While the 2021 MLB season is less than three weeks old, one could make the argument the biggest achievement of the regular season has already been witnessed.
Now, this does not mean fans should pack it up until the postseason. No, not at all. In fact, quite the contrary. Not watching another inning of regular season action would mean you could not watch future Joe Musgrove outings. After all, the 28-year-old for the San Diego Padres hurled the first no-hitter in franchise history on Apr. 9 against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field.
A no-hitter is most certainly impressive regardless of how it was achieved, but how exactly did Musgrove achieve the feat, considering the San Diego native possessed a good but not great fastball velocity of 93.7 mph?
Even in an era emphasizing more and more on velocity, sometimes a blend of location, break and spin can get the job done, even if the cheese is not there.
Even without the top-notch velocity, Musgrove achieved history by utilizing his vast repertoire of breaking pitches. How so? Well, let’s see, shall we?
Over the course of the game, Musgrove threw 112 pitches. Of those 112, 77 were strikes. The steady strike numbers helped the righty get ahead of batters and, inevitably, strike out 10 batters during the course of the entire game.
However, while one could assume that velocity in the upper quadrant of the zone led to the high-strikeout totals, it was in fact anything but. Of Musgrove’s 27 total outs, only one came via the four-seamer. Instead, Musgrove went to his breaking and off-speed pitches to start the game, as seen here:
After getting ahead 1-2 on Anderson Tejeda, Musgrove immediately went with the first of many sliders during the contest, and while Joey Gallo was in an even count (2-2), Musgrove went with a more favorable righty-lefty matchup and decided on the change-up to pick up the strikeout.
Once the lineup turned back around by the time of the fourth inning, Musgrove doubled down on the breaking pitches and continued to pound the bottom half of the zone. Other pitchers might have emphasized more on velocity, but not Musgrove. Instead, the starter punched out Tejeda with another 1-2 breaking ball for the second time in a row, and while the location was not there against Gallo (Musgrove hit him with an inside cutter) or Nate Lowe, the diversity of Musgrove’s pitches was so precise that the latter was not able to completely pummel the mistake.
Keeping the offense guessing continued to prove its worth as Musgrove trekked on into the later innings. In the fifth inning and sixth inning, Musgrove utilized both the arm and glove side to mow down batters with the breaking ball and sinker, as seen here:
Upon the conclusion of the seventh-inning stretch, another weapon started to show itself more and more: the curveball. In fact, among the last nine batters Musgrove faced, five outs came via the hook. When coupled with the slider (which, when combined with the curve, accounted for seven of the last nine outs), it was nearly impossible to get a read. Musgrove, no matter what quadrant of the plate, became a much harder code to crack, even if the fastball velocity was not at a Gerrit Cole-caliber level.
The breaking ball-heavy approach reached a climax during the ninth inning. Musgrove did not strike anyone out, but it did not matter. The break on the curve, coupled with the location on both sides of the plate, penciled Musgrove into the history books. Again, take note of the arm and glove side location to the pitches.
Musgrove’s no-hitter was almost a throwback of sorts. It was not about the velocity, but about the break. The location throughout the lower quadrant, the precision in locating with pinpoint accuracy, all of it summed up Musgrove’s no-no, and while it might not have been the flashiest no-hitter in regard to velocity, it was definitely one of the more tenacious ones.
Sure, the 2021 MLB season might not be even a month old, but it very well could be moot. Musgrove did the unthinkable and did it in one of the most classic ways possible. Should Musgrove continue to utilize his breaking pitches with his solid location, perhaps more solid outings are on the horizon.
Regardless, it all revolves back to the same philosophy.
That nice blend.