Summer thunderstorms have been wrecking havoc for the Dunedin Blue Jays over the last 10 days of their current homestand, resulting last week in multiple doubleheaders and shortened games such that they only played 40 innings and one nine inning game over a six-game set against the St. Lucie Mets. However, last night there was a silver lining in all the grey clouds.
After a 75-minute storm swept through after three innings Wednesday night, the field was left unplayable and the game to be resumed yesterday afternoon. That in turn shortened the regularly scheduled nightcap to follow to seven innings, and allowed starter Trent Palmer to complete a no-hitter that would not have possible had the game been a full nine innings.
From what I believe I heard related on the Fort Myers broadcast, Palmer is the first Dunedin pitcher to have a no-hitter since 1979, against the St. Petersburg Cardinals. Looking through newspaper archives, it appears both Luis Leal and Charlie Puleo threw no-hitters for Dunedin in Ma and August 1979 respectively (there have been combined no-hitters, for example Pat Hentgen led one in May 1988 and I’m sure there are many others).
Update: The anecdote might have been that’s it’s the first seven inning Dunedin no-hitter since 1979
It was a very encouraging outing for Palmer, selected 77th overall (third round) by the Blue Jays last June out of Jacksonville University and signed for a slightly above slot. He joined Dunedin in early June to make his professional debut, and had been slowly building up his innings count. Overall, he’d been very good at preventing good contact, with a 3.97 ERA and just 21 hits allowed in 34 innings before last night, but it had been a pretty bumpy ride. Some outings he was completely rolling over hitters, but he had a run of outings where he couldn’t consistently stay in the strike zone. And hence 32 walks in 42 innings (albeit with plenty of strikeouts as well at 52),
Over those seven no-hit (and shutout) innings, Palmer struck out a career high 10 of the 24 hitters faced while walking three and hitting another. That left 10 balls in pay to be converted into outs, and frankly Palmer was very fortunate to end up with the no-hitter. While seven of them were very weak—six ground outs to the middle infield and a popout—and no balls were hit very hard (none above 90 MPH with a positive launch angle), three balls were relatively well hit.
In fact, the very first batter of the game almost broke up the no-hitter before it began, as Alerick Soularie hit a sinking liner into right field that was just hard enough to let right fielder Mac Muller snag. The other two were low liners but hit right at shortstop Addison Barger, who was something of a magnet, fielding seven of the 10 balls put in play). Neither were hit especially hard with exit velocities of 85 and 89 MPH, but squared up at near optimal launch angles for realizing hits of 10 and 13 degrees.
The latter of that hard contact was the second out of the 4th inning, and over the second half of the outing no batter came close to getting Palmer, with six strikeouts and four 6-3 outputs the rest of the way.
Palmer threw a (professional) career high 92 pitches, 58 for strikes. That exceeded his previous high of 79, and he probably came pretty close to not getting to finish. 14 of those were to the last two hitters, after he had Charlie Mack in a 1-2 hole with two out at 81 pitches, but ended up walking him six pitches later. He rebounded to freeze Will Holland on a 2-2 slider, which may well have been his last hitter if he hadn’t retired him.
Of the 10 strikeouts, seven were swinging. Given all the strikeouts, one might think he was piling up the whiffs, and 14 is a decent but not overwhelming total (on 36 swings for a 39% whiff rate). Rather, and really unsurprisingly, it appears the Fort Myers game plan was to take and see if he’d beat himself, as they swung under 40% of the time. Though the four free passes evince some degree of wildness, overall he was in the zone enough with 62% of all pitches taken called strikes. And he got ahead of 12 batters while only falling behind eight.
His fastball ranged from 90-94 MPH, mostly 92-93 early and not only holding the velocity but hitting more the higher end in the second half of the outing. There seemed to be three or four distinguishable secondaries from the pitch tracking data. He leaned heavily, especially later on, on his slider at 82-84 MPH which seems to be his best weapon.
He was also using a curveball in the mid/high 70s with less spin, and there were breaking balls clustered around 80-81. Without having seen much of him, I’m not sure if those are sliders just getting caught in between, or a subtle variant. I’m not sure the extent to which he was mixing in his change-up, there were a few for sure but the velocity and spin bands seem to run together with the slower breaking balls.