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Vintage Livo? No, even better

Jun 16, 2011, 2:27 PM EST

US Presswire photo
Livan Hernandez is hugged by Ivan Rodriguez following his 50th complete game.

Jim Riggleman needed only two words to describe Livan Hernandez's three-hit shutout against the Cardinals last night.

As the Nationals manager put it: "Vintage Livo."

Actually, Riggleman might have been underselling it. "Vintage" implies this was a somewhat typical performance for a guy who has been pitching in the big leagues 16 seasons. Except Hernandez went above and beyond his typical best last night.

In fact, this was arguably the greatest start of Livo's career. Seriously.

There are any number of ways to quantify pitching, but Bill James (the father of sabermetrics) has developed perhaps the best formula around. It's called "Game Score," and it's actually quite simple to calculate.

1. Start with 50 points.
2. Add 1 point for each out recorded.

  1. ehay2k - Jun 16, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    Mark, neat story. I think you need to recalculate Strasburg's debut – pretty sure he had more than 10 SO on June 8, 2010. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Mark Zuckerman - Jun 16, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    Whoops, yes Strasburg obviously had 14 K's on that memorable night. Though his Game Score was indeed 75.

  3. PH2 - Jun 16, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    Wow. John Patterson, what a confusing career. Another thing that stuck out to me is how many of the top performances in Nats history came this year and last, after 1 in 2007, 0 in 2008, and 0 in 2009.Judging by that (admittedly flawed) metric, at least the pitching staff is headed in the right direction.

  4. erocks33 - Jun 16, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    Ugh. I was at that Simontacchi game in RFK. It was a hot, hot night and just not an enjoyable game at all. Thank goodness we don't have to watch Simontacchi or Tim Redding or Jerome Williams start anymore. And no more calls to the bullpen for Ray King or Billy Traber or Winston Abreu.

  5. Anonymous - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    What was Marquis' game score during that epic meltdown vs. Milwaukee last year when he failed to record an out?Regardless of the stat, that has to go down as the worst pitching performance in Nats history, right?

  6. Sec314 - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Every time I see John Patterson's name in print I wince. I saw several of those gems. When he was on, he was DOMINANT. Of course, if he hadn't fallen apart, the Nats would never have been bad enough to be able to draft Strasburg.

  7. Manassas Nats Fan - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Don't forget the pitcher's version of Mike Hargrove, Jesus Coleme. When he came into a game I would head to the restroom and get back in the seat in time to see the completion of the base on balls he started when I left. Slowest pitcher I ever witness and on hot summer nights a killer.

  8. Mark Zuckerman - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    Anon: Marquis' Game Score that day was 13, actually only the 19th-worst start in Nats history. The reason it's not as bad as others (like Simontacchi's) is that Marquis faced so few batters (7). Fewer batters means fewer opportunities to lose points. Also, Game Score doesn't appear to take hit batters into account, and Marquis plunked two guys during that wretched performance.

  9. N. Cognito - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    Manassas Nats Fan said… "Jesus Colome. When he came into a game I would head to the restroom and get back in the seat in time to see the completion of the base on balls he started when I left."Why did you go back to your seat?

  10. Shoshana - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    The consensus last night heading out of the stadium is that it was one of the best Nationals games. It was ranking above "Strasmas", 2005 Home Opener, and Ortiz's no-hit bid. There was just something clicking across the diamond and everyone was a part of it. Seeing the Patterson games listed above is just another reminder of what he could be (and was) when healthy.I was at the Simontacchi game. At one point we switched to just laughing. Bad night weather-wise, rather empty park and the Nats imploding. I think we gave Simontacchi a standing ovation for getting out of the 3rd inning. I know we get to the point of cheering strikes, whenever he would throw them…

  11. natsfan1a - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    I always like the trips down memory lane, especially the happy ones. Patterson's 8/4/05 CGSO and Livo's last April remain two of my fave in-person games (wasn't there last night but it was fun to watch on tv).

