Lindbergh: Does Bill James’ Game Score still work?

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus on June 26, 2014:

In the wake of 26-year-old Clayton Kershaw’s dazzling no-hitter last Wednesday, a 26-year-old statistic got its own moment in the sun. When Bill James introduced Game Score in the 1988 Baseball Abstract, he called it “a kind of garbage stat that I present not because it helps us understand anything in particular but because it is fun to play around with.” Unlike Micro Machines and Dolly Surprise, Game Score remains one of our favorite toys in 2014, so it’s safe to say that James undersold it. Despite (or maybe because of) its lack of sophistication, it’s still one of the most intuitive methods we have to convey how effective a given outing is. Thus, it wasn’t long after Kershaw sealed the deal with his 15th strikeout that the internet noticed that his Game Score of 102 was the second-highest ever for an outing of no more than nine innings, behind only Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout start in 1998, which got a Game Score of 105. (Remove the innings restriction, and Vern Law’s 18-inning effort in 1955 takes the cake.)

That almost-unprecedented “102” lent some statistical support to what we all thought while watching Kershaw: that his outing was one of the most dominant ever. However, it made me wonder: Is it fair to use Game Score to compare starts across eras?

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Originally published: June 26, 2014. Last Updated: June 26, 2014.