There are a lot of different stats in baseball and sometimes it can be overwhelming to figure out what means what. When looking at pitching statistics, one of the common questions people have is wanting to know the difference between a shutout and a no-hitter.
A shutout refers to the number of runs given up by the pitcher while a no-hitter refers to the number of hits given up by the pitcher. A shutout is when a pitcher throws a complete game and gives up zero runs while a no-hitter is when a pitcher throws a complete game and gives up no hits.
Both of these are coveted stats by all pitchers, but there are some specific rules around how to calculate what is a shutout and what is a no-hitter.
Shutout vs No Hitter
What is a Shutout in Baseball?
According to the official MLB Rules, a shutout is defined as “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.“
Let’s take a closer look at what each piece of this definition entails.
A Pitcher Cannot Give Up Any Runs to Be Eligible for a Shutout
The first point made in the definition above is that the pitcher allows no runs in a game. So this part of the definition is fairly straightforward – if there is a ‘0 on the scoreboard for the opposing team, then the pitcher has one of the boxes checked towards earning a shutout.
A Pitcher Must Throw a Complete Game to Earn a Shutout
A pitcher must either pitch a complete game or come into the game in the first inning when no one from the opposing team has made an out.
In order to be marked a complete game, the pitcher must also pitch a minimum of 9 innings. If the game goes into extra innings, then the pitcher must also pitch all of those extra innings if they want to earn a shutout.
In the 2020 MLB season, there was an introduction of 7 inning double header games. In this instance, a pitcher would not earn a shutout if they pitched all 7 innings because a pitcher must throw for a minimum of 9 innings.
However, if that 7 inning game was extended to a 9 inning game because of extra innings, the pitcher would be credited with a shutout if they pitched all 9 of those innings.
Pitchers Are Able to Give Up Walks, Hits, and Errors and Still Earn a Shutout
Because the stat of a shutout only focuses on runs, a pitcher is still allowed to give up walks, hits, and errors during the course of the game. For a shutout to be earned, a pitcher simply needs to make sure that no runs cross the plate.
What is a No Hitter in Baseball?
According to the MLB, a no-hitter “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.“
To Be Eligible For a No Hitter a Pitcher Cannot Give Up Any Hits
As stated in the definition above, no hits can be recorded during the course of the game. So if the opposing team has a ‘0’ for the total number of hits, then the pitcher has one of the checkboxes marked for potentially earning a no-hitter.
A Pitcher Must Throw a Complete Game to Earn a No Hitter
To earn a no-hitter, pitchers must throw a minimum of nine innings and they must pitch for the entire game. If a game goes into extra innings, pitchers will also need to pitch those extra innings in order to be eligible for a no-hitter.
This also means that if a pitcher threw for the entire duration of a 7-inning game (which was introduced during the 2020 MLB season for playing doubleheader games), then that pitcher would not be eligible for a no-hitter.
Since the pitcher must throw for a minimum of nine innings to earn a shutout, pitchers would need that 7-inning game to go into two more extra innings and they would need to pitch for the entire duration of that game.
Pitchers Can Give Up Runs, Walks, and Errors and Still Earn a No Hitter
Because the stat of no-hitters focuses solely on the number of hits given up during the game, the opposing team is still able to acquire runs, walks, and errors. As long as the opposing team does not get a base hit, they are still able to generate some offense and even put up some runs.
Can You Lose No Hitter Games?
Due to the way the statistic of no-hitters is calculated, one might wonder if that means pitchers can actually lose and get the no-hitter at the same time.
Although rare, pitchers are able to get the loss and earn a no-hitter at the same time. There have been a total of 5 games the MLB has recognized where the pitcher lost the game but earned a no-hitter, with the most recent occurrence happening in the 2008 season.
Prior to the 2021 season, there were 305 no-hitters recorded. So this means that roughly 1.64% of all no-hitter games have resulted in the pitcher earning a no-hitter and losing the game a the same time.
What is a Complete Game Shutout?
After learning about the definition of a complete game in baseball, one might come to the conclusion that a complete-game shutout and a shutout are the same thing. After all, you need to pitch a complete game in order to earn a shutout. Although these two statistics are fairly similar, there is a slight difference between the two.
A Complete Game Shutout is when a pitcher throws a complete game, regardless of the number of innings pitched, and no runs are given up during that game. A standard Shutout is when a pitcher throws a complete game for a minimum of nine innings and does not give up a run.
The main difference between a complete game shutout and a shutout is simply the number of innings a pitcher throws.
If a pitcher threw for 6 innings, did not give up a run, and the game ended early due to weather, then the pitcher would earn a Complete Game Shutout, but they would not earn a Shutout because the game did not last nine innings.
Learning about the different ways baseball statistics are calculated can be frustrating at first, but once you begin understanding how they are calculated you can begin to get a better grasp on how that stat translates into past performance.
In this instance, no-hitters and shutouts translates into a pitcher having a great game. And, even though it’s possible for a pitcher to lose and get a no-hitter at the same time, both of these stats are something that all pitchers would love to be able to say they achieved at least once in their career.