James: The 100 best pitchers’ duels of 2011

From Bill James at Grantland.com on January 20, 2012:

So sometimes you’re at a ballgame and it’s a really good pitchers’ duel, so you start to wonder “Is this the best pitchers’ duel I have seen this year?” or “Is this the best pitchers’ duel the Rockies have had this year?” or “Is this the best pitchers’ duel in the majors this year?” or, if you are Ken Burns or have a Napoleonic complex, “is this the Greatest Pitchers’ Duel in Major League History?” There is, of course, no way to know, and that’s where I come in.

Anything can be measured if you don’t have to start out with exactly the right answer. You can get an objective answer to any question if you can accept the fact that somebody else may have a different objective answer that’s just as good as yours. Those of you who wish to point out that I don’t quite understand the definition of “objective” are now instructed to leave the room.

What are the elements of a great pitchers’ duel? A pitchers’ duel is a low-scoring game, obviously; a 1-0 game is the champion of its list. The term “pitchers’ duel” implies that the starting pitchers pitch well, as opposed to staggering through five innings un-scored upon and handing it off to the bullpen. We think of a pitchers’ duel more highly if it involves pitchers of stature. A 1-0 game is more memorable if it is Sabathia against Verlander than if it is Marco Estrada against Kevin Correia. Which, by the way, actually happened last year; Marco Estrada and Kevin Correia matched up on August 13 at Miller Park, and the result was a 1-0 game. Go figure. There’s a woman involved somewhere.

Anyway, a great pitchers’ duel implies that there is something at stake beyond fifth place, although you don’t want to place too much emphasis on that criterion, or you wind up warbling on about Jack Morris in 1991, long after anybody cares.

Read the full article here: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7480753/bill-james-100-best-pitchers-duels-2011

Originally published: January 20, 2012. Last Updated: January 20, 2012.