August 21, 2012
Before Felix was King
When Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez spun a perfect game against the Rays last Wednesday night, he became the third pitcher in Mariners history to notch a no-hitter. Randy Johnson was the first, in June 1990, against the Tigers. Chris Bosio followed that nearly three years later against the Red Sox.
One of my favorite Bill James toys is his Game Score, which attempts to measure a starting pitcher's effectiveness in a single game on a scale (roughly) of 0 to 100. Like any other tool, it isn't perfect, but it provides a useful gauge. When you get past 90, you're in elite territory. Both Johnson's and Bosio's no-hitters scored 89, the former because Johnson walked too many (six) and the latter because Bosio struck out too few (four). Still, a no-no is a no-no, and there is no-no denying the greatness of their performances.
I just want to make that clear, because we aren't going to talk about them. Instead, we are going to look at the 90-plus Game Scores in Mariners history. There have been 22 such games, most by familiar names:
Raise your hand if you thought Moore would have more than Langston. Now put your hand down, Mrs. Moore.
Beattie did it first, on September 27, 1983, against the Royals. On the final Tuesday of the Mariners' seventh season, the future big-league general manager spun a one-hitter (darn that U.L. Washington and his pesky toothpick!) for a team that would lose 102 games. Nearly 8,000 people saw Beattie's masterpiece at the shiny new Kingdome.
Hernandez's Game Score for the perfecto was 99, tied for highest in team history. More about that in a moment, but first, here's the aggregate line of those 22 Game Scores. This doesn't mean anything, but it looks awesome: