Exactly how great was Cliff Lee’s performance last night? Well …
Years ago Bill James invented a metric called Game Score that assigned a numerical value to every start based on the following criteria:
– Start with 50 points.
– Add 1 point for each out recorded.
– Add 2 points for each inning completed after the fourth.
– Add 1 point for each strikeout.
– Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
– Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
– Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
– Subtract 1 point for each walk.
If a pitcher tossed a nine-inning perfect game and struck out all 27 batters he faced, his Game Score would be 114. In terms of actual Game Scores, the highest ever recorded in a nine-inning start belongs to Kerry Wood, who racked up a 105 with his 20-strikeout, one-hit, no-walk shutout against the Astros in 1998.
So where does Lee’s outing last night rank among the all-time best World Series starts? Thanks to the magic of Baseball-Reference.com and according to Game Score, here are the 10 most dominant World Series outings since the mound was raised in 1969:
YEAR IP H R BB SO PIT GS
Randy Johnson 2001 9.0 3 0 1 11 110 91
Roger Clemens 2000 8.0 2 0 0 9 112 87
Orel Hershiser 1988 9.0 3 0 2 8 101 87
Tom Glavine 1995 8.0 1 0 3 8 109 85
Mike Boddicker 1983 9.0 3 1 0 6 107 85
Jack Morris 1991 10.0 7 0 2 8 126 84
Josh Beckett 2003 9.0 5 0 2 9 107 84
John Tudor 1985 9.0 5 0 1 8 108 84
CLIFF LEE 2009 9.0 6 1 0 10 122 83
Greg Maddux 1995 9.0 2 2 0 4 95 83
Many people would point to Jack Morris going 10 innings to complete his Game 7 shutout against the Braves in 1991 as the best World Series start of the past 40 years and as a Twins fan I’d be hard-pressed to disagree, but Game Score doesn’t account for the magnitude of a Game 7 and also docks him a bit (relatively speaking, of course) for giving up seven hits and two walks.
Instead of Morris’ gem, the metric shows Randy Johnson’s three-hit, 11-strikeout shutout in Game 2 against the Yankees in 2001 as the top World Series performance since 1969. Lee’s shaky ninth inning last night keeps him from ranking much higher on the list, but there’s no doubt that we witnessed one of the great World Series starts of all time.
Now the big question is whether or not the Phillies will let him try again on short rest in Game 4.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: