Better Than Perfect

Last night, while I was watching my friend premiere his first feature film at the Lower East Side Film Festival (yes, there is such a thing), Clayton Kershaw pitched what LAist’s Carman Tse called “the most dominant no-hitter ever.”

It’s easy to get carried away rooting for the home team, but Tse is basically right. Using Game Score, the Bill James–designed formula that every novice sabremetrician likes to use for comparing pitching performances, Kershaw pitched the second best nine-inning game of the last 100 years. Only Kerry Wood, who as a rookie struck out twenty Houston Astros and inspired a generation of Cubs fans to proudly don t-shirts bearing the phrase “We Got Wood”, did better with a Game Score of 105.

Pitcher Date Pitches Hits Strikeouts Walks Game Score
Wood May 6, 1998 122 1 20 0 105
Kershaw June 18, 2014 107 0 15 0 102

Kershaw’s no-hitter is also one point better than Matt Cain’s perfect game from 2012, where he tied Sandy Koufax for the most dominant perfect game ever. Cain and Koufax each earned Game Scores of 101 in retiring twenty-seven consecutive batters.

Pitcher Date Pitches Hits Strikeouts Walks Game Score
Cain June 13, 2012 125 0 14 0 101
Koufax September 9, 1965 0 14 0 101

But by notching one more strikeout than Cain or Koufax, Kershaw bested them by one point. However, reading the description of each game, Kershaw seemed to dominate in more ways than Game Score can measure. Let’s see, here. Kershaw faced 28 batters, and one reached due to a Hanley Ramirez error.[1] Kershaw punched-out fifteen of the remaining twenty-seven batters, which leaves twelve batters. Eight of those put the ball in play but failed to get the ball out of the infield. That leaves four batters who, according to the accounts I read, made soft contact, managing to only lift some lazy fly balls to the outfield. Let that sink in: there were only four lazy fly balls hit to the outfield! By comparison, in Matt Cain’s perfect game from 2012, there were seven balls hit to the outfield, and that seemed freakishly low at the time. In either case, it shows how dominating Cain and Kershaw were in these historic games, turning big league hitters into beer league players.

One was perfect, but one was better than perfect.


  1. Hanley Ramirez seriously owes Kershaw a nice gift for blowing that play, like a sports car or a year of college tuition.  ↩

Leave a Comment