Dylan Cease lost his no-hitter the way a no-hitter should be lost

Ted Williams could have sat the final day of the 1941 season and secured his status as the last player to hit .400. His average stood at .400 that before a meaningless doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, but even a respectable showing like a 3-for-8 day would have knocked him down to .399.

Even with that razor-thin margin for error, Williams took the field. On one hand, he was compelled by the fact that he only sat at .400 by rounding up. Detractors — and Williams had plenty of them — could say he didn’t actually hit .400, but .3996. Williams didn’t want to give them the ammo.

His average climbed over .400 without the help of rounding after a single in his first at-bat of the first game, so he could’ve stopped there … or maybe after a second plate appearance, since a 1-for-2 performance would’ve allowed him to finish at an even two-fifths.

Instead, Williams played the entirety of both games. He just about eliminated the risk of dropping below .400 by going 4-for-5 in Game 1, but he improved his average even more with a 2-for-3 performance in the final game of the season. He finished the year hitting .406, and for that he was rewarded with … a runner-up finish in the MVP race to Joe DiMaggio.

Dylan Cease losing his no-hit bid to Luis Arraez when an inferior hitter stood in the on-deck circle made me wonder what we would’ve thought had Williams finished the season hitting .396 instead of .406. It probably would’ve been cited as an example as the other ways he’d come up short, like going 5-for-25 in his only World Series, a seven-game loss to the Cardinals in 1946. Instead, putting it all on the line and winning added to his lore as the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.

Cease gambled and lost, albeit with lower stakes. Nobody would’ve blamed him if he pitched around Arraez, the AL batting leader facing him for a fourth time Saturday night, in favor of facing Kyle Garlick, a righty who usually only starts against lefties. Sure enough, the results validated that particular course. Arraez lined a single to right field, while Garlick struck out on four pitches.

But while no-hitters are a binary judgment — DID HE ALLOW ZERO HITS, Y/N — they’re not all created equal. The impressiveness of a no-hitter almost has a perfect correlation with whether it followed the straightest possible line. Clayton Kershaw struck out 15 batters in his no-hitter back in 2015, and only a fielding error kept it from being a perfect game. That’s levels more thrilling than Edwin Jackson’s eight-walk no-hitter in 2010, which stands out for how it actually kinda sucked. Along the same lines, combined no-hitters resonate with me only as trivia, rather than an actual feat.

Had Cease pitched around Arraez and struck out Garlick, it would’ve been the 21st no-hitter in White Sox history, but it would’ve lost a little bit of its standing. Statistically, his game score would’ve lost a couple points for a third walk. Anecdotally, he might get dogged a bit for not competing against the hitter in front of him while the Sox led by 13. You can argue that neither point really matters, because the prestige of having thrown a no-hitter usually outlasts such granular details, and that much is true.

Here’s a counterpoint: Imagine how lame it would’ve been if Cease pitched around Arraez, then gave up a single to Garlick.

Sure, that’s an unlikely scenario given the advantages Cease held over Garlick that he didn’t have on Arraez, but it’s still possible, whether due to the fluctuation in adrenaline, the shift to stretch mechanics, or merely the butterfly effect. Pitching around Arraez presented its own gamble, because while there’s nobility in losing a no-hitter to Arraez, there would be none in pitching around him and still having nothing to show for it.

One of the reasons I prefer regular-season baseball to the postseason version is that the individual games don’t matter as much, so players are given more of a chance to compete. I can appreciate the weight of managerial decisions in October, but I don’t like that they often overshadow the act of a hitter beating a pitcher or vice versa.

Sometimes competing results in failure, but one of my favorite baseball plays registered as such. Back in May 2011, the White Sox were able to hold on to a 4-3 victory over the Oakland A’s in the Coliseum because Coco Crisp tried to steal home on Matt Thornton with two outs in the eighth inning, but Thornton got the ball to the plate in time, and A.J. Pierzynski applied the tag.

Watching as a White Sox fan, I celebrated the out. Watching as a baseball fan, it would’ve been kinda cool to see Crisp pull it off. But why an unsuccessful stolen base attempt stands out is the way everybody talked about the play afterward. Whether it was Crisp, Thornton, Omar Vizquel (who was trying to hold Crisp at third), Ozzie Guillen or Bob Geren, everybody audibly appreciated the confidence and boldness of the play. It was understood that Crisp earned the chance to take that risk.

Cease, who seized the opportunity to make up ground for award consideration with Justin Verlander and Shane McClanahan both on the injured list, should similarly feel like he can beat anybody, especially when it poses no risk to the game outcome. Saturday night’s game came down to the AL Cy Young Award winner facing the possible AL batting crown winner with a no-hitter on the line. Pierzynski, now in the broadcast booth, advocated for Cease skirting the match-up. He had a point, but it made for lousy theater. I wanted to see whose best ended up besting. To me, that’s the best, even if the outcome makes it feel like the worst.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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calcetinesblancos

Cease going after him and making him hit it provided a nice contrast to Baldelli and his bush league BS.

The entire situation is also another illustration of how stupid TLR looked whining about the Mercedes homer; unlike that pointless “event,” THIS situation was genuinely disrespectful to the game, in my humble opinion.

I had a feeling you would bring up that EJ no hitter. I don’t even think it should count as a no hitter.

