Best Pitching Performances
We’re big fans of Larry Stone, if you haven’t noticed. He’s even Officially Endorsed. He does great work for the Times, and if you aren’t reading his stuff and his blog, you’re missing out.
That said, Larry, you gotta learn to use Baseball Reference’s immortal Play Index. It’s the greatest thing since Matt Wieters taught everyone how to slice bread. His most recent blog post deals with the best pitching performances in Mariner history, building off of Washburn’s complete game one hitter a couple of nights ago. He ends up putting Washburn’s performance at #7, right behind Felix’s one hitter in Boston.
However, had Larry used the Play Index, he would have found this – every game in Mariner history where the starter posted a Game Score of 85+ (Washburn had an 88). Game Score, for those wondering, is a Bill James creation that gives points to each event along the way in an effort to categorize total performance. 50 is average. Anything over 80 is really good. Getting over 90 is awesome. So, Washburn’s 88 is certainly fantastic.
But not historically fantastic. The Mariners have had 19 different games pitched where the starter had a game score of 90 or higher. 12 of those 19 were by Randy Johnson, naturally. Johnson just dominates the list up and down with so many ridiculously awesome performances.
Washburn’s start the other night is tied for 32nd. Johnson posted a game score of 88 four times, as did Brian Holman in his near perfect game and Gene Nelson in his complete game shutout back in 1982.
Larry gives a lot of credit to limiting baserunners, but not all that much to striking hitters out. So, he probably won’t agree with ranking batters by Game Score, which is fine, because it’s kind of a toy more than a serious analytical stat. But, when you look at that list, and see some of the games that Johnson pitched, it’s hard to argue that Washburn’s performance the other night belongs in the same category.