jones2
11Cole Hamels2
12Roy Halladay2
13Jim Maloney2
14Randy Johnson2
15Homer Bailey2
16Pud Galvin2
17Don Wilson2
18Virgil Trucks2
19Carl Erskine2
20Vida Blue2

Here’s a great clip of Nolan Ryan completing his seventh no-hitter from 1991.

What happens in extra innings?

It is possible for a no-hitter to finish in extra innings if no hits occur. Before 1991, a no-hitter only took nine innings. In 1991, The Committee for Statistical Accuracy changed this rule, requiring that a full game finishes without any hits. This rule change removed 50 no-hitters from the MLB’s official list.

What is a combined no-hitter?

A combined no-hitter is when a team achieves a no-hitter with more than one pitcher. Of the 316 official no-hitters, only 58 have been combined no-hitters. A no-hitter only requires that no player reach a base as a result of a hit. It can still occur even if players get on base as a result of a walk, an error, or pitching substitutions.

What is a double no-hitter?

A double no-hitter in baseball is when both teams achieve a no-hitter. It has never happened in the history of Major League Baseball. A game in 1917 is the closest example of a double no-hitter in baseball history.

On May 2nd, 1917, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds had both thrown no-hitters by the end of the 9th inning. In the tenth inning, the Reds hit and won the game, ending the no-hitter for the Cubs. Fred Toney of the Reds has the 85th no-hitter in baseball history. Because of the rule change in 1991, the Cubs no longer have a no-hitter for that game. 


What is the least and most amount of pitches thrown in a no-hitter?

The records for the number of pitches thrown in no-hitters are impossible to know. The MLB started recording pitch counts as a statistic in 1999 and only began recording them in 1988. Because of this, it is hard to find accurate data for pitch counts before this year, although for many games this statistic is available.

A likely contender for the least pitches thrown in a no-hitter is Addie Joss’s perfect game. In 1908 he threw only 74 pitches for the Cleveland Naps to win one to zero against the Chicago White Sox. As for the most, this title likely goes to Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson for his 149 pitch no-hitter in 2010. The Diamondbacks won that game one to zero against the Tampa Bay Rays. 

What are the most pitchers used in a combined no-hitter?

The most pitchers used in a no-hitter in professional baseball is six. This happened twice, in both 2003 and 2012. In 2003, six pitchers from the Houston Astros pitched a no-hitter against the New York Yankees. They won eight to zero. Six Seattle Mariners pitchers also pitched a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Mariners won the 2012 game with a score of one to zip.

Why is it called a no-hitter if they hit the ball?

The term “no-hitter” may be confusing, because often in a no-hitter the opposing team will still hit the ball. A “base hit” in baseball is when a player hits the ball and reaches a base. You can think about a no-hitter as a game in which no player has a base hit. Batters can still flyout or ground out, they cannot get a base hit. 

Is a no-hitter in baseball good?

A no-hitter in baseball is either good or bad, depending on which team achieves it. Because a no-hitter is so rare, it will often make sports news whenever it occurs. All pitchers hope to achieve a perfect game every time they step up to the mound, and a no-hitter is the next best thing. For a team who has a no-hitter done to them, it is an unfortunate and rare outcome. 

What is the most famous no-hitter in MLB history?

The most famous no-hitter in MLB history is a matter of opinion. For some, it might be the first no-hitter from pitcher George Bradley of the St. Louis Brown Stockings. George Bradley threw the first no-hitter in 1876 to win against the Hartford Dark Blues. It is up to historical interpretation if this game was actually the first no-hitter.

Others may choose a no-hitter that is also a perfect game. I remember a recent famous no-hitter very well from Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers. He struck out 15 of my Colorado Rockies without a walk or hit, almost achieving a perfect game in 2014. 

The most exciting moment in baseball

No-hitters are the goal of every baseball team. They are rare and only occur when a team’s defense is playing at its best. Next time you watch a baseball game, be on the lookout for a no-hitter because watching one happen live is one of the most exciting moments in baseball.