Harvey masterful, but Kerry Wood ‘scored’ higher with 20 Ks
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media May 13, 2013 10:45PM
When Matt Harvey went nine innings last Tuesday in the Mets’ 1-0, 10-inning victory over the White Sox, he didn’t get the win. But he did enter baseball lore with a performance that by one measure was the most dominant in history by a starter in an incomplete game.
It came a day after the 15th anniversary of the game the same measure ranks as the all-time top nine-inning, complete game: Kerry Wood’s one-hit, 20-strikeout masterpiece against the Astros on May 6, 1998.
The measure is called “game score,” and it was introduced by Bill James in the 1980s.
Each pitcher starts with 50 points. One point is added for each out recorded, and two extra points are awarded for each inning completed after the fourth. One point is added for each strikeout.
On the minus side, two points are deducted for each hit, one point for each walk, four points for each earned run, and two for each unearned run.
In Wood’s record game, 27 points were scored for the outs, 10 for the five innings past the fourth and 20 for strikeouts. Add all that to 50, and you get 107. The only deduction is two points for the one hit, since there were no walks or runs. That leaves a game score of 105, and no one ever has been better in nine innings.
Harvey struck out 12, and the only deduction was two points for Alex Rios’ hit. That’s a game score of 97.
Chris Sale’s seven-strikeout, no-walk one-hitter to beat the Angels 3-0 on Sunday? That’s a 92.
Strikeouts and walks — outcomes over which the pitcher has direct control — separate truly dominant outings from the merely great. The Twins’ Francisco Liriano, in his 2011 no-hitter against the Sox, struck out two and walked six, leading to a game score of 83. Even Sandy Koufax’s 14-strikeout perfect game against the Cubs in 1965 ranks below Wood. Koufax had a game score of 101, matched by the Giants’ Matt Cain in his perfect game vs. the Astros last year.
There have been higher scores in extra-inning games. The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Leon Cadore and the Boston Braves’ Joe Oeschger both went the distance in a 26-inning, 1-1 tie in 1920. Game scores: Oeschger 149, Cadore 141.
Game scores can go into negative numbers. The lowest in the last 50 years was posted by in 1998 by the A’s Mike Oquist, who lasted five innings of a 14-1 loss to the Yankees. He allowed 14 earned runs on 16 hits, walking three and striking out three. Game score: minus-21.
A game score that hovers around the starting point of 50 is a good outing. Jake Peavy’s strong return last Wednesday in which he went 62/3 innings, allowed one earned run on three hits, struck out six and walked two, was a 64.
Starts like Harvey’s, Sale’s and, in its own way, Oquist’s are special. Wood’s classic was extra special.