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.