Cliff Lee turning in a clunker last night was a huge surprise, but how does his disappointing performance compare to some of the worst Game 1 efforts in World Series history?
Based on Game Score, which is a Bill James invention that uses various aspects of a pitcher’s performance to calculate one number representing the strength of each start, Lee’s outing ranks as the 13th-worst in Game 1 history.
Baseball-Reference.com has the complete list, with the worst of all time being Woody Williams’ start against the Red Sox in 2004 when he allowed seven runs while recording just five outs.
Lee’s start last night is the worst since Jeff Francis allowed six runs in four innings against the Red Sox in 2007. And while Williams and Francis aren’t exactly household names Lee is actually in some pretty good company overall. There are 18 pitchers with a Game 1 start that tallied a Game Score of 30 or lower and the list includes names like Don Drysdale, Whitey Ford, Andy Pettitte, Orel Hershiser, Hal Newhouser, and Eddie Cicotte.
The lesson? Two things, actually. First and foremost, Cliff Lee is human. Second, lots of other great pitchers have gotten knocked around in Game 1 of the World Series, in part because lots of great pitchers have started Game 1 of the World Series.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.