The great Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information read my mind (and probably many of yours) in terms of how Cliff Lee's ridiculous start on Monday night compared with the great postseason starts of all-time. Here's a brief look:
1. Where does this start rank among those in the 2010 Postseason?
Using the Bill James metric “Game Score,” it rates third-best. Game Score is a metric that evaluates a pitcher based on his inning pitched, runs allowed, hits, strikeouts and walks, typically a number between 0 and 100 with rare exceptions that may exceed 100 or fall below 0.
While it is a metric accepted in the sabermetric community, it does have a few shortcomings. It DOES NOT account for quality of opponent, pitching at home or road, or the “pressure of the game.” However, we still encourage its use as the starting point for discussion because of its usefulness. It’s worth noting that had Lee pitched the ninth inning in the manner that Neftali Feliz did (1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 K), he would have scored 7 more points, giving him a 97, which would have put him at the top of the list.
Only Tim Lincecum's 96 (14 Ks, 2 H vs. Braves) and Roy Halladay's no-hitter against the Reds, which was a 94, were better this postseason.
Keep in mind that the postseason expanded to eight teams and three rounds beginning in 1995, so that can skew the analysis a little bit. Also remember that before 1969, the postseason was one round – the World Series. That said, this is the first postseason EVER in which three starting pitchers recorded a Game Score of 90 or better.
Lee’s start was also the sixth to rate an 80 or higher. There have been six starts this postseason in which a pitcher has had a Game Score of 80 or higher, the most ever in a single postseason (there were five in 1967 and 1997).
In simpler terms, This the first postseason to have a pair of starts in which a pitcher allowed no runs and struck out 13 or more (done by both Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee).
2. Has anyone pitched a better game against the Yankees?
Simon notes that it's best to limit that to the current version of the “Yankees Dynasty” (ie: since 1995) because there are a lot of factors to consider in other eras (the advent of the DH, the difference in the use of starting pitchers, the strength of the Yankee lineup among them).When you limit it to since 1995, here are your top candidates to challenge Lee’s effort:
September 10, 1999: Pedro Martinez pitched a one-hitter with 17 strikeouts and no walks, winning 2-1 in Yankee Stadium. He registered a Game Score of 98, the best by anyone against the Yankees in a nine-inning game in the Live Ball Era
September 18, 2000: Bartolo Colon pitched a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts and one walk. His Game Score was a 97, one point below Martinez. However, he pitched a shutout and Martinez did not.
October 28, 2001: Randy Johnson pitched a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in Game 2 of the World Series. His Game Score was a 91, the best ever against the Yankees in a postseason game, one point better than Lee.