Game Score is a metric invented by Bill James that attempts to quantify a starting pitcher’s performance in one number. Here’s how it’s calculated:
Start with 50 points.
Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
Add one point for each strikeout.
Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
Subtract one point for each walk.
An average major-league start will post about 50 points. If a starter has a really good game, it’ll be in the 90s. The best for a nine-inning game was Kerry Wood’s 20-K game, which posted a Game Score of 105.
Jon Lester’s Game Score Friday was -1.
As you might imagine, a negative Game Score is quite rare. Here are all the starts in Cubs history before Friday with a negative Game Score (indicated by GSc):
|1||Doug Davis||2011-06-28 (1)||CHC||SFG||L 7-13||GS-5, L||4.1||12||10||10||3||3||1||-1|
|2||Kevin Tapani||2001-04-24||CHC||COL||L 1-14||GS-4, L||3.1||11||10||10||3||1||3||-4|
|3||Joe Coleman||1976-06-19 (2)||CHC||ATL||L 5-12||GS-3, L||2.2||10||11||11||1||2||2||-5|
|4||Sheriff Blake||1925-05-27||CHC||PIT||L 3-13||GS-5, L||4.0||12||10||9||3||2||1||-1|
|5||Ed Reulbach||1912-05-04||CHC||PIT||L 11-12||GS- , L||6.0||16||12||9||2||0||1||-4|
Well, those are pretty, pretty, pretty bad. The worst Game Score for a start in a nine-inning game in major-league history (not counting one Federal League game in 1914) is -35, by Hod Lisenbee of the Philadelphia Athletics September 11, 1936 against the White Sox. The worst in recent times is -21, by Mike Oquist of the Oakland Athletics August 3, 1998 against the Yankees. (Something about A’s pitchers and doing this?)
Negative Game Scores happen a few times a year across MLB. Here are all the others from 2016 through 2018:
|1||Matt Moore||2018-05-02||TEX||CLE||L 4-12||GS-4, L||4.0||11||10||10||2||1||3||-1|
|2||Homer Bailey||2017-08-06||CIN||STL||L 4-13||GS-4, L||3.1||10||10||10||4||3||1||-1|
|3||Clayton Richard||2017-07-19||SDP||COL||L 4-18||GS-4, L||3.2||14||11||10||1||3||2||-7|
|4||Jeff Locke||2017-07-03||MIA||STL||L 6-14||GS-3, L||2.2||11||11||11||4||2||0||-10|
|5||Christian Bergman||2017-05-23||SEA||WSN||L 1-10||GS-4, L||4.0||14||10||10||2||0||4||-8|
|6||Jeremy Guthrie||2017-04-08||WSN||PHI||L 3-17||GS-1, L||0.2||6||10||10||4||0||0||-4|
|7||Edinson Volquez||2016-06-24||KCR||HOU||L 4-13||GS-2, L||1.0||8||12||11||3||0||1||-12|
|8||Jeff Locke||2016-06-09||PIT||COL||L 5-11||GS-5, L||4.2||11||11||11||3||2||1||-3|
|9||James Shields||2016-05-31||SDP||SEA||L 4-16||GS-3, L||2.2||8||10||10||4||1||2||-1|
|10||Alfredo Simon||2016-05-17||CIN||CLE||L 1-13||GS-5, L||4.1||14||10||10||1||2||0||-4|
|11||Derek Holland||2016-05-05||TEX||TOR||L 2-12||GS-3, L||2.2||11||11||11||3||0||1||-11|
So it could have been worse, and we should be thankful, as should Lester, that he was relieved of his duties Friday in the bottom of the fourth.
Things will be better for Jon, and the Cubs, going forward. Of that, I’m certain.