Sunday, July 11, 2010

Perfect!!! Well, close enough...

Travis Wood toed the rubber on Saturday night against the pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies. The rest was almost history, as Wood flirted with perfection before Carlos Ruiz broke it up by opening up the 9th inning with a double. Despite the leadoff double, Wood settled back in to retire the next three hitters without any more damage.

When it was all said and done, Wood tossed 9 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 hit batters, and only 1 hit allowed. Unfortunately, the Reds offense was up against Roy Halladay and couldn't scrap out a single run. Given that Wood pitches in the era of the pitch count, he wasn't allowed to work any deeper into the game and was denied the chance at the win.

Still, it was an undeniably brilliant performance. He kept the Phillies off-balance with his curveball and changeup, but also overpowered them with a fastball that routinely touched 93 and even 94 mph. Personally, I love the deadfish changeup that he threw on several occasions to righthanded hitters. He started it on the outside corner and let it fade down and away. He also flashed the cutter that chewed up a righthanded hitter or two by getting in on the hands.

On the day, he threw 109 pitches, 74 of which were strikes. Of those strikes, 6 were swings-and-misses, 27 were called, and 41 were the result of contact.

Overall, it was a fairly remarkable performance. In fact, I'm not entirely sure we appreciate how remarkable it was. It was one of the best pitching performances in the history of the organization. Just for fun, let's analyze it in terms of Game Score, which was developed by Bill James and is calculated as follows:

1. Start with 50 points.
2. Add 1 point for every out recorded.
3. Add 2 points for every inning completed after the 4th.
4. Add 1 point for each strikeout.
5. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
6. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
7. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
8. Subtract 1 point for each walk allowed.

Travis Wood's near perfect-o was worth a robust 93 points in terms of Game Score. To give it some context and put the performance in the proper perspective, Wood's 93 Game Score tied him for the 18th best in Reds history. In the history of baseball's first professional organization, only 17 games have been better than Travis Wood's 3rd career start!

Here is the list:

1. Ray Starr: 101
2. Eppa Rixey: 101
3. Paul Derringer: 99
4. Harry Perkowski: 97
5. Johnny Vander Meer: 96
6. Dolf Loque: 96
7. Mario Soto: 95
8. Jim Maloney: 95
9. Jim Maloney: 95
10. Si Johnson: 95
11. Tom Browning: 94
12. Bruce Berenyi: 94
13. Jim Maloney: 94
14. Joe Nuxhall: 94
15. Bucky Walters: 94
16. Johnny Vander Meer: 94
17. Dolf Luque: 94
18. Travis Wood: 93

Those are the names, scores, and links to the box scores for those games. There are several games of note in that list, including:

#5 - April 30th, 1969 Houston Astros vs. Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field

The Astros showed up in the Queen City riding an 8 game losing streak and boasting a 4-20 record. And, with Jim Maloney on the hill for the Reds, it was only going to get worse. Facing a lineup that featured Joe Morgan, Jesus Alou, Jim Wynn, and Doug Rader in the first four slots in the order, Maloney mowed them down in front of 3,898 paying fans. Maloney tossed a no-hitter, striking out 13 and walking 5.

Clearly, he didn't face the best competition, but his stellar performance was good for a Game Score of 95.

#8 - September 16, 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium

The first place Dodgers rolled into town packing an 84-61 record to face the third place Reds who were 7.5 games back. In one of the better pitching battles of the year, and perhaps any year, Tom Browning and Tim Belcher faced off.

Browning took the mound and faced a lineup including the likes of Alfredo Griffin, Mickey Hatcher, Kirk Gibson, and Steve Sax. It made no difference, as Browning pitched his way into the history books with a perfect game. Twenty-seven batters marched to the plate and Browning sent them right back to the dugout.

On the day, Browning struck out 7 and allowed no baserunners. Browning threw 100 pitches, including 72 strikes. He induced 10 outs by groundball and 10 outs by flyball. On the other side, Tim Belcher was the very definition of a tough-luck loser. Belcher also threw a complete game and allowed only a single unearned run. Belcher struck out 7, walked 1, and gave up 3 hits.

Belcher and Browning made such quick work of the hitters that the game was over in 1 hour and 51 minutes. The difference came in the 6th inning when Barry Larkin hit a two-out double down the right field line. Larkin came around to score when the defense let Belcher down. Chris Sabo hit a groundball to third baseman Jeff Hamilton who promptly threw the ball away. Belcher then took matters into his own hands by picking Sabo off first base to end the inning, but that was all the run support that Browning would need on this day.

Browning's performance was one for the ages and earned him a Game Score of 94.

#10 August 19, 1965 Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field

This game is notable for several different reasons, as Jim Maloney allowed no-hits in 10 innings despite walking 10 hitters.

Facing a Cubs lineup featuring Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and Ron Santo, Maloney again flashed overpowering stuff. He faced 40 batters, allowing no hits, but walking 10 and hitting Ron Santo with a pitch. Despite allowing over a baserunner an inning, the Cubs could not muster any hits or runs.

Larry Jackson was almost Maloney's equal, allowing only a homerun to Leo Cardenas, but Maloney didn't need anything more.

Maloney's no-hitter was equal parts impressive and unimpressive, as he obviously flashed overpowering stuff and was the definition of "effectively wild."

His performance was good for a Game Score of 94, but hardly seems more impressive than Travis Wood's performance.


Obviously, Wood's performance was truly one for the ages. It stacks up favorably against just about every game pitched in the organization's history. On the other hand, it's obvious from looking at the highest game scores that one game does not a career make. Pitchers like Bruce Berenyi and Harry Perkowski had their day in the sun, but their respective careers weren't all that impressive.

Wood got off to a great start in his career, but he has work to do to avoid the Berenyi career arc. Still, I was more than a bit impressed, as the fastball looked a tick faster and the curveball looked sharper than his minor league days. Another change is that Wood has slowed the tempo of his windup, which may help him gather himself before his drive to the plate.

Overall, the future looks bright for young Travis Wood, who may well have the necessary skills to build on his impressive performance.


  1. never expected that to happen, hopefully he can keep it up and stay in the rotation so we can trade harang... Wood throws alot harder than i thought.

  2. Smitty,

    Yeah, a very nice surprise. His velocity has been better than reported, which could raise his ceiling to that of a #2 starter. I'll be very interested to see how he performs in his second and third time around the league. I'd imagine that a plus change-up can be murder on hitters who have never seen it before.

    Still, hard to argue with the results and I suspect he may be able to keep it up.

    Thanks for the comment!