Shutout vs No Hitter: What’s The Difference?

Stats in baseball can be overwhelming as there are loads of different parameters to take note of. While looking at a player’s pitching statistics, one of the most common questions people may have is, “What is the difference between a shutout vs no hitter?”

Simply put, a shutout refers to the number of runs the pitcher gives up, while a no-hitter refers to the number of hits that the pitcher gives up. What does that mean? Well, it means that a shutout is when a pitcher pitches a complete game of baseball and gives up zero runs. A no-hitter is when a pitcher throws a whole game and gives up zero hits.

Both of these stats are impressive stats to have and are coveted by pitchers everywhere. However, there are some specific rules used to calculate what a shutout or a no-hitter is.

The Difference Between A Shutout And A No-Hitter

What Are SHUTOUTS In Baseball?

To really understand what a shutout is, we need to refer to the official MLB rules for clarity. A shutout defined by those terms is “a statistic credited to a pitcher who allows no runs in a game. No pitcher shall be credited with pitching a shutout unless he pitches the complete game, or unless he enters the game with none out before the opposing team has scored in the first inning, puts out the side without a run-scoring, and pitches the rest of the game without allowing a run. When two or more pitchers combine to pitch a shutout, the league statistician shall make a notation to that effect in the league’s official pitching records.”

Now, that looks like a wall of text. So let’s break this down so we can understand what it all means.

A Pitcher Allows No Runs In A Game

This is the first and foremost rule of a shutout. This is also the most crucial part of getting a shutout.

The definition, however, is rather straightforward. If the opposing team has a “0” on their scoreboard, the pitcher has checked one of the boxes to earn a shutout.

A Pitcher Shall Not Be Credited With A Shutout Unless He Pitches A Whole Game

This part of the rules is a little trickier. The pitcher has to either pitch a complete game or come into the game during the first inning when no one on the opponent’s team has made an out.

Now, what is considered a “complete” game? A complete game is a game with nine innings. If the game goes into extra innings, then the pitcher has to pitch in all those extra innings if they want to earn a shutout.

However, in the MLB season of 2020, a new type of game was introduced – the 7-inning doubleheader game. This introduction made it a little more challenging to earn a shutout because pitchers would not gain one for pitching all seven innings. Remember, a “complete” game consists of 9 innings

However, if the seven-inning game had two extra innings and the pitcher throws for all of them, then it would count as a shutout.

So to recap, a pitcher must throw a “complete game” of 9 innings to count as a shutout. If there are extra innings, then they must also pitch in those innings. If a game has less than nine innings, it doesn’t count as a shutout unless there are extra innings that bring the total up to 9 innings.

What Can A Pitcher Give Up And Still Get A Shutout?

A pitcher can give up hits, walks, and errors and still earn that coveted shutout statistic. Since the stat only covers runs, all of the things mentioned above can happen during a game. For the shutout to be earned, the pitcher has to make sure no one makes it across home plate. So long as the scoreboard has a zero in runs, then the pitcher can still make that shutout statistic.

Recap 

So what have we learned about shutouts? Firstly, the pitcher has to give up zero runs in the game. The opposing team cannot score if the pitcher wants to earn it. Secondly, the pitcher must pitch for a “complete game” of 9 innings and extra innings. Any less, and the game will not count as a shutout. Thirdly, the pitcher may give up hits, walks, and errors for the shutout to count. The only thing that matters in a shutout is that the opponent gets zero runs.

What Are NO-HITTERS In Baseball?

Again, if we want to get a good understanding of a no-hitter in baseball, we have to refer to the official MLB rules, which state, “An official no-hit game occurs when a pitcher (or pitchers) allows no hits during the entire course of a game, which consists of at least nine innings. In a no-hit game, a batter may reach base via a walk, an error, a hit by pitch, a passed ball or wild pitch on strike three, or catcher’s interference.

Again, a little too wordy for our liking, so let’s examine the statement piece by piece.

A Pitcher Allows No Hits For The Entire Course Of A Game

Again, this is the most crucial rule for a no-hitter game. Unlike the shutout, where there need to be no runs in a game, a no-hitter game requires that no batter hit any of the pitches of a single pitcher. That means that an opponent’s hits should be zero. If that requirement is met at the end of the game, the pitcher just crossed one of the most challenging hurdles for this achievement.

An Entire Course Of The Game, Which Consists Of At Least Nine Innings.

As you can see, the no-hitter achievement is very similar to that of the shutout in that it requires, at the minimum, nine innings for it to count as a complete game. If the game has any extra innings, then the pitcher must also throw for all those extra innings to be eligible for the said achievement

With the introduction of the MLB 2020 season 7-inning doubleheader games, however, a pitcher who only plays for seven innings without extra innings would, by definition above, not be eligible for the no-hitter award. However, if the game goes into two extra innings and the pitcher plays through all said innings, the game will count towards a no-hitter game.

What Can The Pitcher Give Up To Still Earn A No-Hitter?

A no-hitter achievement only consists of the opposing team being able to get a base hit. That means that the opponent may still acquire runs, walks, errors, and catcher interference. This also means that a team may be able to generate any offense of sorts and score runs. So while the opposing team may not be able to hit the ball, there’s still a chance of them scoring, but scoring does not negate a no-hitter.

Is It Possible To Lose A No-Hitter Game?

Because of the way that the no-hitter statistic is calculated, you might be wondering if pitchers can lose and still earn the no-hitter at the same time.

Although it’s very rare, pitchers can lose the game and still earn a no-hitter simultaneously. As of late, there have been a total of 5 games that the MLB has recognized wherein the pitcher lost the game but still managed to bag a no-hitter. The most recent game of which occurred in the 2008 season.

Before the 2021 season, a total of 305 no-hitters have been recorded. Roughly speaking, that means 1.64% of no-hitter games have resulted from the pitcher losing the said game and still bagging a no-hitter game. This is because no-hitters do not need a score of zero to be earned, just that the opposing team gets zero hits.

On Complete Game Shutouts

On the topic of shutouts, there are actually two types of shutout games: the complete-game shutout and the regular shutout. To anybody, they seem to mean the same things. After all, you need to pitch a complete game for both achievements. Not quite. They are very similar but have one defining difference between the two.

A Complete Game Shutout occurs when a pitcher throws for a whole game and gives up no runs regardless of how many innings there were in the game. On the other hand, a standard shutout requires the pitcher to throw for a  minimum of nine total innings and keep the opponent from scoring.

The main difference between the two types of shutouts is the number of innings required to achieve them.

For example, if a pitcher throws for the seven innings of a doubleheader game and the opposing team does not score, he is awarded a complete game shutout. Another example would be that if a pitcher threw for five innings without giving up a run, but due to bad weather the game is cut short, then he would still earn a complete game shutout. In both cases, they would not be eligible for a standard shutout but a complete game shutout.

To Conclude

Shutouts and no-hitters are stats that seem very similar but have a few differences. However, both statistics will tell you one thing – the pitcher played a great game. While it’s possible to lose a no-hitter game, it’s infrequent, and your team should be able to pick up the slack. There’s no doubt that both achievements are something that any pitcher dreams of being awarded. Hopefully, that clarifies a few things and helps you understand even more stats that you would run into as you follow baseball.

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