By the numbers: 6 stunning facts from Ronel Blanco’s Astros no-hitter

Ronel Blanco shocked the world by throwing a no-hitter on Monday.

Apr 1, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco (56) reacts after
Apr 1, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco (56) reacts after / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros' debut season was back in 1962. Since then, their 16th no-hitter leads all of MLB. That's not even including the one from the 2022 World Series. That's just one of several unbelievable numbers that came from Ronel Blanco throwing a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

The 2024 campaign had gotten off to a nightmarish start for the Astros who were swept on their home field by the Yankees. They were in all four games and had late leads in three of them, but couldn't come up with enough offense or pitching late to secure a win. The Astros needed a win in the worst way with Toronto coming to town, and they got it in the best possible fashion.

Starting pitching was a concern for this Astros team entering the year with Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy all on the injured list, but Ronel Blanco, a pitcher who might not even have been in the majors if the team was healthy let alone the rotation, started this game after finding out he had made the rotation just a couple of days before Opening Day. The same day his daughter was born. He couldn't have been any better against a talented Blue Jays lineup.

Ronel Blanco throws one of the unlikeliest no-hitters in recent memory

Blanco signed a contract to join the Astros in 2016 for just a $5,000 signing bonus. He was never a high-end prospect, but he just kept grinding until he finally got his chance.

That chance didn't come until he was 28 years old. He had an ERA of 7.11 in relief in that debut season. He went from a guy who wasn't even guaranteed a rotation spot despite all of the injuries to not only putting together a strong performance against a quality lineup, but throwing a no-hitter. How can you not be romantic about baseball?

Blanco's no-hitter is the earliest by date in MLB history. The beginning of the season is time for everyone to get acclimated to the games that actually matter. It's a time for starting pitchers to continue to get stretched out so they have no pitch limits. In the case of Blanco, he threw 105 pitches. That's not common for April 1. Houston simply couldn't take him out with how dominant he was.

Blanco threw this no-hitter thanks in large part to an improved pitch, his change-up. Blanco threw his change-up just nine percent of the time last season according to Baseball Savant.. He threw his slider and four-seam fastball a combined 88.8 percent of the time. The 37 percent whiff rate he generated against his change-up last season was strong, but opponents hit .263 against that pitch, a fairly high average.

On Monday night, Blanco threw it 34 percent of the time, generated whiffs 42 percent of the time, and, of course, he allowed no hits. It's safe to assume he's going to be using that change-up a lot more in future starts.

How long Blanco remains in Houston's rotation remains to be seen. Justin Verlander is preparing to begin a rehab assignment and should be back soon. He'll get at least one more start, but if he pitches well again maybe Houston will consider a six-man rotation. Or maybe they'll move J.P. France to relief. Blanco, at the very least, has put his name squarely on the map with an outing like the one we just saw on Monday.

What a tremendous achievement for a pitcher who has battled through adversity and wasn't even supposed to start this game anyway. It's an unbelievable story for him to tell his daughter one day.