  12. still waiting....... - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    sorry, for those of us that "waited" nothing will beat the 2005 Home Opener. My wife was with me and didnt understand how choked up i was to see baseball back in that venue, when i was sure i never would. I had been to my first game there, 41 years earlier.also, if we ever compile a list, dont forget the mid june Sunday game against the Braves where we went into first place in 2005, albiet for just a while.Last nights game IS on the short list.

  13. NG - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Remarkably, if I did the math correctly, Marquis' game score for the Milwaukee Meltdown was only 13. 0.0 – 4H – 7ER – 0K – 1BB. Looks like the issue was that many of the runs scored when Miss Iowa was pitching in relief, so Marquis gave up a relatively small # of hits. I can't imagine how bad Simontacchi was to have put up a significantly worse performance than that.

  14. NG - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Can't outhustle Zuckerman, but at least I did the math right!

  15. K.D. - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Mark, Great analysis. Normally I hate Sabermetrics(takes the human factor i.e. intangibles out of the equation), but I like it here. It was a great game to watch with contributions from everyone (including Pujols).

  16. N. Cognito - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    K.D. said… "Mark, Great analysis. Normally I hate Sabermetrics(takes the human factor i.e. intangibles out of the equation)"I believe you'll enjoy the game more when you learn to use them in a complementary way, not overvaluing or misusing either.

  17. NatStat - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    WOW–Wad a bunch of stats! Mark,if you dug up and calculated all that pitching data, with the James' Formula, then I think that we should give you the award for: MOST OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ON A CALCULATOR BY A SPORTSWRITER!

  18. Mark Zuckerman - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    NatStat: Thanks, but really it involved very little work on my part. Just logging onto's fantastic Play Index and asking it to compile a list of the best (and worst) Game Scores in Nats history.

  19. Sean Hogan - Jun 16, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    One of my favorite games was when Ortiz took a no-hitter into the 9th and hit a home run off of Jason Marquis. Because he gave up a Pujols HR, 2 hits, 3 BB and only 5 K's, Ortiz's game score was 78 and just missed this list.

  20. Anonymous - Jun 16, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    I was at that LAD game that JPat pitched. He was amazing. He struck out every Dodger in the lineup that night. That was also the first Grand Slam in Nationals History, hit by none other than Brad Wilkerson. Ah … memories

  21. Water23 - Jun 16, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    As I have said all along, Livo is the greatest Nats pitcher of all time. He leads in all significant categories as well as a great clubhouse teammate. Thanks Livo for another one. Keep up on plugging.

  22. Shoshana - Jun 16, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    Just a note on my comment above–we were talking about game only and not related emotions. Strasmas was an amazing night with a pretty good game (14 SO aside, the Pirates scored 2 runs and lead for a while). Nothing will *ever* touch the feelings that I had on April 14, 2005 (i used to tear up during the anthem intro when they would get to the "2004-2005" parts), not even the Nats winning the World Series. For the straight "on the field" aspects, last night was very high on our list (we also couldn't remember every single game).

  23. Feel Wood - Jun 16, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    The problem with using this game score metric to rank pitching performances is that it lacks context of what else is going on in the game that would affect the pitcher's performance. Emotion, sentiment, etc (such as "first ever start for a top prospect" or "first ever Nationals game") are impossible to quantify. But other things such as the score of the game, the importance of the game, etc, are not. If Livo or any other pitcher had put up last night's numbers to win a playoff game or the final game of the World Series by a score of 1-0, the game score should be correspondingly higher. Even if only at a subconscious level, pitching like he did last night in a situation where the game (or the season, or the championship) is on the line with every pitch has to be more difficult than doing it in a 10-0 laugher. Likewise, Strasburg's first start should score higher because that game was tightly contested the whole time he was pitching. (The eventual winning runs were only scored right before he pitched his last inning.) This game score metric captures none of that.

  24. Wally - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    I think that Jordan Zimmermann had an 80 the other day against the Padres

  25. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    If you subtract for a walk, why don't HBPs get counted as walks, at least?

  26. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Feelwood, that makes sense, but wouldn't you then need to score each event based on the score *at the time*? And what inning? The situation's leverage, in other words.

