‘Year of the Pitcher’ indeed

If you didn’t want to admit it before, perhaps Sunday afternoon — when Brandon Morrow was one out away from the sixth no-hitter of the season and fourth against the Rays in just over one calendar year — finally made you come to grips with the fact that this is indeed “The Year of the Pitcher.”
Personally, and I don’t think I’m alone here, I love the dominance displayed on the mound recently. I’d much rather see a 3-2 nail-biter than a 10-8 slugfest, and I think most baseball purists would agree. 
This season, you’re a lot more likely to see the former. 
Want proof? 
Well, five no-hitters — two of them perfect games — have been fired this season, and two others (Armando Galarraga‘s near-perfecto on June 2 and Morrow’s near-no-no) came down to the last out. Since 1900, only three other seasons in Major League Baseball included five no-hitters (1973, 1968 and 1962) and five others had more (six in 1968, 1917 and 1908, and a record seven in 1990 and 1991). 
There have already been 37 1-0 games this season, which matches the total from all of last season. 
And several rookie pitchers have made top-notch debuts, like the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson, the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, the Indians’ Jeanmar Gomez and the Reds’ Mike Leake
Entering Wednesday’s games, 17 starting pitchers who qualified had ERAs under 3.00 this season. Last year, there were 10, and in 2008, there were eight. 
Many believe a more-strictly-enforced drug program has vastly diminished the use of performance-enhancing substances and led to the re-emergence of the pitcher’s dominance. 
Recent numbers seemingly point to that. 
Heading into Monday’s slate of games, the cumulative MLB batting average was .259, and the cumulative ERA was 4.13. Both are the lowest since 1992 — when there was a .256 batting average and a 3.74 ERA — according to STATS LLC. 
Here’s a look at the recent year-by-year MLB batting averages and RBIs, courtesy of STATS … 
* 2000: .270 BA, 4.76 ERA
* 2001: .264 BA, 4.41 ERA
* 2002: .261 BA, 4.27 ERA
* 2003: .264 BA, 4.39 ERA
* 2004: .266 BA, 4.46 ERA
* 2005: .264 BA, 4.28 ERA
* 2006: .269 BA, 4.52 ERA
* 2007: .268 BA, 4.46 ERA
* 2008: .264 BA, 4.32 ERA
* 2009: .262 BA, 4.31 ERA
* 2010: .259 BA, 4.13 ERA (entering this week)
That’s a pretty steady decline over the last five years. Could we be witnessing a new era, and not just a different year? 
— Alden Gonzalez 

Thumbnail image for MorrowStretch-thumb-439x268-2322231.jpg
Above, Morrow, pictured while pitching against the Rays on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre in Toronto, had a no-hitter until there were two outs in the top of the ninth. Then, Evan Longoria singled just out of the range of second baseman Aaron Hill. Morrow finished with nine shutout innings, one hit, two walks and 17 strikeouts in a 1-0 complete-game win. 

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