By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com
For the four or five of you who were watching the Sox defeat the Rays last night instead of watching the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, let me tell you two things:
First, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup!
Second, you saw Josh Beckett pitch the greatest game of his career.
The first statement is true by any standard. The second point is true according to his 91 point Game Score.
Let me explain Game Score.
Game Score was created by baseball stats visionary, and Red Sox advisor, Bill James (its already making a little more sense, yes?). It was devised as a comparative tool to help you quantitatively determine the efficacy of a pitcher in a particular game.
Heres how Game Score works:
Every pitcher starts with 50 points. Think of this as the equivalent of getting 200 points when you sign your name correctly on the SAT.
Next, add 1 point for each out recorded, so an inning equals 3 points, right?
Yeah, not so fast. The deeper a pitcher goes into the game the better, so add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
In Bill James World (most of us are merely guests) pitching to contact can only produce problems, so add 1 point for each strikeout.
So far, weve been only adding points, but what happens if someone gets a hit? Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
If you think that was punitive, subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
Going back to pitching to contact, remember bad things can happen every time you put a ball in play, sometimes even errors, so subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
Pitching around a batter only puts a runner on base and that often means trouble, so subtract 1 point for each walk.
Pretty sweet, huh?
I like it because its simple to use, simple to remember, and simple to calculate both during and after a game.
I dont like it because it really puts too much emphasis on strikeouts. I would rather a quick seven-pitch inning with grounders to the infield than a 21-pitch striking-out-the-side inning.
Most importantly, understand that this is purely a comparative statistical tool. It doesnt take into account the strength or weakness of the competition, the location (pitchers park? Dome? Turf?), or the weather (dont underestimate the impact of heat, cold, wind, rain, or humidity on a pitchers performance).
Every hit is the same whether it is a bleeder through the infield or a hard hit double off the wall, and it doesnt take into account the circumstances such as the pressure of the game, how many days rest the pitcher had, or even whether a pitcher won or lost. Little things like that which we value so much in our pitchers performances.
Having said all that, for a game in mid-June, in a domed stadium with artificial turf, against an AL East that is 23rd in batting, going on regular rest and feeling healthy, Beckett pitched a heck of a game.
Heres how Beckett got his career high Game Score:
50 points for stepping on the hill.
27 points for his nine innings of recorded outs.
10 points for the five innings he completed after the 4th.
6 points for his six strikeout.
-2 for the one hit he allowed.
Total = 91
Becketts previous high was an 88-point effort against Kansas City when he pitched a three-hit, seven strikeout shutout of the Royals on July 12, 2009. Remember that? Me neither. So instead of thinking of the tool for games in isolation, think of it for cumulative comparison.
Heres what I mean, the list below shows you the only pitchers this season who are averaging over 60 Game Score points per game. I think you will be impressed that it shows off the best pitchers in baseball this season.
Here are the Game Score averages for the Sox starters with at least five starts this season:
You can see by these numbers that it pretty much tracks your assumptions of the ranking of the Sox starters as well.
Okay, that was quick tutorial on Game Scores. Remember its strengths and weaknesses so use it, dont abuse it.
Now go celebrate your Stanley Cup Champion Bruins!