  27. Anonymous - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    Last nights game IS on the short list.In this context Feel Wood is right. This will ONLY be true if the winning trend continues … knock-on-wood, the winning streak continues even better. The sabermetric lineup appears to be putting the players in the best slot to create a bit of offensive synergy. Hopefully, Riggleman will let it ride for a good long while …

  28. N. Cognito - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Feel Wood said… "The problem with using this game score metric to rank pitching performances is that it lacks context of what else is going on in the game that would affect the pitcher's performance."Context, and understanding the "why" are important components of using statistics, but they should be considered by the person interpreting the scores.

  29. Steve M. - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    Andrew said… That caught stealing in the 4th was huge as it was a 2-0 lead and not sure why Theriot was trying to steal with Pujols coming up who would have been intentionally walked then with 1st base open, but how nice to get Pujols up with nobody on base and 2 outs.After that inning, Livo just cruised!!! Very nice game! June 16, 2011 6:07 AM Andrew said… Another thought, the SCOUTING was incredible on placing the Nats defense in the perfect positions all night. How many balls were smoked right to Nix and Werth where they didn't have to move much. Same for Danny Espinosa.Again, impecable defense and nice being on the right side of everything going right including HR power and good RISP batting!!!! June 16, 2011 6:14 AM Great points as this tandem of catchers are just not giving up steals which is huge and totally agree and think that caught stealing last night was the turning point in the game with Pujols on deck. My only note is Desmond and Espinosa have to do a better job of selling it as Theriot was pleading on his behalf.The defensive alignments were perfect and Livo kept the hitters off-balance most of the night. Based on BABIP some of it could be chalked up to luck too and it certainly helped that the Cardinals replaced Berkman and Yadier with Mendoza line guys of their own late in the game.With my eyes, NO WAY does this come close to Stasburg June 8th performance. The pressure on that young man was as intense as the 7th game of the World Series and he performed.Using Game Score just about makes Jason Marquis game last month close in comparison and I liked Marquis better as he went most of the game with little margin for error given a 2 to 3 run lead and going up against Tim Lincecum. The final score of Marquis game was 3-0. Livan was in cruise control the last 5 innings of last night's game.It was a good performance for sure and glad he brought his A+ game!!!

  30. N. Cognito - Jun 16, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Sec 3, My Sofa said… "If you subtract for a walk, why don't HBPs get counted [the same] as walks, at least?"Probably.Not sure when Bill James developed the formula (late 70's?), but it might have been at a time when available stats often didn't include the number of times a pitcher hit a batter.

  31. Farid Rushdi - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    To "Still Waiting:"I couldn't agree more: that Opening Day game in 2005, back at RFK for the first time in 34 years, after more than three decades of giving up hope that baseball would ever return home, THAT was my all-time favorite Nationals' game.Though I live in Idaho now and couldn't get back home to see a game at RFK, I too had a wife who looked bewildered at my tears as the game began. I'm 55 now; I just hope I live long enough to see them match the '69 Senators winning season ….

  32. Hendo - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Pedro Astacio: The real reason F. Robby hung it up after '06.

  33. Manassas Nats Fan - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Speaking of memory lane. As I said my first game was 47 years ago June 14.My first Nats game was April 14, 2005 (Opening home game) Livan got the win.What I remember most was that Lance Comier was roundly booed in the 8th inning when he hit Vinny Castilla. Vinny was going for the cycle, needing a double to complete it. I was totally choked up when Craig Counsell came to bat in the first, The last batter to bat for the Yankess in 1971 before the field was swarmed was Gene Michael. I wished the fans could have waited one more out as we were winning 7-5 at the time. An oddity I remember from that game, was no winning or losing pitcher was ever announced. I remember Dick Bosman started the game. Horatio Pena pitched and Joe Grzenda was closing the game. Hondo homered. Lots of other things now have escaped the memory bank. I was not one to storm the field. I never would guess it would take 34 years (most of my adult life) to get baseball back.

  34. Steve M. - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Because outs recorded and innings pitched (past the 4th) essentially add 5 pts for each scoreless inning you pitch with no hits or walks and no strikeouts, it isn't fair to compare pitchers who are on strict pitch counts like JZim and Strasburg have been on to Livan, Marquis, and Patterson. It is a fairer comparison for JZim and Stras as they get further into their careers.Complete game shutouts with no strikeouts and let's say 5 hits gives you a 77. 50 + 27 outs + 10 innings bonus – 2 pts per hit and will place you on this chart.

