Skip to content

Where does Cliff Lee's Game 1 gem rank in World Series history?

Oct 29, 2009, 3:15 PM EDT

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.

  1. Mike Schmidt - Oct 29, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    We will see Lee again in the 4th and if necessary the 7th… Fear not Yankers fans, you’ll be lucky to see a 5th game.

  2. John - Oct 29, 2009 at 4:35 PM

    Considering how everyone and their mother had the Yankees sweeping the poor hapless Phillies right off the map I believe Lee’s performance last night ranks in the top 10… at least.
    PHILLIES IN SIX!!! MARK MY WORDS!!!

  3. Joe - Oct 29, 2009 at 5:36 PM

    It was good, but won’t rank anywhere near Larson’s perfect game, Jack Morris’ 7th game win (he pitched 10 shutout innings) over the Braves in ’91, or Koufax’s 7th game win against the Twins in ’65.

  4. JohnTucson - Oct 29, 2009 at 6:17 PM

    Did you read the story? It specifically stated pitching performances “after 1969, when the mound was lowered” (the article said “raised”, but it meant “lowered”). That rules out Larsen and Koufax. Also, the metric ranks the pitching performance on its own terms only … for this purpose, the importance of the game itself is irrelevant. So Morris’ game 7 counts no more than Lee’s game 1.

  5. nelson - Oct 29, 2009 at 6:41 PM

    It is a shortcoming that the importance of the game is not included in the ranking. I would like to see it included, so the clutch pitchers get credit for it.

  6. rje49 - Oct 29, 2009 at 7:00 PM

    When you hear talk about a great World Series pitching performance, then the words “short rest”, what does a long-time baseball fan think of? October 14, 1965, game 7, Sandy Koufax throws a complete game 3-hit shutout, 132 pitches, 10 strike-outs, on TWO DAYS REST. Is somebody going to say that was “the old days when pitchers didn’t throw that hard?” How about “you’re talking about a hall-of-famer!” Yes, but his arm and body was merely human. So why can’t any pitcher even think about doing that now?

  7. Joe - Oct 29, 2009 at 7:36 PM

    No, I didn’t read the story; I read only the headline. So what? It doesn’t matter. Any stat that leaves out the significance of the game is meaningless. Heck, there have been far more games one than games seven in WS.
    What next? A stat on the best pitched games on June 17 since the mound was lowered, but excluding games played on artificial turf? Who cares?

  8. Joe - Oct 29, 2009 at 7:38 PM

    In other words, John Tucson, AZ, a more meaningful stat would’ve been to rank Lee’s game with other WS games one.

  9. Marvie - Oct 29, 2009 at 7:43 PM

    You seem to have left out one of the best games I have ever witnessed in the World Series.
    1982 Milwaukee Brewer’s Mike Caldwell. 9 Inn 3 hits 0 runs 1 bb and 3 so. This ads up to 83 in your point system. He was not a big strickout pitcher, which to me makes it even that more of a great game. Throwing on the turf in St. Louis in the early 80′s as a ground ball pitcher was very tough to do. Caldwell not only shut out the Cards but dominated the whole game. This performance should be on the list over anyone giving up runs. Just because he didn’t get 8 so’s doesn’t mean he didn’t dominate the game.

  10. rje49 - Oct 29, 2009 at 8:27 PM

    So Koufax gets an 88 for his game 7 shutout in ’65- on TWO DAYS REST! Second best on your chart.

  11. lorrin - Oct 30, 2009 at 4:59 AM

    remember Lew Burdette?

  12. ganderson - Oct 30, 2009 at 9:25 AM

    When was the last complete game thrown in a WS?

  13. embroidery - Feb 8, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    Hey guys I’m a T-shirt printer trying to figure out what cool designs I can throw on my shirts for the Super Bowl 2010 what do you guys think about a tribal design with world champions (the Saints logo) and 2010 in the background.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Teams searching for trade deadline impact
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. H. Street (3783)
  2. C. Lee (2795)
  3. T. Tulowitzki (2670)
  4. H. Ramirez (2655)
  5. C. Headley (2533)
  1. Y. Puig (2519)
  2. B. Belt (2387)
  3. T. Walker (2121)
  4. D. Uggla (2040)
  5. A. Rios (2015)