Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Clay Buchholz and Game Score

I spotted the following headline this morning: "Red Sox’ Buchholz had good stuff, but Lackey was better." 'Odd,' I thought, 'How do you figure?' Could a guy who gave up five runs really have "good" stuff? As it turns out, there's some room for argument. Consider the facts:
  1. We're viewing Buchholz's start behind the blinding glare of Lackey's near no-hitter. Given the circumstances, only a pitching duel would make Clay look good.
  2. Buchholz might be responsible for five earned runs, but only three of them scored when he was on the mound - the other two came home after Craig Hansen took over in the seventh.
  3. Buchholz's line without those two additional earned runs (6.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 90 pitches/57 strikes) qualifies him for a quality start, a statistical measurement of quality.
  4. Buchholz left the game with runners on first and third and one out. It's possible a pitcher with better control than Hansen might have prevented the runner on first from scoring, but the runner on third seems likely to have scored no matter what.
Point number four is the difference: if those two runs don't score, Buchholz ends up with a decent-looking night. Should he be punished for the two base runners his relief allowed to score?

Fortunately, we can give that whole argument a miss by relying on a statistic instead: Game Score. Game Score figures out the value of a pitcher's start by starting with 50 points, adding points for positive actions (innings pitched, strikeouts) and subtracting points for negative actions (hits, walks, runs). Results above 50 are considered quality starts - "good" in terms of the article headline. Last night, Buchholz scored a 41. He did not have good stuff.