It’s tough to guess the meanings of certain esoteric baseball phrases using only the terms themselves—take, for example, dying quail, frozen rope, or Uncle Charlie. But even some of the more self-evident ones need a little extra explanation. So what exactly is the difference between a no-hitter, a perfect game, and a shutout?
First, let’s cover the basic similarities: All three terms describe baseball games that involve a specific kind of successful pitching performance. In other words, the credit goes to the pitcher, who is said to have “thrown” a no-hitter, perfect game, or shutout. If more than one pitcher contributed, it’s typically called a “combined” no-hitter, perfect game, or shutout. (There’s never been a combined perfect game in MLB history, but Puerto Rico accomplished one against Israel during the World Baseball Classic in early 2023.)
What is a shutout in baseball?
The most common of the three is a shutout, which occurs when a pitcher doesn’t let the opposing team score a single run for the entire game. Batters can get on base in any number of ways, hits included. But as long as nobody safely crosses home plate, and the pitcher “remain[s] in the game for every out,” per MLB.com, it’s a shutout.
What is a no-hitter in baseball?
As its name suggests, a no-hitter is a game in which one team fails to get any hits off a pitcher (or pitchers). But as The Bat Nerds explain, there are several ways a player can still end up on base:
Because it’s difficult for a team to score without getting any hits, many no-hitters are technically also shutouts. That said, the MLB has played host to a handful of non-shutout no-hitters over the years.
What is a perfect game in baseball?
The rarest achievement for a pitcher is a perfect game, in which not a single player on the opposing team gets on base. Because there are no hits in a perfect game, all perfect games are no-hitters. And it’s impossible to score without getting on base, of course, so a perfect game is also a de facto shutout. To say it’s rare isn’t an understatement: There have only ever been 24 single-pitcher perfect games in MLB history (compared to more than 300 no-hitters). The latest pitcher to earn the honor is the New York Yankees’ Domingo Germán, who pitched a perfect game against the Oakland Athletics on June 28, 2023.
Here’s a quick recap:
Type of Game
No runs are scored.
Nobody gets on base from a hit.
Nobody gets on base at all.
A version of this story ran in May 2023; it has been updated for June 2023.