  35. Feel Wood - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    "N. Cognito said… Feel Wood said… "The problem with using this game score metric to rank pitching performances is that it lacks context of what else is going on in the game that would affect the pitcher's performance."Context, and understanding the "why" are important components of using statistics, but they should be considered by the person interpreting the scores."Exactly. Which is why I said in the first place that this game score metric is not a good way to say that one particular pitching performance is better than another one.

  36. still waiting..... - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    Faridi had a 20 game plan for 2005/2006 and my second game brought a childhood buddy who had gone to many a game with me in the 60's but now lives out of state. wehn we got to field level, it all came back to him too. he wouldnt take his sunglasses off but i could tell , he couldnt say a word.when it comes to Baseball games, you never grow up and we were 10 and 11 again.gotta love it….i am waiting for 82-80, just want to see a winning club at least one more time!

  37. rmoore446 - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    I remember Jason Simontacchi. Had a couple of good years with the Cardinals and then had a series of injuries before and after his stint with the Nationals. His career winning percentage is actually quite good but not his ERA. That one Nats game wasn't the only one where he was shelled.Googled him and discovered that after Tommy John surgery he continued to play and as recently as 2010 he was playing in Caribbean Championship. He was a real globetrotter playing for an Italian professional team and then making the Italian Olympic team when baseball was included in the games.

  38. Anonymous - Jun 16, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Is there a similar metric for comparing the quality of an overall game, looking at pitching, defense, and offense? If so, then last night's game would surely rank at or near the top of any game the Nats have ever played.

  39. Gonat - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    We are creatures of instant gratification. Livan pitched a very good game last night but in my ratings was a very good pitching performance assisted by good defense, good execution, and an offense that put the game away by the middle of the game.

  40. raymitten - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    Agreed that nothing, not even winning the World Series, will match 2005. I think the absence of a team for so long has made many hard core fans, including myself, perhaps TOO patient for a winner. I remember running into a Cubs fan in 2006 who was bemoaning the "Billy Goat Curse". I said to him, wanna feel cursed? Try going without a team for 33 years.

  41. Manassas Nats Fan - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    @ Waiting. I believe we will be close to .500 this year I said 76 earlier and staying with it. Next year, I believe we will have 86. In 2013 we can be in the 90's if we progress with the young people we have coming into the system.Only winning season in my many years of life 1969 86-76.

  42. UNTERP.NAT - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Nats fans, Nationals are currently in 4th place in NL East, Marlins lose 0 – 3…

  43. Grandstander - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Long discussion about sabermetrics yesterday and I'm greeted with Bill James and game scores today. Delightful!Just for fun (and because I'm bored) I checked to see which opposing pitcher has had the highest game score against us this season. Not surprisingly, it was Cliff Lee's CG shutout of us on 4/14. 92! tied with our highest ever.Want to know who had the second highest? Of course you do! Why, it's Kyle Lohse! who earned an 87 during his CG 2 hit shutout against us one week later on 4/21.I smell revenge.

  44. Gonat - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Grandstander, good research! The Cliff Lee game was a gem and it sucked being the 'other' team! Remember, last time out the Nats beat Cliff Lee!

  45. sjm308 - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    I kept reading hoping to see at least one comment about the "original" Senators I am 65 and that first time coming up the ramp at Griffith Stadium with the noise and the green grass still is etched in my mind (& I can't usually remember where I placed my keys). My first game was in 1951 and Eddie Yost walked 3 times. We actually did not tumble into last place until 1955 and went 78 – 76 in 52 finishing ahead of the Red Sox, Tigers and the Browns. Of course in the next 6 years we finished last 5 times! Just as we started to show improvement, off they went to Minnesota. Still crushed by that but we are back now and I too cried on opening Day at RFK.Go Nats!!

