Season for the ages continues to wow

Season for the ages continues to wow

Nice season and a half so far, huh?

To say 2010 has delivered about a season and a half's worth of highlights and memories is one thing, and it'd be hard to argue against that at this point, given what has transpired. To say it when 2010 isn't even halfway through is another thing, entirely -- but still hard to argue.

Clearly, 2010's cup runneth over, and we're still a week away from the midway point.

A short list of the spectacular flow of highlights and memories that have overfilled baseball's cup thus far:

• Spectacular pitching, with four no-hitters after the D-backs' Edwin Jackson turned the trick Friday night and a would-be perfect game that might have joined them, along with a dozen near-misses that might have added to the no-no fun.

• Hands down the greatest crop of first-year players in one season in recent memory, from the sparkling Opening Day debut of the Braves' Jason Heyward to the record-breaking early mastery of Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and several more in between.

• Surprise contenders and close races in every division, with the Rangers reeling off an 11-game winning streak to take charge in the AL West, the Padres maintaining a torrid pace in the NL West and the Reds giving the Cardinals a run for their NL Central money.

All that, and July hasn't even arrived yet.

This much activity before the All-Star break might not be unprecedented, but in its own unique way 2010 has made the second half look like it has some work to do to keep up the pace.

So far, the story of 2010 has been written mostly from the mound.

The main men with the pen, writing that story: Ubaldo Jimenez, Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay, Jackson -- and Armando Galarraga, who was one blown call from joining the rest of the no-hitter authors.

Even without Galarraga's gem, this is the first time since 1990 that as many as four no-hitters have been thrown in the Majors before the All-Star break -- with five (four AL, one NL) being recorded before the end of June that year, including Nolan Ryan's record seventh. Overall, almost exactly half of the no-hitters (83 of 167) thrown since the All-Star Game started in 1933 have come before the break -- which begs the question of whether we're only halfway through this year's no-hitters.

With Jimenez, Halladay and now Jackson in the books, this year marks the first time there have been three in the National League before the All-Star break since 1969, when Montreal's Bill Stoneman, Cincinnati's Jim Maloney and Houston's Don Wilson registered three no-nos in 15 days, from April 17-May 1.

Also, never before since 1900 had there been two perfect games in one season, but 2010 gave us two in one month with Braden doing the deed on May 9 and Halladay turning it on May 27. (Imagine if Galarraga's perfect performance had made it three in the span of 25 days.)

Edwin Jackson, No-hitter

Not only that, but 12 other pitchers have taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning, so the Year of the Pitcher has been in full bloom, from Shaun Marcum's bid for the Blue Jays on Opening Day through Jackson's masterpiece Friday night.

It hasn't been all about the pitching, although 144 shutouts thus far this season -- including four Friday night -- puts the Major League total ahead of the pace set last year, when there were 276 total. The Blue Jays, trying to stay in the race in the ultra-competitive AL East, have led the Majors in homers all year, with Jose Bautista the first to reach the 20-homer plateau this season. The AL has six players batting .330 or better, and more than 30 players are currently on pace to drive in 100 or more runs.

Heyward might end up being one of them, despite a June swoon, having been the first rookie to send up a flare that 2010 was going to be a special year. With his three-run homer in his first at-bat on Opening Day, Heyward led the way for a long list of other rookies who have made an impact -- and not all of them have arrived yet.

Detroit's Austin Jackson and Brendan Boesch have been key to the Tigers' continued push in the AL Central, the Cards' Jaime Garcia has sported a sub-2.00 ERA all season, Mike Leake has been stellar in jumping from college to a Major League rotation for the Reds, Neftali Feliz has saved 20 games for the surging Rangers, and -- oh yeah -- there seems to be this Strasburg fellow in Washington. Several other top prospects -- the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez, the Marlins' Mike Stanton and the Indians' Carlos Santana among them -- followed in Strasburg's footsteps, and Aroldis Chapman still waits in the wings for the Reds.

Along the way, while some of the usual suspects are making their presence known in the standings, some new faces like the Rangers, Padres and Reds are among the 17 teams within five games of first place in their divisions.

So, to review: As many no-hitters in the first three months than in the previous two full seasons combined, Rookie of the Year ballots that might need another sheet added on, and a lot of teams still thinking about October as July approaches.

Yep, nice season and a half so far, huh?

That leaves just one more question: What's next, 2010?

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.