Canyonero

Congrats to him for such a special performance. I loved how he was owning the no-hitter as it was happening, not hiding his emotions. The best moment for me was when he walked off the mound after the eighth and was waving his arms to the crowd. He’s been a weekly treat in a season full of disappointments. That said, it is insane that this team is only two out.

ParisSox

I watched the highlights and loved how he was owning it and getting the crowd more riled up – not being superstitious about it. Cease is the man.

Foulkelore

I gave you a plus 1 before reading your post due to your user name and picture. Luckily, the post is good too.

Willardmarshall

Sometimes I just have to say thanks. Cease has a worthy Boswell….

GrinnellSteve

Excellent piece.

I wanted to see him pitch around Arraez, not 4 obvious balls that only a Sox player mired in a slump would swing at, but 4 pitches that are off the plate and if he bites, he bites, and if he doesn’t, go get Garlick. Arraez is a good enough hitter that he can take a pitch off the plate and line it somewhere, but the pitch he did hit was too fat.

A memorable evening. I hope there are many more this year.

overland

Bright side: This one hitter will be remembered because of the two out drama in the ninth.

Maybe more than the feat of a no hitter.

chipporter

I don’t believe that pitching around Arraez would have even amounted to footnote, let alone a future talking point. While I understand the bravado of wanting to go toe to toe for the achievement, I don’t believe pitching around diminishes the accomplishment at all, now or in the future. I’m with AJ on this one. Use the tools given to you by the rules of the game to accomplish your tasks.

gibby32

I am with Jim. I believe it was Patrick who agreed with AJ on twitter last night, while the game was going on, and I responded with reference to the Ted Williams 1941 last day of the season example. I admire Cease more now than I would had he pitched around Arraez.

gibby32

I have a fair amount of animus towards Tony LaRussa right now, but the Coco Crisp example reminded me of one of my favorite regular season moments involving LaRussa in his first go around with the White Sox. Bottom of the ninth in Yankee Stadium, tie game, Ricky Henderson on first, 2-0 count on the batter: LaRussa calls for a pitch out, and they catch Henderson stealing. Then the White Sox win the game in the tenth. The balls of calling for a pitch out that would make the count 3-0 took my breath away. That was when I liked LaRussa; hell, that may have been why I liked LaRussa, before he became an arrogant ass..

LoveLittleLouie

Actually agree with you, loved LaRussa’s acumen and intensity at the time but never really warmed to him because of his peripheral reputation.

I think the old LaRussa would have, at least, suggested hitting Correa in the rear. I would have liked that then.

a-t

Arguably they were in fact trying to pitch around Arraez tho not necessarily walk him. The first two pitches were not very hittable, and on the fatal slider, Zavala indicated with his glove before the pitch that he wanted it down below the zone if not in the dirt.

But otherwise: I agree. No better way to try and finish a no-no than to go through the toughest guy in the league to prevent from getting a hit.

charlie

What a cool guy Cease is along with such talent.
In the moment I was hoping to pitch around Arraez but in hindsight loved trying to beat him. Throw your fastball for a strike but under no circumstance however can you allow anything off speed there to be hittable.

Yolmer's gatorade

I appreciate the decision to go after Arraez because it was the correct baseball play too. You obviously go after any hitter up 13 runs.

GrinnellSteve

It appears the Sox got the best that Dallas Keuchel had to offer this year. Texas just designated him after 2 starts where he gave up 7 runs in each.

2022 ERA
Chicago: 7.88
Arizona: 9.64
Texas: 12.60

Dallas, perhaps the problem was you.

soxfan

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34524007/texas-rangers-designate-dallas-keuchel-assignment-two-starts

“I felt I pitched a whole lot better than the line read,” Keuchel said after Friday’s game.

Sounds familiar.

LoveLittleLouie

Needs to find an organization that has a knuckleball capable instructor. He has perfect demeanor for Knuckler. Why not?

Right Size Wrong Shape

Is this the gamethread?

StockroomSnail

Hell yeah, let it ride. You’re the best, if they beat you, tip your cap.

Made me think of football, when teams start playing clock instead of scoring more… then allow a rally anyways.

Cease had beaten him all night. No need to change.

Last edited 3 months ago by StockroomSnail
lifelongjd

God Jim, this is a great piece of writing. You found nobility and honor in Cease not being able to finish the no hitter.

I guess the whole idea of professional sports is to watch the best compete against the best. We can’t come close to hitting Cease or striking Arraez out, but having a rooting interest in that matchup in that time is what makes us fans. If Cease pitched around him, the true value of the thing decreases in some way. You nailed the intricacies of what true competition is, and while he didn’t achieve the no hitter, Cease can have pride that he didn’t go around or back down

LoveLittleLouie

It was agate type in some record book or blog list against something that some people will really remember about you. Want the guy that makes this choice.

LoveLittleLouie

One of the reasons I prefer regular-season baseball to the postseason version is that the individual games don’t matter as much, so players are given more of a chance to compete. I can appreciate the weight of managerial decisions in October, but I don’t like that they often overshadow the act of a hitter beating a pitcher or vice versa.”

Don’t usually like regular season games better than playoffs because I do love to the better teams with added pressure, but do love all the “nuances” of each decision that goes into each pitch and swing or take (or whatever).