  46. Natman - Jun 16, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    raymitten said…Agreed that nothing, not even winning the World Series, will match 2005. I think the absence of a team for so long has made many hard core fans, including myself, perhaps TOO patient for a winner. —————————As a person who grew up a Yankee fan when the Yankees weren't so good (80's), I think I finally understand why people on here so doggedly defend everything the Nationals do, good or bad. For me, ten years of patience is too long. Five years, in the rich DC market, is too long. Really good F.A.'s would have come here after 2005. So I get irritated when some dumb moves are made by the F.O. and a winner is not being (or at least no one is trying to) assembled. 2006, 2007, 2008 are all such years. But for others, after waiting 34 years, and rooting for a bunch of losing teams in childhood's memory, any team is good enough. I think that is the split, amongst us Nationals fans. Those that came from elsewhere with teams and therefore did not experience the loss and those that grew up here, without a team.

  47. natsfan1a - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    Interesting theory, Natman. I must be an outlier, because I didn't live here during prior Nats eras* and yet I stand behind my team. Oh well, back to the drawing board… ;-)*I do, however, enjoy reading the remembrances of those who did.

  48. Bill - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    @Shoshana: I don't think you can compare individual game stats to the emotional impact of the 2005 Home Opener. The significance of that night had little to do with what went on after the game began (though it was certainly nice that the Nats won and Livo pitched a great game). They are in completely different categories.For those of us who waited 30+ years for baseball to return, there will never be another night like it, even a World Series win. It stands alone as a unique, incomparable event.

  49. JaneB - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    Natman: or we grew up fans of the Mets. Or Sox. Or Cubs. We just learned to love unconditionally. How much do I love that photo of Livo being hugged by Pudge!Great post Mark!!

  50. skidge - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    I guess I fit with Natman's theory. I was only 10 when they left, but I had been going to games for 3 seasons. Later tried to become an Orioles fan but it never took. Now just having a team matters so much that losing *almost* doesn't matter, despite the frustration, and I'm always hopeful…

  51. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    JaneB, please tell me you didn't start as a Mers fan…

  52. Natman - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    Yeah but the Cubs and Mets are different. Those fans embraced the losing culture. If they ever tore down Wrigley, I bet Cubs fans would get on team ownership…. And for the Mets, how many times do you see signs that say "Ya Gotta Believe!" whenever they become a modicum of decent. They also kind of embrace the losing culture, although this year, with the new park, they seem to be getting restless too.

  53. Natman - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    @1a, but you did live here for a good period before a team showed up, right? I'm not going to assume its a long time, but probably at least 10 years, right? I mean I remember a few years back on the WaPo saying that you were just happy MLB was in DC finally.

  54. Manassas Nats Fan - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    @SJM. I wish I could have a Griffith Stadium memory, but heard lots of stories from my dad. y first game was June 14, 1964 of course they played the Twins as dad wanted to see the real Senators. Lots of his stories dealt with Eddie Yost and Bob Lemon.My dad told me his first game was 1932 and Joe Cronin homered in that loss.

  55. natsfan1a - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    Natman, yes, I've been here for more than 10 years. My dad and brothers followed the Giants back in the day in California, but I didn't really embrace a team, or baseball, on a personal level until the Nats came to town. Didn't know what I was missing!

  56. Another_Sam - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    Clearly this guy is still the ace of this staff.

  57. JaneB - Jun 16, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    Sec3… Yes. A Mets fan. My mother was a Yankee hater. And ….AND! … My first crush in life wasn't Tom Seaver. It was Casey Stengel. I used to beg my parents to tell me it was possible that he would wait for me to grow up to marry him. I guess I figured that if he was the skipper of "my team," he had to be about perfect. Plus he was funny. I had no idea he was as old as he was till I got older. Ah, I could go on and on about my favorite Mets and trades that still cause me pain today. But I now root for the Nats to beat the pants off them. Nats fan, 1000 percent.Cubbies over white sox, though. Does that help?

  58. Another_Sam - Jun 16, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    SJM — I've commented from time to time about the original senators. I like Phil Wood's remarks on them; PW discusses the club from time time. I saw them in griffith Stadium. My memories are of Pascual, Killebrew, Jim Lemon, and the rest.



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