So you may have heard that Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter two days ago. It was an amazing baseball moment, one that most of us will never forget.
But how does it rank among the top Phillies post-season starting pitching performances? Since Halladay's gem was the second no-hitter in post-season history, you'd be forgiven for thinking that, since the first no-hitter, Don Larsen's perfect game, was not pitched by a Phillie, the obvious answer is that Halladay's performance is the best ever by a Phillie in the playoffs.
Well, you'd be wrong. Below is a list of the top-10 playoff starting pitching outings by Phillies in their history. The methodology is simple. I used adjusted game score (GSa) to rank the performances. Game score is a simple formula that tallies up the various measures of a starting pitcher's performance and gives a number that approaches 100 (or even more) for the best pitching performances.
I adjusted it to reflect a few things. First, I added 5 points to the game score if the outing occurred in a Championship Series game and 10 points if it occurred in a World Series game. This adjustment reflects the increased importance of the various series. Second, I adjusted for the quality of the opposing hitters by adding the difference between the team's OPS+ and the average OPS+ (by definition, 100). So, if a team has an OPS+ of 104, 4 points were added to the game score. If a team had an OPS+ of 96, 4 points were taken off the game score. Third, I adjusted down if the game was against an AL team and the DH was not used. I took off 2 points since the lineup faced would be an easier one than the lineup reflected by the team OPS+. I also added 2 points for pitching in a clinching game, as that reflects the heightened pressure of that game. Finally, I added 5 points for a special game, one that you'll remember forever. Obviously, this is subjective, but I don't think the games I gave these points to will be that controversial.
From tenth to first, here's the list of the best Phillies post-season pitching performances:
10) Charles Hudson, Game 3, 1983 NLCS - GSa 77. The Phillies had split the first two games with the Dodgers in Los Angeles and returned home with Hudson on the mound. He went the distance, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 9. The Phillies offense provided the fireworks, scoring 7 runs with an explosive game from Gary Matthews. Hudson's raw game score was 78. He had 5 points added on for pitching in the NLCS, but lost 6 points for facing a Dodgers' team that had a 94 OPS+ on the season.
t-8) Cole Hamels, Game 1, 2008 NLDS - GSa 85. Much like Halladay on Wednesday night, Hamels started the 2008 post-season for the Phillies with a statement game. He didn't complete the game, but he pitched a shutout through 8 innings, yielding only 3 baserunners (2 hits, 1 walk) while striking out 9. He threw a mere 101 pitches, 67 for strikes. Brad Lidge gave up a run in the 9th but closed it out for the Phillies, who beat the Brewers 3-1. Hamels' raw game score was 86, tied for the second-highest raw game score in Phillies' post-season history, but he got no extra bonus points for pitching in the NLDS and lost a point for facing the Milwaukee offense and its 99 OPS+.
t-8) Pedro Martinez, Game 2, 2009 NLCS - GSa 85. This is the game that elder-statesman Pedro will be remembered for. At the end of his career, he blanked the Dodgers through 7 innings, throwing only 87 pitches while allowing just 2 hits. He walked no one and struck out 3. He did it with guile and guts. Unfortunately, the Phillies' offense couldn't solve Vicente Padilla, so the Dodgers won 2-1 after scoring off of Chan Ho Park once Pedro was pulled. But Pedro was magical while he was in there, earning a game score of 76 in just 7 innings. He gets 5 points added for excelling in the NLCS and 4 points for facing a Dodgers' lineup with a 104 OPS+.
7) Grover Alexander, Game 2, 1915 World Series - GSa 86. In the Phillies first-ever post-season game (in year 33!), Alexander got the start and held the Red Sox to just 1 run. He wasn't as unhittable as others on this list, as he gave up 8 hits and 2 walks, but he struck out 6 and pitched a complete game. The Phillies won 3-1, the only game they'd win that series. Alexander's raw game score was 71, but he got another 10 points for pitching in the World Series and 5 for facing a Boston lineup that had a 105 OPS+ (along with a second-year Babe Ruth as a pinch hitter).
6) John Denny, Game 1, 1983 World Series - GSa 91. The Phillies made their fourth World Series appearance in 1983, and Cy Young Award-winner John Denny got the Game 1 start and pitched the Phillies to their only win that Series. He threw 7.67 innings allowing just a solo home run and 4 other hits. He walked no one and struck out 5. His raw game score was 70, but he got 10 points for pitching in the World Series and 11 for pitching against a powerful Orioles team that had a 111 OPS+.
