Last night, Andrew Cashner pitched a complete game, 9-inning shutout while facing the minimum 27 batters. Cashner is the first pitcher in Padres history to complete the feat, which immediately put Padres fans and media on notice. Was this the greatest start in Padres history? That’s a question surely to get a lot of subjective response, but there is a statistical measure that can also help guide us. We’re going to take a look at the numbers, throw in some subjective analysis, and take a get a glimpse into the greatest starts in Padres history.
Game Score was created by Bill James to determine the strength of a pitcher’s performance in a given appearance. Here’s the formula to calculate a Game Score: 1) Start with 50 points, 2) + 1 point for each out recorded, 3) + 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th inning, 4) + 1 point for each strikeout, 5) – 2 points for each hit allowed, 6) – 4 points for each earned run allowed, 7) – 2 points for each unearned run allowed, 8) – 1 point for each walk, 9) = Game Score. For reference, the highest GSc ever recorded in a 9 inning game was 105 by Kerry Wood in his famed 20 strikeout game in 1998.
So, for Cashner’s start we have a Game Score of 92 (50+27+10+7-2-0-0-0). Where does that 92 GSc land in Padres history? Let’s take a look (links to box scores in parenthesis).
Regular Season Starts
- Clay Kirby (09-24-1971): GSc 109 15 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 1 R, 1 ER, 15 K
- Andy Benes (07-03-1994): GSc 97 9 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 17 K
- Clay Kirby (06-07-1972): GSc 96 13 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 8 K
- Dave Freisleben (08-04-1974): GSc 95 13 IP, 8 H, 3BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 7K
- Kevin Brown (08-16-1998): GSc 94 9 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 11 K
- Steve Arlin (07-06-1972): GSc 94 10 IP, 1 H, 4 BB, 0 R, o ER, 8 K
- Clay Kirby (06-23-1973): GSc 93 9 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 13 K
- T – Andy Benes (08-29-1991): GSc 92 9 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 10 K / Andrew Cashner (last night)
So, as you can see, Cashner’s start last night was good enough to tie him for the 8th-best regular season GSc in Padres history. The additional innings pitched by Kirby and Co. are impressive, so I’m not sure if we should exclude them. However, if we did narrow it to 9 innings (or less), Cashner is tied with Benes in 4th.
Now, we get to Kevin Brown’s start against the Astros in the NLDS. Without even looking at the stats, this is the first game I think of when I think “greatest start in Padres history”. On the road, in the playoffs, matching up against Randy Johnson, Brown dominated what was arguably the best offense in the National League in 1998 (league high 109 OPS+). This start resulted in a game score of 94, which would tie Brown in 4th with himself and Arlin. It was also accomplished in 8 innings, a fact which allows you to make arguments for or against Brown’s cause.
One thing of note from Cashner’s start is something for which Game Score does not account: efficiency. Last night, Cashner accomplished what is known colloquially as a “Maddux”. What’s a Maddux? In short, a term for a complete game shutout in 99 pitches or less, named after Greg Maddux (read more about the Maddux here). Nobody else on the list has accomplished this feat, and nobody else has faced the minimum.
So, what’s the conclusion here? I suppose it’s that a lot of factors go into a great start. And even if it wasn’t the elusive no-hitter, or perhaps you don’t consider it the greatest start in Padres history, we witnessed something pretty special last night.
The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays, and whenever Andrew Cashner throws a Maddux. Where do you think this start falls in Padres history? What’s your “Greatest Padres Start”? Use the comments section! Follow me on Twitter, because why not?