Was Clayton Kershaw's No-Hitter the Greatest Game Ever Pitched?
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw was already seen as perhaps the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. Last night's no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies in L.A. only helped cement that status.
Kershaw was straight dominant on Wednesday night. He struck out 15 Rockies and walked none. He threw only 107 pitches in order to get those 15 strikeouts. The only blemish against him wasn't even really on him, as shortstop Hanley Ramirez made an error. That was the only thing that stood in the way of a perfect game (you have to believe Ramirez is going to have to make it up to him somehow - maybe buy him a pony or something).
If you missed it, check out the highlights with Vin Scully calling every out of Kershaw's masterpiece. Because, you know, it's Vin Scully and everything.
Kershaw is just the third reigning Cy Young Award winner to throw a no-hitter, following Sandy Koufax in 1964 and Bob Gibson in 1971. And his no-hitter came less than a month after fellow starter Josh Beckett no-hit the Phillies back on May 25. It's the first time two teammates have thrown a no-hitter in the same season since the Cubs' Burt Hooton and Milt Pappas did it in 1972.
It truly was a masterpiece. But was it the greatest pitching performance in the history of baseball? If it wasn't, it was pretty close.
Baseball-Reference's Game Score, created by the father of sabermetrics, Bill James, computes all of the statistics from an individual pitcher's performance and tallies them up into a score that usually falls on the 1-100 scale. Starting with 50 points, pitchers get a point for each out recorded, two points for each inning competed after the fourth, and one point for each strikeout. Two points are subtracted for each hit, four for each earned run allowed, two for each unearned run allowed and one for each walk.
Here are the Game Scores from pitchers since 1914:
As you can see in the above table, Kershaw's Game Score last night was 102. Over roughly 100 years, only one other pitcher has posted a higher Game Score during a nine-inning game - Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout performance in 1998 was that game, where he gave up just one hit in a complete game shutout.
It was that freaking good.
Kershaw continues to show us all why he's the game's best pitcher. Here's where he ranks within a few important advanced metrics since 2011 (Major League ranks in parentheses).
|1||Felix Hernandez||21||10.8||3.06 (9)||4.16 (8)|
|2||Clayton Kershaw||20.9||9.33||2.23 (1)||4.49 (5)|
|3||Justin Verlander||20.5||9.62||3.07 (10)||3.33 (31)|
|4||Cliff Lee||18.2||9.12||2.83 (4)||6.56 (1)|
|5||David Price||15.7||9.08||3.24 (19)||4.37 (6)|
Clearly, Kershaw is elite. Two Cy Young Awards, three straight ERA titles and one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in baseball over the last four years tells you all you need to know.
Now he has a no-hitter - shoulda-been perfect game - to his credit, too.
It seemed inevitable that Clayton Kershaw would eventually throw a no-hit gem, but history has shown that simply being great and having awesome stuff doesn't guarantee a no-hitter. That's what makes a night like last night so special. Some of the best hurlers the game has ever seen came and went without ever getting that elusive no-no. These are the pitchers with the highest career fWAR in MLB history to never throw a no-hitter.
|4||Grover Cleveland Alexander||599||373||2.56||98|
Roger Clemens has the highest fWAR of any pitcher since 1900. He never had one. Alexander pitched 20 seasons and is considered by many to be the greatest pitcher of all time. He never had one. Maddux won four Cy Young Awards, but he never had one. Martinez was the most dominant pitcher of his era, during a time when steroids were rampant in the game. He never had one. Grove was a nine-time ERA champ and was the league's top strikeout pitcher in each of his first seven seasons. He never had one. And Carlton is considered by some to be the greatest left-handed pitcher ever, with over 4000 strikeouts in his career. He never had one.
No-hitters require a lot of skill, but also a fair amount of luck. Kershaw was fortunate to have both last night.
Of course, when you strike out 15 batters, you create a lot of your own luck. Elias noted those 15 K's were tied for third-most in a no-hitter. The only pitcher with more strikeouts in a no-hitter was Nolan Ryan, who struck out 17 batters with the Angels in 1973 and 16 with the Rangers in 1991. And Elias says Kershaw is the first pitcher in MLB history to strikeout 15 hitters without issuing either a hit or a walk.
So, at the end of the day, the evidence is mounting to proclaim Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher in baseball. And guess what, guys? He's 26 years old.
It's possible he may rack up one or two more of these babies.