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2019 World Series Features Outstanding Starting Pitching

October 24, 2019
This World Series will have extraordinary star power when it comes to starting pitchers.
Both the Astros and Nationals have three pitchers who rank in the top 10 of The Bill James World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings. Astros aces Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander occupy the top two spots. They’ll pitch Games 1 and 2 for Houston. Game 3 starter Zack Greinke slots in No. 10.

Nationals Game 1 starter Max Scherzer slides in at No. 3 behind Cole and Verlander. He’s moved ahead of Jacob deGrom since the postseason began. Game 2 starter Stephen Strasburg rates No. 5. Patrick Corbin will start Game 3 for Washington. He’s at No. 8, impressive because he’s one slot ahead of Clayton Kershaw.

Here are the top 10. The full list can be found on Bill James Online.

Bill James' Worlds's No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings
Rank Name Team Current Score
1 Gerrit Cole Astros 566.8
2 Justin Verlander Astros 552.2
3 Max Scherzer Nationals 537.3
4 Jacob deGrom Mets 536.0
5 Stephen Strasburg Nationals 513.4
6 Jack Flaherty Cardinals 496.0
7 Chris Sale Red Sox 489.0
8 Patrick Corbin Nationals 487.4
9 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 484.3
10 Zack Greinke Astros 482.5

Bill’s rankings are largely based off the stat he created, Game Score, which evaluates a starting pitcher’s performance, usually on a scale of 0 to 100 (scores occasionally fall outside that range, but infrequently) based on his innings pitched, runs allowed, hits allowed, strikeouts, and walks. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the better the start. Game Scores of 70 or better tend to be very well-pitched games. Game Scores of 90 or better are often high-strikeout shutouts with few hits allowed.

Four of the pitchers in this series are familiar with putting up great Game Scores with frequency. We can tell you about them with the help of's Play Index.

Cole is coming off three excellent postseason starts in which he posted Game Scores of 85, 82, and 71. Cole will try to become the third pitcher to record three Game Scores of 80 in one postseason. The other two are baseball legends, who amazingly did it just in the World Series. Christy Mathewson had three such starts for the 1905 Giants against the Athletics. Bob Gibson had three for the Cardinals against the Red Sox in 1967.

Verlander had an 80 Game Score for his seven scoreless one-hit innings against the Rays in the LCS opener but has posted a 33, 61, and 60 since then. His postseason track record is pretty good. His nine postseason starts with a Game Score of 70 or higher are the most all-time (he’s helped by pitching in the three- and four-round era, thus having more chances at such starts). His average Game Score of 66.6 was best in MLB this season (minimum 15 starts).

For the Nationals, Scherzer is coming off his best postseason start by Game Score, seven scoreless one-hit innings against the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLCS. That was good for an 84. There was some concern for Scherzer given that he scored a 55 or lower in his last three starts of the regular season, but that seems to have been alleviated.

Strasburg has a Game Score of 70 or higher in four of six career postseason starts, dominating at times with both his curveball and changeup. His 60.1 average Game Score ranked eighth in the majors this season, and was a testament to strong pitching and lengthy pitching. He led the NL in innings pitched.

The one thing that Cole, Verlander and Scherzer have is a holy grail kind of start – one with a Game Score of 100 or better. Verlander had the only one in 2019 – his no-hitter versus the Blue Jays was good for a 100. Cole had 2018’s only 100, a one-hit, 16-strikeout shutout against the Diamondbacks. Scherzer had one of those too against the Brewers in 2015. He also scored a 104 for his 17-strikeout no-hitter versus the Mets at the end of that season.

Needless to say if any of these great pitchers has a start like that in this series, it will be a historic accomplishment.

For more baseball content, check out the Sports Info Solutions Blog or the SIS Baseball Podcast. Both the original methodology and the 2018 updates for calculating the Starting Pitcher Ratings can be found on Bill James Online.


COMMENTS (2 Comments, most recent shown first)

Six of the top ten starters in baseball face each other in the World Series.
Pitching is important. Corbin has been used as a reliever, while Grienke hasn't. Corbin is the only lefty of the group.​
11:41 AM Oct 25th
It ain't over yet but Cole and Verlander didn't carry 'Stros to wins in the first 2 games. But, they could start shutting down the Nats but they'd better do it real soon!
11:46 PM Oct 24th
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