Trevor Bauer and the tough-luck loss

Jason Miller

Most of us understand the win is an incredibly flawed statistic. The loss ain't so grand either.

Trevor Bauer made probably his best start with the Indians Wednesday night, going 6 innings and allowed just 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 8. Given how he looked last season, seeing a performance like this from him was very encouraging. Odds are the Indians will be need to replace one of the current members in the rotation at some point this year, and I would love for Bauer to be up to the task. Sadly, weak hitting, poor defense, and a questionable call in right field combined to not only deny Bauer the win, but to saddle him with a loss. Somewhere your grandpa (and half the BBWAA) thinks Bauer pitched poorly, but of course that just isn't true.

Bauer's Game Score Wednesday night was 64. That's a strong mark.

Here's how Game Score is calculated:

  1. Start with 50 points.
  2. Add 1 point for each out recorded
  3. Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
  4. Add 1 point for each strikeout.
  5. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
  6. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
  7. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
  8. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

In the 2000s there have been 1,320 starts that ended with a game score of 64. The starter in those games got a win 766 times (58.0%), a no decision 374 times (28.3%) and a loss 180 times (13.6%).

I'd say that counts as a tough-luck loss, but it's got nothing on the toughest losses pitchers have taken. If you go back to before World War II you'll find it was routine for the starter to stay in for 15+ innings if the game remained tied, so there are crazy scores from those years (Art Nehf took the loss for a game in which he allowed 2 runs in 21 innings, for a game score of 118).

Here are the highest Game Scores for losing pitchers in the 2000s:

Rank

Pitcher

Date

IP

R

ER

H

BB

K

Game Score

1 James Shields 10-2-2012 9.0 1 1 2 0 15 94
2 Pedro Martinez 5-6-2000 9.0 1 1 6 1 17 87
3 Stephen Strasburg 7-24-2013 8.0 1 1 2 0 12 86
4 Jon Lieber 5-29-2000 8.0 1 1 2 1 12 85
4 Justin Masterson 9-30-2009 9.0 1 1 4 2 12 85
4 Cliff Lee 9-27-2013 8.0 1 1 3 0 13 85
7 Chad Billingsley 5-14-2011 8.0 1 0 1 2 8 84
8 Ted Lilly 4-27-2002 8.0 1 1 1 1 8 83
8 Tim Wakefield 9-11-2005 8.0 1 1 3 1 8 83
8 C.J. Wilson 7-21-2011 8.0 1 0 2 1 8 83

That game by Shields is one of the best performances any pitcher has had in the 2000s. For the sake of comparison, there have been 19 no-hitters in the last five years. The median Game Score for those 19 games: 94 (just like Shields).

Here are the highest Game Scores of the 2000s among only the Indians:

Rank

Pitcher

Date

IP

R

ER

H

BB

K

Game Score

1 Justin Masterson 9-30-2009 9.0 1 1 4 2 12 85
2 Bartolo Colon 8-3-2001 9.0 2 2 4 4 10 77
2 CC Sabathia 4-27-2008 8.0 1 1 4 4 10 77
4 Chuck Finley 4-14-2001 8.0 1 1 3 1 4 75
4 Kevin Millwood 7-14-2005 8.0 1 1 6 0 9 75
6 Justin Masterson 5-18-2011 8.0 1 1 5 2 8 74
7 Jake Westbrook 7-15-2004 8.0 2 2 4 1 8 73
7 Jake Westbrook 9-12-2004 8.0 1 1 5 1 6 73
7 Paul Byrd 7-8-2007 8.1 1 1 4 0 2 73
7 Fausto Carmona 8-21-2007 8.0 2 2 3 0 5

(I don't know what happened to the box for Carmona's Game Score, but as you can probably deduce from seeing that he's tied with Westbrook and Byrd, it's 73)

Bauer's performance from Wednesday is tied for 42nd on that list, which means there have been an average of 3 games a year that strong by a Tribe starter that ended with him taking a loss. We'd all have rather seen him get the win, but if he can keep putting together games like that one, the wins will come.

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