On May 14, Chris Sale became the first pitcher to ever strike out at least 17 hitters in 7 or fewer innings, but he didn’t get a win. It got me wondering: What are the best pitching performances (since 1990) that didn’t result in a win? The main stat used to determine the dominance of a start is game score. This stat was developed by Bill James. Game score is calculated in the following way:
Starting with 50 points, the pitcher gets 1 point for every out recorded; 2 additional points for each inning completed after the 4th; 1 point for every strikeout; -2 for each hit allowed; -4 for each earned run; -2 for each unearned run; -1 for each walk.
For reference, Randy Johnson’s perfect game in 2004 had a game score of 100. Clayton Kershaw’s 15-K no-hitter in 2014 had a game score of 102. Roger Clemens’ 20-K game in 1986 earned a game score of 97.
Randy Johnson, 9/16/92
This one is incredibly rough. Randy Johnson’s final line from this start was 9 innings, 1 hit, 1 (unearned) run, 1 walk, and 15 K’s. RJ’s game score was a staggering 97–and he got a no-decision.
Pedro Martinez, 5/6/00
During Pedro’s incredible prime, he had a lot of his starts wasted by his offense. In this particular instance, he went the distance, allowing 6 hits, 1 run, and striking out 17 (!!) en route to a game score of 87, and a loss.
Randy Johnson, 5/8/01
This may be the most heinous robbery of a win from a starter in recent memory. Randy Johnson went 9 innings, scattering just 3 hits and one run, while striking out a major-league-record 20 hitters, but had to settle for a no-decision.
Mark Prior, 9/30/04
Mark Prior was a stud for the Cubs, but his career was cut short due to injuries. In one of the most ‘Cubs’ things, Mark Prior went 9 innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk, while striking out 16, for a game score of 92, but since he didn’t get more than one run of support, he got a no-decision.
Jake Peavy, 4/25/07
During his Cy Young run in 2007, Peavy had a start in late April, in which he threw 7 shutout innings, allowing a total of 5 baserunners and striking out 16 for an 86 game score all for nothing, as the Padres didn’t score any runs either.
James Shields, 10/2/12
This may be the worst loss of the 21st century. James Shields threw a complete game, allowing just 2 hits and 1 run, with 15 K’s and a game score of 94, and got a LOSS. Complete Game James just wasn’t enough this day.
Matt Harvey, 5/7/13
Back when Matt Harvey was pitching well and wasn’t being an egotistical idiot, he had a great start wasted by the Mets. He went 9 innings, allowing 1 hit (the only baserunner he allowed that day) and no runs, while striking out 12. This start resulted in a game score of 97, the best of Harvey’s career, and he got a no-decision.
David Price, 8/21/14
I remember people talking about this performance the day that it happened, but I haven’t heard it mentioned since. On August 21, 2014, David Price pitched an 8-inning complete game, allowing 1 hit, 1 (unearned) run, 0 walks, and struck out 9…and got a loss. The Tigers wasted an 87 game score from Price by failing to put up a single run for him.
Chris Sale, 6/19/15
Chris Sale has had a lot of high-strikeout totals wasted by inept offense. The prime example of this was back when he was with the White Sox, and he went 8 innings, allowing 2 hits, no runs, and striking out 14. His reward for a 92 game score was a no-decision.
Justin Verlander, 5/1/18
The most recent tough-luck no-decision came last year when Verlander pitched 8 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits, and striking out 14, for a 90 game score.