After my post on WPA Plots — which you can find here — I had some interest in plotting Game Scores. Because I love visual aids, I decided to plot them for the Giants’ starters of Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Jonathan Sanchez. I didn’t include Correia or Pat Misch because they’ve both shared 5th starter duties this year and with Correia’s injury issues, I just excluded that rotation spot.
The ‘Game Score’ is a metric devised by Bill James that attempts to quantify how dominating a starting pitcher was in a game. It’s a simple calculation and it’s available freely on both Baseball Reference and ESPN.
From the Wikipedia entry on Game Scores, here’s how you calculate them:
- Start with 50 points.
- Add 1 point for each out recorded, so 3 points for every complete inning pitched.
- Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
- 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.
This metric does have a couple of problems when you consider the way the scores are counted. Strikeout pitchers will constantly score higher and because modern pitchers strikeout more hitters, they’ll outrank their historic counterparts who struck out fewer hitters. It also doesn’t consider the defense that the starting pitcher must play with. The pitcher is penalized both for runs, unearned runs, and hits given up, when those can be factors of a poor defense or just plain bad luck.
But, on the whole, it’s a fun metric that can be used to easily compare starts between pitchers. Each plot has the game score from each game started — I did not include Lincecum’s relief effort because, well, it wasn’t a start — and the baseline of 50 that each game starts at.
On to the plots!
Highest Game Score: 66 (tie)
Lowest Game Score: 11
Average Game Score: 43
Zito’s had two Game Scores of 66 for his best games of the year. They were on June 25th and his 10K performance on July 5th. His worst Game Score was on April 27th against the Cincinnati Reds, he gave up 8 earned runs in 3 innings.
Highest Game Score: 85
Lowest Game Score: 10
Average Game Score: 53
Cain’s best Game Score of the year was his dominant 10K game against the Cubs on July 1st. In that game he pitched 8 innings while giving up 2 hits, 3 walks, and 0 runs. His worst Game Score was April 18th start against the St. Louis Cardinals. In that game he gave up 9 earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched.
Highest Game Score: 75
Lowest Game Score: 40
Average Game Score: 59
Highest Game Score: 79
Lowest Game Score: 23
Average Game Score: 53
Sanchez had his best Game Score of the year on April 25th when he went 8 innings against the Reds. In that game he gave up 4 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and struck out 10 hitters. His worst start of the year was on June 12th against the Colorado Rockies. In that game he gave up 7 earned runs in 5 innings pitched, it was a classic 10-7 Coors Field game that Sanchez actually got the win for.
These plots mirror the WPA Plots a lot. Zito has been bad, Cain up-and-down, Lincecum has been great, and Sanchez has had flashes of brilliance — even though he’s run into a couple of tough games lately. One thing that I’m worried about after working with these plots is how the Giants are going to handle Sanchez’s workload in the 2nd half of the season. He’s thrown 111 innings already this year and last year, between AAA and the majors, he threw 75.2 innings in total. 23.2 of those 75.2 innings came from Fresno and I’m a believer that major league innings induce more stress and create more wear and tear on a pitchers arm.
Sanchez’s development has been one of the few bright spots in this season and the Giants have to keep him healthy for this year and next.
I was surprised that Barry Zito didn’t have the lowest Game Score, Matt Cain inched him out by 1 point. Only 26.4% of Barry Zito’s starts have been at or over the 50 point baseline. Compare that to 63.1% for Cain, 63.1% for Sanchez, and 83.3% for Lincecum. Though, keep in mind that these are extremely basic percentages. I’d rather look at the distribution of their scores from the baseline but I’m currently away from my spreadsheet program. If I have time later, I’ll add them in the comments section.
Likewise, Lincecum could also have some workload concerns for this year — despite his freak nature and college workload — that the Giants should monitor and keep close eye on him. Not that they aren’t already doing that, but they’ve done some things with Lincecum this year that’s made me scratch my head, especially after they were very careful with him last year — shutting him down early, etc.
Comment Starter: Concerned about any workloads for the starters? And what do the Giants exactly do with Sanchez in the 2nd half? It seems careless to keep running him out there but at the same time, I’d hate to see them just sit him down after he’s made some really good progress as a starter.