First Day Dominance: Best Opening Day “Game Scores”, By Franchise

“Game Score” is a Bill James invention that assigns a formula-based number to every start by a starting pitcher, based on his innings pitched, runs and hits and walks allowed, and strikeouts racked up, during that particular game. For more detail on the Game Score formula you can check here: Game Score – Wikipedia .

The idea behind Game Score is to have a single number that summarizes the level of “dominance” a starter achieved during his appearance. A Game Score of 100 might be achieved with, say, a complete-game one-hitter with two walks and 17 Ks. In contrast, a zero Game Score might be a one-inning start giving up nine runs on seven hits and three walks with no Ks. After the jump, the highest Opening Day Game Scores achieved for each franchise since 1916.

Team’s First Game of Season, Highest Game Score for Each Franchise Since 1916
Angels: Andy Messersmith (1972) 87
Astros: J.R. Richard (1980) 85
A’s: Eddie Rommel (1926) 86
Blue Jays: Jack Morris (1992) 73
Braves: Tom Glavine (1992) 90
Brewers: Ben Sheets (2007) 82
Cardinals: Bob Gibson (1967) 90
Cubs: Lon Warneke (1934) 96
D’Backs: Randy Johnson (2002) 82
Dodgers: Don Drysdale (1960) and Hideo Nomo (2003) 85  Clayton Kershaw (2013) 86
Giants: Juan Marichal (1966) 87
Indians: Mel Harder (1935) 95
Mariners: Felix Hernandez (2007) 86
Marlins: Kevin Brown (1997) 81
Mets: Dwight Gooden (1993) 82
Nats/Expos: Steve Rogers (1982) 89
Orioles/Browns: Jim Palmer (1975) and Bob Muncrief (1942) 85
Padres: Dick Selma (1969) 83 (this was the first regular season game in Padres history)
Phillies: Chris Short (1968) 89
Pirates: Bob Veale (1965) 95
Rangers: Jon Matlack (1980) 86
Rays: Steve Trachsel (2000) 74
Red Sox: Lefty Grove (1940) 87 (Grove was 40 years old that season)
Reds: Johnny Vander Meer (1943) 91
Rockies: Mike Hampton (2001) 75
Royals: Kevin Appier (1995) 79
Tigers: Schoolboy Rowe (1936) 85
Twins/Senators: Walter Johnson (1926) 111
White Sox: Lefty Williams (1920) 85
Yankees: Ron Guidry (1980) 87

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15 Comments on "First Day Dominance: Best Opening Day “Game Scores”, By Franchise"

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Mike HBC

Amazing that Rapid Robert played for one of only five teams for which a no-hitter wouldn’t be the top Game Score. And that Walter Johnson’s 15 shutout innings came when he was freakin’ 38 years old (plus the last time in his career that he would pitch more than 9 innings in a game).


Bob Feller’s opening day no-hitter in 1940 “only” garnered a game score of 90. That would be first for most teams, but falls short of Mel Harder’s 14 inning start in 1935 for the Indians.


Roy Halladay’s opening day line last year of 8IP, 0R, 2H, 0BB earned him a Game Score of 83 and also served as a massive red herring to his season ahead.

In 2011, Clayton Kershaw pitched 7 scoreless innings against the Giants on opening day, giving up just 4 hits, 1 walk and striking out 9 for a GSc of 77. This is tied for only 6th best amongst Kershaw’s starts agaist San Francisco.


I take Stephen Strasburg on Monday v that putrid Marlins Lineup (rumoured to have Placido Polanco batting cleanup) to eclipse Steve Rogers.


In 1990 Nolan Ryan was lifted from an Opening Day No-Hitter (think about that phrase for a moment) in the 5th – resulting in a pedestrian 67 game score.

Ryan had 91 pitches – There was an abbreviated spring training that season due to a lockout and that is as far as Ryan was able/allowed to stretch out – I think I read he had something like 7 spring innings prior to Opening Day.

Voomo Zanzibar

He had a 16K one-hitter two weeks later and a
14K no-hitter 2 months later.

And the five starts in between those two games he was
0-3, 8.86 era

I love Nolan Ryan.

John Autin

Virgil Trucks had an 82 game score (4-hit shutout) for the Browns in 1953. Not the franchise record, but not bad for his first game with a new team, pitching against his old mates.

John Autin

Guidry’s and Matlack’s record openers came in the same game:

They combined for only 9 Ks, but each went 9 innings with no runs or walks, and just 5 hits total.

Texas won in the 12th, when Gossage threw a bases-loaded wild pitch to his first batter. Sparky Lyle, who had bailed out Jim Kern in a big spot earlier, must have enjoyed that win more than most.


Why did Lefty Williams start the 1920 opener over Eddie Cicotte? Had there been a Cy Young award in 1919 Cicotte would have won (though Walter Johnson was probably better) and Williams was the most enthusiastic of the Black Sox having gone 0-3/6.61 in the 1919 world series. I doubt Cicotte was injured because he started the second game of the season.


Im going to go out on a limb and predict that the big train’s twins/senator’s 1926 franchise record will stay intact this year,


whereas the Blue Jays record , held by a former twin ( who pitched to the calendar) has a shot at being broken.


If I’ve counted correctly, Kershaw just amassed a game score of 86 against the Giants, which would be the new opening day best for the Dodgers.

In related news, can someone please make Clayton Kershaw go away?


Hmmm…a complete game shutout and a homerun on opening day. Has anyone else done that?

Richard Chester

Bob Lemon did it on 4-14-53 against the White Sox.