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Vincent Velasquez's place in Phillies starting pitching history

We all know that Vincent Velasquez was dominant yesterday. But the question is, just how dominant was he when looking through Phillies history?

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From just barely making the Phillies starting rotation to becoming the early season sensation, Vincent Velasquez is, right now, a story to behold.  After yesterday's 16 strikeout, 3 hit, no walk shutout, everyone is wondering just how good Velasquez can be.

I'll leave that question to others, but today want to explore just how dominant his performance yesterday was when looking at Phillies history.  And the answer is clear - at least by one measure, Velasquez now has to be mentioned alongside some of the greatest Phillies pitchers ever.

That measure is game score, a longtime sabermetric favorite.  Bill James created it as a sort of counting stat that measures how dominant (or not) a starting pitcher was in a particular start.  Here's how it's calculated:

  1. Start with 50 points.
  2. Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
  3. Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
  4. Add one point for each strikeout.
  5. Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
  6. Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
  7. Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
  8. Subtract one point for each walk.
The maximum game score possible for a 9-inning game is 114.  A pitcher would get that for a perfect game with 27 strikeouts.  Of course, that's never happened, but Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998, came the closest, with a one-hitter in which he struck out 20 and walked none.  His game score was 105.

There have been only 12 other times a pitcher has had a game score of 100 or more, and you can find that list here.  There are no Phillies on that list.

The all-time record for game score for a Phillie pitching 9 innings is a three way tie among three of the greatest Phillies starting pitchers ever - Steve Carlton, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels.  They each had a 98 game score:
  • Carlton on April 25, 1974, with a 9 inning shutout, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk, while striking out 14.
  • Halladay on May 29, 2010, with his perfect game in which he struck out 11.
  • Hamels on July 25, 2015, his last game as a Phillie (*sniff*) when he threw a no-hitter, walking 2 and striking out 13.
The all-time record for game score for a Phillie pitching more than 9 innings is 114, by Chris Short when he threw 16 innings of shut-out baseball, giving up 9 hits, 3 walks, and striking out 18.  But that's a 16 inning game, which is an entirely different beast, especially for a stat that gives points for outs and innings pitched.

Just how good was Velasquez yesterday?  He recorded a 97 game score, good for the second highest 9-inning game score of all time for the Phillies.

There's only one other Phillie to ever put up a 97 game score, and that's the other, non-Halladay, Phillies perfect game.  On June 21, 1964, Jim Bunning's struck out 10 while allowing no base runners.

In other words, here's the list of the top five Phillies 9-inning game scores, by game score (and chronologically within the same score):
  • Steve Carlton (98)
  • Roy Halladay (98)
  • Cole Hamels (98)
  • Jim Bunning (97)
  • Vincent Velasquez (97)
Two Hall of Famers.  One sure-fire future Hall of Famer.  One of the best starting pitchers over the past decade (and a potential Hall of Famer).  And Velasquez.  That's an unreal list for Velasquez, the team's last minute fifth starter, to be a part of.

Of course, we don't know what his career will wind up being, but to have this company after his 9th start of his career is mind-blowingly sensational.