5) Steve Carlton, Game 6, 1980 World Series - GSa 94. Given the iconic last two outs of Game 6, it'd be easy to forget that Lefty started the game and was brilliant. He pitched 7 innings and gave up just 1 run. He struck out 7, walked 3, and allowed 4 hits. He had a raw game score of 69, the lowest on this list, but he got extra points for doing this in the World Series (10 points), facing a good Royals lineup with an OPS+ of 108 (8 points), pitching in a clinching game (2 points), and pitching a special game, one that will go down in the history books (5 points).
4) Cliff Lee, Game 3, 2009 NLCS - GSa 95. Cliff Lee was masterful in the 2009 post-season, as the Dodgers learned in this game. He mowed down their lineup, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 10. He shut them out through 8 innings, with Chad Durbin pitching the 9th only because Lee was at 114 pitches and the game was so far out of reach, the Phillies having scored 11 runs. Lee's raw game score was 86, but he got 5 points for pitching in the NLCS and 4 points for facing the Dodgers with their 104 OPS+.
3) Curt Schilling, Game 5, 1993 World Series - GSa 100. One of my greatest in-person fan memories, as I traveled 360 miles to see this game with my dad. Schilling captivated the Vet crowd for 9 innings of brilliance. He struck out 6, walked 3, and allowed 5 singles. The Phillies won 2-0 and looked like they were scratching their way back into the Series. Alas, that didn't happen (warning: do not click link if you have a heart condition or are pregnant), but Schilling's amazing game was good for a raw game score of 80. He got 10 points for pitching in the World Series, 10 for facing a Blue Jays lineup that had a 110 OPS+, and 2 for pitching in a clinching game, as the Blue Jays would have won the Series had they won this game. He lost 2 points for facing a Blue Jays lineup without a DH.
2) Roy Halladay, Game 1, 2010 NLDS - GSa 107. What more is there to say? Halladay wowed us Wednesday night and made it look effortless. He allowed no hits and walked only one. He struck out 8 and almost none of the balls put into play were hit well. His night will be remembered forever. Halladay's raw game score was 94, the highest raw game score ever by a Phillie in the post-season. He gets an additional 8 points for pitching against a Reds team with a 108 OPS+ and 5 points for pitching a special game, a no-hitter.
1) Cliff Lee, Game 1, 2009 World Series - GSa 115. But Halladay's game is not the best ever by a Phillie, as Cliff Lee eclipsed him in the first game of the World Series last year. Lee dazzled over 9 innings, turning in a performance every bit as effortless as Halladay's no-hitter. Yes, he allowed a run (but it was unearned) and 6 hits, which is why his raw game score is only 83. But he struck out 10 and made two catches that virtually guarantee him a ridiculous Yankees contract this coming off-season. He did this in the first World Series game in the new Yankee stadium against a dominant Yankee lineup. He gets 10 points for pitching in the World Series and 22 points for facing a Yankee lineup that had a ridiculous 122 OPS+.
So there you have it. Roy Halladay's no-hitter was amazing, but Lee's complete game in the World Series last year was even better.
That doesn't sound right to you? Well, consider the differences between the two. Lee struck out 2 more than Halladay but allowed 5 more base runners. Advantage Halladay. But, Lee accomplished his feat on the biggest stage in baseball, both in the importance of the game and the particular location, Yankee stadium. Most importantly, however, Lee did it against a lineup that puts the 2010 Reds to shame, and that's not disparaging the Reds this year at all. Compare the players on the two teams and tell me how many Reds you'd take over a Yankee at the same position. I think the only clear advantage for the Reds is 2010 Joey Votto over 2009 Mark Teixeira, but even that is close, as Big Tex was still a pretty dominant hitter in 2009. Add in that Lee was facing a lineup that also included Hideki Matsui and his 133 OPS+ at DH, and it's clear that Cliff Lee shut down a much better lineup than Roy Halladay did, and the rankings here reflect that.
That's not to take away anything from Roy Halladay, of course. What he did was spectacular, and we'll treasure the memory forever. It just wasn't the best ever by a Philadelphia Phillie in the post-season. So far, Cliff Lee still holds onto that honor.