In my previous post I introduced a method devised by Bill James to determine the greatest pitching duels of all time. After reviewing the results of this method, I realized that there was something missing from the formula. The list is dominated by pitchers in the midst of a great seasons pitching a great game against another pitcher in the midst of a great season. A pitching duel, I would argue, is very much about the quality of the pitcher involved, leading me to introduce a new element to take each pitcher's career into account.
In order to accomplish this, I have calculated a career score for every pitcher since 1918. After several attempts I determined that in the spirit of a pitcher's duel I wanted to value an elite short-term pitcher over a solid long-term pitcher: all things being equal, I would call a pitcher's duel involving Sandy Koufax more exciting than one involving Kelvim Escobar.
To accomplish this, for each player I have averaged their top 5 Season Scores to come up with a Career Score. Before averaging, I scaled the Season Scores to be between 0-100. Because most players' careers will span multiple decades, this scaling was done using a sliding scale rather than the min/max of each decade. As an example, a player's 1975 season would be scaled using the average minimum season score for each year from 1970-1980 and the average maximum season score for each year from 1970-1980.
Bringing It Together
Lastly, as a type of tie-breaker, I have introduced a small quality of team factor. If a pitcher's team is under .500, this value is 0. If a pitcher's team is over .500, 1 point is added for every hundredth of a point the team's final season winning percentage is over .500. So a .550 team would get 5 points and a .600 team would get 10 points. This element is added to give a little value to a pitcher's duel involving quality teams. The factor is comparatively low so that mediocre matchups involving great teams don't dominate the list but is large enough to place duels between quality teams above those involving bad ones, all other things being equal.
The last change I made to the method is to double the run penalty, subtracting 10 points for each run allowed in the game rather than 5. Adding more points to the formula was making the run penalty comparatively less important so I compensated accordingly.
Here, then, is the final list of the greatest pitching duels of all time. There is a tab for each decade with the top-25 for that decade as well as an 'All-Time' tab with the top-100 duels of all time. The data should follow but if you have trouble seeing the data, you can also access it here.
Here is the revised top-10 list of pitching duels of all time:
10. Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) @ Roger Clemens (Yankees)
5/28/2000. Red Sox 2-0. 9 innings
Martinez: 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO
Clemens: 9.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 13 SO
9. Dwight Gooden (Mets) @ Fernando Valenzuela (Dodgers)
9/6/1985. Mets 2-0. 13 innings
Gooden: 9.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 SO
Valenzuela: 11.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO
8. Tex Carleton (Cardinals) @ Carl Hubbell (Giants)
7/2/1933. Giants 1-0. 18 innings
Carleton: 16.0 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 7 SO
Hubbell: 18.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 SO
7. Jim Bunning (Phillies) @ Juan Marichal (Giants)
5/26/1966. Giants 1-0. 14 innings
Bunning: 10.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO
Marichal: 14.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
6. Tex Hughson (Red Sox) @ Bob Feller (Indians)
6/21/1946. Red Sox 1-0. 9 innings
Hughson: 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO
Feller: 9.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO
5. Hal Newhouser (Tigers) @ Bob Feller (Indians)
9/22/1946. Tigers 3-0. 9 innings
Newhouser: 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO
Feller: 9.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO
4. Warren Spahn (Braves) @ Juan Marichal (Giants)
7/2/1963. Giants 1-0. 16 innings
Spahn: 15.1 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO
Marichal: 16.0 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 SO
3. Rudy May (Angels) @ Vida Blue (Athletics)
7/9/1971. Athletics 1-0. 20 innings
May: 12.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 13 SO
Blue: 11.0 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 17 SO
2. Greg Maddux (Braves) @ Curt Schilling (Phillies)
4/10/1998. Phillies 1-0. 9 innings
Maddux: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO
Schilling: 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
1. John Tudor (Cardinals) @ Dwight Gooden (Mets)
9/11/1985. Cardinals 1-0. 10 innings
Tudor: 10.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO
Gooden: 9.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO
While some of the same games appear on this list that appeared on the original list, I think it does a better job of picking out quality matchups of quality pitchers, which I think is in the spirit of pitching duels.
So that's my method and there's my list. Hope you liked it. I'd recommend at least browsing the Top 25 of whatever era you remember best... it's strangely intriguing.
EDIT: I have modified the method for determining pitching duels and you can find the final discussion/list here.